September 23, 2009

Hiking and outdoor enthusiasts as well as the general public are invited to get outdoors, be active and experience the natural beauty of McCreary County during the county's Hiker's Retreat Weekend Oct. 9-11.

The weekend is made possible through a partnership with the McCreary County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, McCreary County Tourism, Commission and the McCreary County Hiking Committee.

"We started a hiking program with seventh graders three years ago through a HEEL (Health Education through Extension Leadership) grant. After we hiked with them for about three months, we decided this would be a really good program for adults too," said Greg Whitis, the county's agriculture and natural resources extension agent. "We started a hiking club that meets monthly. This weekend is an extension of that, but it also provides us with an opportunity to involve others from across the state."

McCreary County has about 200 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the Sheltowee Trace, which runs from Tennessee to Morehead. During the three-day event, local, experienced outdoor enthusiasts will guide 13 different hikes. Many of these trails include scenic views of the county including the Daniel Boone National Forest, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, numerous natural sandstone arches and waterfalls including Cumberland Falls and Eagle Falls. The hikes have intensity levels of easy or moderate with some kid-friendly hikes. All hikes will depart from the McCreary County extension office. Transportation is provided from the extension office to the trails.

Educational programs on many topics, including photography and wildlife, are planned for Friday evening. A cookout and live entertainment is scheduled for Saturday evening.

Those interested can register for the whole weekend or just an individual event. Those who register for the whole weekend will receive a T-shirt and Friday's programs and Saturday's dinner for free. Registration for the weekend is $50 for adults and $90 for couples. Children 12-years-old and under are $30 each. Adult fees for individual events and hikes vary between $15 and $5 depending on the event and its length. Individual events for children are all $5 each. One trail will be available on Sunday for free as part of the county's Second Sunday event.

McCreary County Chamber of Commerce, McCreary County Development Association, Bank of McCreary County and Forcht Bank gave donations for the event.

The McCreary County extension office is located on the McCreary County campus of Somerset Community College in Whitley City.

Applications, directions and more information on the weekend or specific hike descriptions are available at http://www.kyvacations.com/.

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