During 16 years of education--first grade through my senior year in college--I only ever studied Kentucky in depth on two occasions.

The first time was in fourth grade. We spent four weeks watching and enjoying (well, I did, anyway) different films and film strips about the history of the Bluegrass State. It was fun and comprehensive. I still remember Kentucky's six geographic regions because of those studies.

Later, in seventh grade, we covered the Commonwealth once again. From that unit of study, I still remember the most- and least-populated states in Kentucky and the smallest and largest in area. Respectively, they are Jefferson, Robertson, Gallatin, and Pike.

Pike County is also Kentucky's easternmost county, jutting out there on the far right and surrounded on two sides by the Virginias.

I've only ever visited Pike County one time--it is a HAUL from Owensboro (321 miles, 5-hour-plus drive)--but I found it fascinating. I also learned that locals IMMEDIATELY know someone who ISN'T local. A friend of mine and I stopped into a Hardee's to ask directions to a radio station--she was going to be interviewed--and everyone stopped and stared at us.

But that doesn't mean they weren't friendly; they were. And that radio station sits atop a mountain in the middle of Pikeville, the county seat.

But there's far more of interest in Pike County than geography. It sits on U.S. Highway 23, also known as the Country Music Highway.

Luminaries like Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Tyler Childers, Tom T. Hall, the Judds, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dwight Yoakam, and Patty Loveless were all born and/or born and raised along this apparently musically fertile stretch of road. Yoakam and Loveless are actually natives of Pike County.

Pike County is also where historians can sink their teeth into the legendary Hatfield/McCoy feud by taking a self-guided driving tour of sights pertinent to the centuries-old legend. That would include the cabin where the feud allegedly began. A replica of that cabin where the Hog Trial took place is located in eastern Pike County.

By the way, the hostility between the two families has come to an end, but there are still a few things about which they disagree. Hey, it wouldn't be any fun if there weren't.

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend you get there before you are done with this planet. It is literally breathtaking. Until you can, though, check out what's known as the "Grand Canyon of the South." It's actually in Virginia but right across the state line from Pike County. And it is very nearly AS breathtaking and well worth your time.

Here's the thing, once you're in Pike County, you're in the heart of Appalachia, and I can never recommend spending time in the mountains enough. Find a cabin and a porch and veg out.

We all need that from time to time.

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