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Into The Great Wide Open

Into The Great Wide Open

The Terrific Travels of Erileigh and Steven Phalen

There’s a whole world out there—landscapes of trees and hills and plains and mountains and waterfalls. There are forests on which we may feast our eyes. There are oceans of experiences in which we may immerse ourselves. Why adopt the heart of an explorer? It’s an unabridged reality—that which takes us beyond our finite, day-to-day existences, opening our stories to more possibilities and new ways of thinking. Roaming outside the familiar worlds of our creations brings balance, perspective, and a renewed appreciation. In other words, it brings a fullness to LIFE.  

Erileigh and Steven Phalen understand this well. Erileigh, owner of Paducah’s Raven and Moth, and Steven, videographer and photographer for Emerging Media Productions, stay pretty busy with their careers. They know the value of getting away to discover worlds beyond their own. They’ve done a lot of exploring together, most recently discovering the Cumberland Falls area of Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest with friends McKenzie Woods, Luke Taylor, Bryan Bodine, and Katie Followell (as featured on the cover). Upon their return, we asked Erileigh and Steven about their experiences and love for exploration. 

Paducah Life

What kind of outdoor adventures do you like to do together? 

Erileigh

We love taking Sunday hikes with our dog Piper. We usually try to stay within about an hour from home for those, but in the summer we like to venture further for camping trips. We love using outdoor adventures to escape everyday life. Last year, we decided to move from car-camping to backpacking to better “disconnect” and loved it! 

PL

What’s one of your favorite trips thus far?

Steven

For part of our honeymoon, we headed to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and camped at Rialto Beach. Since we were doing a lot of traveling, we did “cheaters backpacking” with an AirBnB campsite which we didn’t even know was a thing before! The host actually hikes out in advance and sets up all your gear and then sends you the directions to find it. We had so much fun hiking in and getting to just relax and take it all in without worrying about getting there in time to set-up camp. It was also really amazing to be so far away from any light pollution with nothing but the ocean in front of the tent and the dense forest behind us and to hear the waves crashing just yards from us as we slept. The PNW was so perfect for adventuring with the mild climate and lush green forests for long, meandering hikes. Honestly, I think we could have spent days wandering the pebbled coastlines picking up little interesting bits along the shore and looking for seals.

PL

What draws you to look for new adventures? 

Erileigh

Something that I think annoyed Steven when we first met but now he has come to love as well is that I cannot stand to be inside on a pretty day. I was raised to spend every moment you can enjoying the outdoors. If it’s nice out, I just have the natural urge to get out and see something new. I have a hard time even sticking to a trail because for me I just want to see as much as I can, whether it’s something as small as every toadstool and wildflower or big, grand rock formations. For Steven, it’s all about making memories and just enjoying the new experience. He loves to take photos and capture the moments for us to look back on.

PL

What are you looking for when considering taking a trip? 

Erileigh

It’s often hard for us to get much time off together, so finding places close to home so that we can make the most of it is key for us. Once that Kentucky heat hits, I am all about the water, so we are usually literally chasing waterfalls and streams. But Steven is pretty much happy anywhere he can hang up his hammock and take in the scenery. 

PL

Why’d you decide to visit the Cumberland Falls area, and what did you find there?

Steven

There are a vast number of hiking opportunities in the area. We stayed in an Airbnb cabin just outside of the national park and spent our days hiking trails and our evenings playing games around the table as it was still a touch cool in the evenings to enjoy a casual campfire. We cooked meals together and packed picnics for our hikes. We hiked the trails around Van Hook Falls, Cumberland Falls, Dog Slaughter Falls, and we even stopped by Mammoth Cave on our drive home to hike around the park to break up our drive. We had visited Mammoth Cave a couple of years prior during the heat of summer to escape into the cool caverns and wanted to come back and explore the trails above ground ever since.

Erileigh

We loved all of the waterfalls. We chose our hikes specifically to see as many waterfalls, streams, and babbling brooks as possible, and we were not disappointed. Early spring is a great time for hiking if you are wanting to see a lot of natural water features. But thanks to all of the springs in the area, most of these run year-round. We are already planning to come back in the heat of summer to enjoy splashing in the cool pools of water that looked so enticing! Other than at Cumberland Falls itself, the trailheads were pretty remote which was fantastic for us as that meant the trails were not very populated and we could spend time enjoying nature without a crowd. We were also surprised at how rocky the terrain was and how quick the elevation would change on the trail. It made for really interesting hikes as we would go from scenic overlooks high on the rocks to climbing down low into a valley to discover a hidden waterfall. Our dog, Piper, was especially fond of hopping rock to rock along the trail like a little mountain goat!

PL

Why is it important to share these experiences with others?

Erileigh

We love getting out and exploring with friends simply because we love to share in the adventure together. We may not all like the same thing, but we all have something to contribute to the trip to make it a more robust experience. We each have different personalities, talents, and skills, and that often works great because some people love to plan, others love to cook and prep lunches, and some keep us going with great activities and endless playlists. With the pandemic, we have found ourselves enjoying getting outside with friends even more as other activities we once enjoyed together like attending local live music events have had to be put on hold.

PL

What do you like about exploring Kentucky?

Steven

The landscape varies dramatically across our state, and you can have unique experiences within just a couple of hours difference of traveling. On our departure, we took the scenic route home to pack in another hike and a few more sites along the way. We went from rocky hills and evergreens to the deciduous forests and caverns of the Bowling Green area to a casual drive through the flatter farmlands of Amish country, passing horses and buggies on the road before winding through our lake lands here in western Kentucky. There is truly something for everyone here whether you enjoy hiking and camping, spelunking or rock climbing, or fishing and boating. The list goes on and on!

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