Be That Girl

Shara Sumner is a former museum director with an anthropology degree from Western Kentucky University, avid outdoorswoman, American Canoe Association Level II Kayak Instructor, dedicated mother, founder of Kayak Kentucky digital media platforms, and all around amazing person who hails from Greenville, KY. Connect with her on Instagram @Sharautopia. 

Ladies, stop sitting at home looking through your Instagram feed wishing you were “that girl”. BE that girl! Take your adventure into your own hands. If you let fear of the unknown consume you, then you will never know what greatness lies in the outdoors.  I believe by properly preparing yourself, there is no destination that cannot be reached by a group of women, or even a woman trekking out into the wild on her own. By preparing yourself, you CAN DO THIS! It's like this; Know your trail. Know your waterway. Know your limits. Learn how to read a map. Become knowledgeable about the distances and conditions of the trail or waterway you want to explore. Make sure you have the proper gear. Footwear is very important!  And ALWAYS make sure you have someone that knows where you are going and an approximate time you will return. If you are venturing in one of our state parks, stop in the Welcome Center and get to know the rangers. Park Rangers will offer great advice and knowledge and by stopping in, you have let them know that you are in the park, which is smart and safe. Many outdoor adventures will lead you into areas without cell coverage…but honestly, this is the point isn’t it? To disconnect! 

And finally, always, always practice Leave No Trace Ethics. You can learn all these outdoor skills and more through workshops with the Explore Kentucky Initiative, outdoor stores, and venturing out with experienced hikers and padders.

. However, I want you to harness your inspiration, curiosity and  adventurous spirit in order to learn from experience!I personally thrive off of solo adventures. It reminds me of how strong and capable I really am. It forces me to persistently stay focused and alert, which I believe, gives me an advantage over even our most experienced male counterparts. Too often people in groups become complacent and lax in their precautionary measures when on the trail or water, and this is when people get hurt. When you’re on your own, you have to be on point! I admit, it's thrilling to me to stay in survival mode. I believe solo travel for women fosters independence and critical thinking. It teaches resilience.  As someone who has raised my son and daughter independently, I strive to teach them self-reliance and self-care . Adventures fill your soul. When you escape to the wild you become rejuvenated, and I believe, prepared to be a better parent, employee and friend.  I profess, you cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Fill up on adventure!

Let me give you some suggestions to quell any hesitations you may have, let's get you OUT THERE! 

Red River Gorge National Geological Area:

The Gorge is a magical place that keeps on giving because it takes multiple trips to even see a portion of all the destinations it has to offer. My first trip to the gorge, I picked up a basic map which details the “points of interest”. You can get one of these at any of the gas stations, welcome centers or restaurants in the area. This type of map will offer trails ranging from a quarter-mile to ½ day hikes. There are many vistas, waterfalls and incredible geological formations to admire in just a day trip that will never lead you off a well-marked trail.


Green River via Mammoth Cave National Park: 

Hands down the 20 mile stretch of the Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park is probably my favorite waterway that I have paddled in Kentucky. This run is a Class I river that is suitable for beginners and families. I adore this area because of the impeccable undisturbed beauty of the water and land surrounding the stream.  Filtered by the vast amount of limestone in the area, the Green River is a dark cyan colored beauty that is soothing to the eyes and soul. There are many outfitters in this area that provide rental and shuttle services. Make this trip a ½ day adventure, full day, or overnight it and camp on one of the many islands along the way. Always check water levels by visiting the United States Geological Survey stream gauge monitoring page, by contacting a local outfitter like Mammoth Cave Canoes & Kayak, or the rangers' office in the park.

Eagle Falls & Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower via Cumberland Falls State Resort Park:

There is much to explore at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The obvious choice is the titular, Cumberfall Falls, that has the moniker of " Niagara of the South. " However my favorite destinations at the park are Eagle Falls and the Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower.  The approach to Eagle Falls is a moderate to strenuous 2.5 mile in and out trail. There are cliff edges and some of the trail can be underwater during high river levels. This hike is very popular, so you will definitely have company.  A little rock scrambling and changes in elevation will test your hiking skills. The views are worth every step. The Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower is rare treat. Rare, because there are only select weekends that the park has it open to general public at the Fire Tower Camp-out programs. In 2018 those days are:

  • March 10th - Mar 11th: 4:00 P.M. - 10:00 A.M.

  • September 29th - September 30, 2018: 4:00 P.M. - 10:00 A.M.

  • October 13th- October 14th, 2018: 4:00 P.M. - 10:00 A.M.

  • November 3rd - November 4th, 2018:4:00 P.M. - 10:00 A.M.

To register navigate here.

Jones-Kenney Wildlife Management Area—Dawson Springs, Kentucky:

Jones-Kenney was Kentucky’s first Wildlife Management Area (WMA) which are maintained by the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. It’s located just west of Dawson Springs, Kentucky's first designated Trail Town. I love Jones-Kenney because of the diversity of terrain. The trails are short and easy leading to waterfalls, amazing lookouts over the bluffs, and unique rock formations at the base of the cliffs. This WMA has not been developed, therefore there are no signs or trail markers. Please reference my Field Journal entry here, for details on how to reach the points of interest.

300 Springs via Green River—Munfordville, Kentucky:

300 Springs on the Green River is only accessible by kayak, canoe or SUP. Although there are not in fact actually 300 springs on this stretch of water, there are several springs feeding the river with some emerging from cliff sides some 100 feet high creating clean cool water and epic waterfalls!  The first springs you encounter will be located approximately 2.3 river miles from the put in at Lynn Camp Creek in Munfordville, Hart County.