Whitesburg, Kentucky

by Ian Maclellan

The view west from Pine Mountain at sunrise. Pine Mountain is the tallest thing west until the Rockies so it’s kind of a big deal. Hopefully these mountains and hills look off to you because essentially all of them were either the sites of strip, contour, underground, or mountaintop removal coal mining. Luckily for Pine Mountain, its coal beds are at a very steep angle so they aren’t the easiest to mine and the mountain has been mostly protected.

Wiley’s Last Resort sits on the ridge of Pine Mountain. It was a traditional resort a few decades ago, but has grown into an activist community, where almost anyone is free to camp, swim, play music, and talk.

Wiley’s is a pretty special place and when the pontoon boat started sinking, the community came together to pull it out of the pond.

Wiley’s Last Resort has some of the only clean swimming water in South-Eastern Kentucky because it sits on top of the ridge and gets its water from mountain springs. It’s wonderful.

Emma and I traveled to Whitesburg, to do a story on Amelia Kirby, who is an activist and coffee shop/bar/restaurant owner in downtown Whitesburg. She will be one of the stories we feature in our larger project titled WE ARE HERE, which is a look at some of the inspiring women we’ve met in Appalachia. Her work focuses on providing a community gathering space for the coal and activist communities, helping legal efforts to protect coal miners and their families, and providing support and accountability for rural super maximum prisons in rural Virginia that are part of the larger prison industrial complex. She is an all around inspiring and fun woman to travel and work with.

Downtown Whitesburg:

Pound Gap Road Cut is one of the most awesome exposures of rock East of the Mississippi. You can clearly see the thrust fault that essentially separates the Eastern seaboard(i.e. Africa and Europe) from  the rest of the North American plate. It’s got stratigraphic exposures from Late Devonian to Early Pennsylvanian! Besides the technical stuff, it’s absolutely massive and a great welcome to Kentucky from Virginia.