Since my dad works on a mountaintop development site I had seen that form of mining in action several times, and thanks to Doug Melton at B&W Resources I had the opportunity to ride around in a rock truck on one of their mine sites last year so I knew how coal was mined above ground, but I didn’t really know anything about how it was taken from beneath the earth nor did I know what to expect other than what I had seen on the movie October Sky which was set in the 1950’s during the time when they used a shovel and had to deal with a lot of dangerous situations like roof falls and explosions.
After getting trained and suited up, myself and my tour guide and mine superintendent Steve Hacker boarded the mantrip, a buggy type vehicle on a rail controlled by a cable, and took the seven minute trip down the 16 percent slope 250 feet into the mine. Then we got on the rail runner, another vehicle on a rail, and rode another 1.3 miles through the mine to the section where the actual mining was happening. Once we got to the section he showed me all the different aspects and equipment used in an underground mine. He also let me see the continuous miner in action loading the scoops as well as the double head roof bolter that was used to put roof bolts in the ceiling, which are very important.
After being under there a short time, I realized that it wasn’t really like the movie October Sky, nor like a cave as I sort of expected. I was also surprised at the amount of planning that goes into an underground mine as well as the technology that’s used, from the battery operated scoops to the double head roof bolter that takes most of the work out of installing roof bolts, to the continuous miner that is operated by remote control. The way everything worked together reminded me of a city. I also don’t recall seeing anyone using a shovel either. I’m sure there was one down there though.
Then over the weekend I had the opportunity to see the other type of coal mining, the kind I was familiar with (mountaintop development) and its role in Adventure Tourism, as my brother and I took part in the Ground Poundin’ event at the Knott County ATV Center. The ride covered almost 80 miles and took us across every type of terrain possible from logging roads, mud holes, and the creek, to reclaimed mine sites, county roads, and an old rail road track. It was the definition of Adventure Tourism because me and my brother were two of a handful of the 25 ATV’s on that particular ride who were from Knott County with the rest being from near Morehead, Ashland, and other areas.
Every time I go on a ride I think, “How in the world is this going to be fun? All I’m going to be doing is riding on a seat, that gets harder as the day goes on,” but then we get on the trail and I get a little dirt on me and am able to take in the beauty that is Eastern Kentucky and I realize why I go and people from all around come to see what the area has to offer for themselves. It’s also the only time that my brother and I can play in the mud and our mom doesn’t complain about having to wash mud drenched clothes.
Isn’t Adventure Tourism great.