A Trip Through Eastern Kentucky

I enjoy spontaneous road trips and exploring new areas, but my planning skills could improve.

I enjoy spontaneous road trips and exploring new areas, but my planning skills could improve. Although I’m skilled at navigating back roads using Delorme atlases instead of modern GPS, and I’m comfortable driving on narrow highways even when passing coal trucks, I consistently underestimate the travel time required due to the winding mountain roads that make direct routes nearly impossible.

This past Sunday, I explored the area along Kentucky Route 15, including the towns of Jackson and Hazard.

My first stop was the former Campton High School, which opened in 1942 as the first publicly funded high school in Wolfe County. Built during the Great Depression with funding from the Federal Works Project Administration (WPA), the school building has been vacant for several years but is slated for rehabilitation into apartments.

enturing off the main highway, I came across the Buchanan Fuel Krypton Loadout, a former small surface coal mining operation located one mile west of Krypton along the CSX Eastern Kentucky Subdivision (formerly part of the Chesapeake & Ohio railroad). Constructed in 1975, the mine was active as of 2002 but has since closed, though it may reopen under the International Coal Group.

Afterward, I searched for abandoned coal camp communities in the tangled mountains of eastern Kentucky. However, I discovered that most of these sites had either been demolished or redeveloped with newer housing. In this region, abandoned structures tend to be demolished fairly quickly, as coal companies are eager to remove processing plants and other facilities to avoid liability issues. One notable exception was the M.C. Napier School in Hazard, which closed in 2005 but has already degraded significantly in just a few years of abandonment.

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