Highpointing: Black Mountain, Kentucky

Of all the highpoints I have visited so far, Black Mountain, Kentucky is the one with the biggest missed potential and lost opportunity. There is an interesting history behind the mountain and for the region. It could be a showcase in a very cool, and beautiful part of the country.

Instead when you reach the summit of Black Mountain you are greeted with antennas and low profile concrete block buildings. Frankly, it is ugly and that is unfortunate because it is in a beautiful part of the state. Harlan County has been trying to re-cast itself as an adventure destination; Black Mountain could be one of its crown jewels. The community needs to rally around it to make it something special.

Even the old observatory tower sits there silently mocking you on what used to be. The one scenic view you do get from the Virginia side looks out over a strip mine. Hopefully someday there will be an effort to improve the site and make it more welcoming to all people.

This was a pretty straightforward episode to film. Brian Smith returned to the director’s chair for this one. Outside of the summit the majority of the episode was shot in the towns of Benham and Lynch. There were enough coal-related artifacts and locations to support the story. The biggest technical faux pas of this episode is the driving footage. The camera is slightly out of focus for a majority of it. Since the footage is sped up significantly in the final product it is not quite as noticeable. You will also notice is the interference in the audio from the all the electronics on the summit and at the radar site. It is that insect-like buzzing sound you hear periodically.

Both pieces of episode music are by Kevin MacLeod of incompetech.com. The upbeat piece is entitled “Guts and Bourbon” and I’ve been holding that one in reserve for Kentucky almost since day 1 of the series. The bouncy/ twangy nature of that piece doesn’t work as well when discussing Bloody Harlan though, so that part is supported by a piece called “Dark Times.”

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