Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 2, 2014

Carrie Stambaugh: Transforming into a real Kentuckian: 1/3/14

Carrie Stambaugh
For The Independent

ASHLAND — I was born an Ohioan and at age 22 I moved to Kentucky. In May I will celebrate nine years of living in the Bluegrass state. Kentucky is my home. I’ve fallen in love with it, the people, the landscape and the culture.

I’m especially fond of the three Bs: bourbon, basketball and bluegrass music. But having been born an Ohioan and educated there my whole life, I obviously know more about my home state than my adoptive one.

I realized quite quickly when I began working here as a journalist, however, that I needed to catch up. I joke I’m studying for my Kentucky Ph.D. It has been my mission to learn as much as I can about my adoptive state.

There are all kinds of differences when it comes to laws and I’m always astounded at what I learn about Kentucky’s history, particularly when put into context of our nation’s past.

 I love each time I discover something I didn’t know before and make larger and broader connections with my new knowledge. I particularly love bragging about what my state is doing right or better than other states when it comes to current affairs. (Can we say Kynect and Common Core?)

It often makes my heart swell with pride to be a Kentuckian. So, when I came across the Lexington Herald’s list of 10 New Year’s resolutions to make you a better Kentuckian (although I’m anti-resolution this year), I read it, printed it out and tacked it on my bulletin board. Of course, I was shocked right away by my shortcomings.

“My Old Kentucky Home” has a second and third verse? I just mastered the first. As I read on, though, I discovered I regularly do many of the things on the list already. I can name more than a quarter of Kentucky counties, and their county seats. I know how to make a lot of classic bourbon cocktails, and I regularly visit and spend the night at Kentucky State Parks.

There were a few items on the list, however, I will certainly undertake as part of my ongoing mission to become a more educated Kentuckian. I haven’t read Wendell Berry’s first novel, “Nathan Coulter,” but you can bet I will as soon as possible.

 I’ve read many of his other works as part of my long established “Kentucky Reading List,” which I instituted when I first moved here with the help of Jim Gifford at the Jesse Stuart Foundation.

On it are two-dozen classics including “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” which is my favorite novel of all time. But I got the most excited by No. 7: Hike Kentucky’s long trail, the Sheltowee Trace.

Doing so this year was already in the works, and I’m taking my Buckeye father along! As a former member of the Sheltowee Trace Association’s board of directors, I have wanted to walk the entire trail in a year for some time.

A few years back, the STA’s dedicated director, Steve Barbour, initiated a Hiker Challenge program, which organizes group outings on the trail a weekend a month with the goal of hiking the entire 307-mile trail in a year.

It’s been a smashing success and is getting more boots on the trail than ever before. That is vital to saving and expanding the trail.

Last week, I signed up for the challenge with my dad. I couldn’t be more excited to start. Dad has always wanted to tackle a long-distance hiking trail, and this will give him the opportunity to do it, along with a little father-daughter bonding time.

I can’t think of a better way to become a better Kentuckian than walking across the state on a path named for Daniel Boone.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland.