When Curtis Penix and Givan Fox were told that the 220 mile Boone’s Trace trek originally made by Daniel Boone 240 years ago could not be done in today’s conditions, they set out to prove the cynics wrong, Penix said.
“They were wrong because we are doing it. We’ve nearly done it,” Penix said Monday, shortly after ascending Boone Gap, at the Madison-Rockcastle and countyline.
Reaching the gap was a big step for the hikers. Penix began March 10 near Kingsport, Tenn., and Fox joined him five days later at Martin Station, Va.
Their hike will end Thursday at Fort Boonesborough, the trace’s destination. They are likely the only people who have traveled all of Boone’s Trace in decades, Penix said.
Making the hike may be possible, but it has not been easy, he said. Nearly all of the original paths of Boone’s Trace are overgrown, transformed into busy highways or cultivated into farmland, he explained.
Instead of seeing buffalo and worrying about Indian attacks, the two men have braved semi-truck sprays in their faces and navigated some nearly forgotten pathways.
Regardless, the hardships have underscored the strength of the frontiersmen and their families who came across the mountains searching for the American dream, Fox said.
“The feeling is hard to put into words,” he added. “There are those times when it’s a spiritual feeling. There are moments when you are walking through parts where you know – you can just tell because you get this funny feeling – that other people have stood here, feeling the same thing. You’re carrying everything you’ve got, but you’ve just got to put one foot in front of the other because you know what is up ahead.”
Penix said that 15 percent of the U.S. population can trace its lineage back to an ancestor who traveled Boone’s Trace in search of the American dream, including his fifth great-grandfather, Joshua Penix.
Fox has more recent lineage attached to the trail. His father, Dr. John Fox, a retired Lexington physician, is president of Friends of Boone’s Trace, a group devoted to preserving history, promoting trail hiking and developing the Boone’s Trace as a draw for tourists.
The elder Fox hopes to see trailblazers recreate new paths away from roadways, with Boone Gap and other spots becoming tourism sites. The Boone Gap property is owned by the CSX Corp., which also owns the nearby railroad, and promoters hope to negotiate an easement for a trail, he said.
“We want to see Boone’s Trace as something like the Appalachian Trail. We would like to see a proper walking trail from Kingsport, Tenn., through the gaps to Boonesborough, and we are trying to figure out how to do that. This is the first time the hike has been done, and from here on, we can move forward,” the elder Fox said.
“As for the hiking community, we are the rare ones,” Penix said. “There aren’t a lot of people who want to hike 220 miles. But there are people who would like to park their car and hike one or two miles on the same path as Daniel Boone and their ancestors.”
Monday night, the hikers camped in Berea. Tonight, they will be at Tweety’s Fort off Duncannon Lane, where they will be welcomed by members of the Boonesborough Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
On Wednesday night, their stop before arriving at Boonesborough, they will camp on the Harold Bucher Farm in the Red House community. Then they will follow Red House Road along Otter Creek to the Kentucky River.
Reach Machaela Ballard at email@example.com or at 624-6623.