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By Glenn Arnette, III

Before I tell you about an exciting adventure for your life, you must know that it might sound a bit like I am joking, but, believe me, I am telling you the truth.

“It” is FREE! Absolutely FREE! Now, how is that for a good time thrill! I am talking about the opportunity being given to everyone who visits Harlan County, Kentucky. Harlan, Kentucky is were a visitor is welcomed and they offer something close to paradise in “them there hills”!

Have you ever CRAWLED? Well, you can with the Kentucky Mountain Crawlers. What is crawling? It is when you jump into a Jeep or other 4x4 truck with large tires and decide that you need to go up the side of a mountain, over boulders, climbing trees and more, and the “more” is the best part of the experience. Crawling is becoming one of the top sports and Harlan has the best off-road trails in the United States. Just wait until you go “straight up” the side of a mountain!

There is another group known as the Harlan County Ridge Runners ATV Club and they make trail riding a family sport. Young and old, male, female or kid can enjoy the great outdoors on an ATV. It is funny, but when you “hit those mud holes” it is the best feeling in the world!

The two organizations really make Harlan a recognized destination for travel. Now I am not talking about fancy hotels, upscale restaurants, and dress up nights. I am talking about a clean motel or boarding house, good ole Southern food and a pair of jeans. This was one of my best stops as a travel journalists and I would return in a minute. As a matter of fact, I will go back! Being a Southern boy from South Carolina, it did my heart good to be around real people. These two organizations opened their arms and made a sincere effort to make us feel at home. With other journalists from England, Washington, California, New York, the Harlan locals made me proud. I just felt right at home, brought out my Southern drawl and chowed down with the best of them. I was close to heaven!

Kim Collier, the Executive Director of the Harlan Tourist and Convention Commission, [email protected]

put this program together with the Kentucky Department of Tourism and to our surprise, this was the number on stop on our tour around the State.

Rose Daniels (Kentucky Rose) is the President of the Kentucky Mountain Crawlers and she is willing to help you plan a trip out that way to see them. You can contact here direct at (606) 273-5193 or visit

If you want to have a “All Terrain Vehicle” experience, you can contact Preston McLain (Bellman) at (606) 837-3546. They have the “know how” to take you on a journey you will long remember.

Whether you have your own vehicle or not, the guys and gals of the two clubs will see that you enjoy yourself. When I told you FREE, that means you can “hitch” a ride and crawl or drive the trails without any costs. It is good to offer a donation to the club or clubs and consider giving a tip to the driver, but that is not required. Believe me, once you go, you will gladly offer up a few dollars for all the hard work they go through. This experience will become a major part of your conversation when you return home!

The Kentucky Mountain Crawlers mission is to promote, encourage and perpetuate the use, practice and recognition of 4x4 trucks and the recreational and social opportunities arising from them. You ride and little, help others and chat a lot with the gang. It makes for many new friends! You can read all about crawling in the Crawl Magazine and the JP Magazine. Check out this information on your computer.

The purpose of the Harlan County Ridge Runners ATV Club is to promote all phases of motorized trail riding as a family activity. It also educates the public as to the care and conditioning of motor vehicles for trail activities, environmental responsibilities, trail etiquette and safety and to establish, improve, maintain trails and to preserve the love of the outdoors in Kentucky.

If you don’t believe how much fun this can be, you get into the 4x4 with Ken Crider, a retired 30 year patrolman. He was my guide, and certainly is my new found friend. Other people helping our group that day was Jody Newland of the Ridge Runners, the Mayor of Evarts, Burl Fee, Tim Jones of the Crawlers and Tommy Couch. Last but not least, just wait until you see the “wild man” Dallas Gilbert. This guy will take you where not other man will go!

Harlan, Kentucky has a number of events around these sports; i.e., April Fools Run, Southern Shine Crawl, and the Fall Crawl. For details and information 606-573-4495.

From this great mining town of years gone by to their new beginning in the tourism industry, I challenge the State of Kentucky to realize the value of this small community. If I had a business, corporation I would be a major sponsor today, as the big explosion is coming and you will be reading in the near future how Harlan, Kentucky is the place to be for the outdoor adventures,

To learn more about the Crawlers and ATV’s ask Kim at the Harlan Tourist Office to send you the 2007 Visitors Guide. It is a great publication, and as I said, “It’s FREE to ride and FREE for the Visitor’s Guide!”

You must go to Harlan. It is an experience only found in Kentucky. The Kentucky hills can change your life! It changed mine.