September 1, 2005 | By: Terri McLean

If all the world is a textbook, as the saying goes, then surely there’s a chapter devoted to Kentucky’s Sheltowee Trace.

With its diverse landforms, its magnificent woodlands and varied wildlife and flora, the nearly 300-mile trail in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest offers endless opportunities to learn about the environment and cultural influences on the land.

“It’s one of the richest, most interesting, diverse sections of biological habitat there is,” said Blake Newton, an entomology specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

The only problem, Newton said, is that many people don’t know it exists. But that could soon change. Newton and eight colleagues will set out Sept. 10 on a 12-day promotional hike to create awareness of the Sheltowee Trace as an educational and recreational resource. 

The hikers will begin their trek at the southern end of the trail at the Kentucky/Tennessee Border. They plan to hike up to 10 miles a day, with their final destination at Wildcat Battlefield Monument, the halfway mark of the trail. 

Although organizers would like to reach everyone with their message about Sheltowee Trace, Kentucky schoolchildren are the primary targets. The hike coincides with Environmental Education Week in Kentucky.

“What’s found along the Sheltowee Trace cannot be found inside a classroom,” said Kimberly J. Feltner, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, which provided a grant for the hike in recognition of its 100th anniversary.

Several educational stops are scheduled, providing an opportunity for the hikers and other experts, including U.S. Forest Service specialists, to share their knowledge and experiences with students, teachers and others. Biologists will present a program on threatened and endangered species and wildlife management at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, for example. 

“There is a tremendous opportunity for teachers to take their kids out into the woods on these trails and study all kinds of things – insects, reptiles, wildlife, plants,” Newton said.

In addition, anyone may follow the hikers’ journey online at There they’ll find information about the Sheltowee Trace and daily journal entries submitted by the hikers.

“One of the things we like to encourage teachers and students to do is take journals with them and make journal entries when they’re outdoors,” Newton said. “So every day each of the hikers will be submitting a paragraph of what they’ve seen that day and their experiences, also some photographs.”

Sheltowee, meaning Big Turtle, was the name given to Daniel Boone when he was adopted into the Shawnee tribe. Many of the streams, creeks and landmarks along the trail bear the names given to them by Boone and are marked with the sign of the turtle.

“It really has everything,” Newton said. “That’s why we’re so excited about this and want people to know about it.” 

While organizers were planning the educational component of the project, it quickly became apparent that the recreational value of Sheltowee Trace was also worth touting.

“We’re involved in promoting awareness that hiking is a great physical activity and that
Kentucky also has some great places to go hiking,” said Lori Rice, Extension associate for health with the college’s Health Education through Extension Leadership (HEEL) program. 

As part of the project, hikers will count their Physical Activity Miles, a unit of measurement equal to 15 minutes of continuous sustained activity promoted through the Get Moving Kentucky! program. Rice said the hikers will also count their individual steps and expect to take up to 20,000 steps a day.

Additionally, Rice developed fact sheets for beginners on hiking safety, eating during a hike, Kentucky trails and hiking as a stress reliever. 

This is the first year for this Sheltowee Trace hike, but if Newton and other organizers have their way it won’t be the last. Plans are in place to hike the rest of the trail next year.

Joining Newton on the hike: Kim Alexander, Eastern Kentucky University Center for Environmental Education; Kate Shanks, Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet; Amanda Abnee, UK Cooperative Extension Service; Doug McLaren, UK Department of Forestry; Stephanie Jenkins, UK Water Resources Research Institute; Carol Hanley and Ron Newcomer, Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment; and Eric Comley, Fayette County Extension agent for 4-H Youth Development.

Partners and sponsors of the project, in addition to UK Cooperative Extension and the Forest Service, include Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, EKU, East Kentucky Pride, Bluegrass Pride, the Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, Kentucky Department of Parks, UK’s Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment, and National Park Service.

For more information about the hike, including how to participate, contact Newton at (859) 257-7453 or The hikers’ schedule is at


Writer: Terri McLean 859-257-4736, ext. 276

Contact: Blake Newton, 859-257-7453