A few weeks back (in late April), Jen and I took a quick vacation trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky. We flew into Charleston, West Virginia, rented a car, and drove a few hours west on I-64. After a brief stop for lunch in Huntington (I now get all the "We Are Marshall" references), we wound our way into eastern KY.
Red River Gorge isn't really in a mountainous region of Kentucky. It's well to the west/northwest of the Blue Ridge and the rest of Appalachia. Or at least, it's at the western edge of the Appalachian foothills. What it IS, though, is a canyon. Or rather, a connected series of canyons. With vertiginous mesas and cliffs and arches. Like something you'd find out in Arizona or Utah, only vegetated. Arches East. How cool is THAT?!?
panorama shot of the very popular Gray's Arch from beneath the rock shelter
L: Red River Gorge from Chimney Top rock. R: Expanse.
our ridiculously sweet cabin for the week (hot tub on deck and mid-week rates!)
wading out to Rock Bridge Arch
drizzly day wildflower walk
L: Suspension bridge over the Red River. R: A trailside iris.
stuff on the other side of Double Arch
L: Nada Tunnel. R: Where's Jenny?
Below the span at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Apparently, this is normally an insanely crowded place, complete with a chair lift to near the top of the arch. Not that we would have taken it anyway, but the chair lift was closed (it was drizzly off and on). We hiked up about a mile to get here and saw a grand total of two other people the entire afternoon. Jen is about to hike up through a slot called Fat Man's Squeeze.
Hanson's Point, where we found the finest view at Red River Gorge. The ridge dropped off on either side and ended at a remote ledge with 360-degree views of the canyon (our lunch spot for the day). This unofficial, unmarked spur trail was a few miles into a 9-mile loop hike.
Somehow we managed to time this trip just right. Apparently the place gets VERY crowded, but we were there mid-week and saw almost no one the entire time we were out hiking or exploring; it really seemed like we had the place to ourselves most of the time. Also, spring had just arrived and the leaves were coming out and wildflowers were going gangbusters, but the bugs weren't bad at all and it was perfectly pleasant in terms of temperature. And finally, because we were there mid-week, we got a significantly lower rate for our cabin.
Aside from the extremely cool arches and great hiking, we also enjoyed a few dinners out: local food and drinks at the Red River Rockhouse and laid back everything at the climber's paradise of Miguel's Pizza. Red River Gorge is a huge destination for rock climbing, and it often seems like you'll see everyone at either of these two excellent places at the end of the day.
Special mention must be made of a highly entertaining radio station out of Morehead: Mix 106 ("The station no one can agree on at work" "Less Talk, More Head" "A bunch of songs that seem like they shouldn't go together, but strangely... do"). We listened to it all week. Still trying to see if I can stream it at home.