Red River Gorge

Published: May 30th 2022
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Day 1 May 28, 2022 Saturday (Rob and Dina)

I didn't get much sleep as we had an exciting night after a bear decided to pay a visit to our garbage can in our front driveway. It was a big bear too. I thought I might see a bear this weekend, since we are spending it in the mountains in KY, but I did not expect to see one before we even left home! Despite getting to bed late and struggling to calm down enough to sleep, we woke up ready to get going.

We headed out sometime after 10 am and went the familiar way through Oak Ridge to the I-75. It's a long drive, so we chatted about politics, science and our dreams for the future. After we talked for a bit, I listened to a Sherlock Holmes audio book. We ate lunch in Williamsburg and then went on up to London, KY where we left the freeway and the true adventure began. We drove through some beautiful countryside that followed rolling hills and quiet little rivers. Having lived in Winchester, which is the biggest city near Red River Gorge, Rob was familiar with the area and some of what it had to offer. When he saw a sign for the Natural Bridge, he suggested we stop and ride the sky lift and hike a little. I had never been, but he had been twice and liked it a lot.

It was a really nice area with lots of streams and gorgeous rock formations. The resort area where the natural bridge was highlighted included camping, restaurants, kayak rentals and atv rentals. It was very active as is expected on Memorial Day weekend. Never-the-less, we didn't have any real wait to get our tickets and get on board a ski lift that took us up the mountain. The ride up was just so beautiful. The view of the mountains and the stream below coupled with the quiet serenity of the long, slow trip up was wonderful. At the top, we quickly exited the lift and made our way along the ridge trail to the actual natural bridge.

There were a surprising amount of foreign visitors. I heard, German, Indian, Japanese and several others that I wasn't sure of the origin. I am always amazed at where foreign travelers chose to go in the US. It is a big country with countless famous sites, so what brings you to the Kentucky mountains? I don't blame them though really, it is quite beautiful!

The Natural Bridge is a about 100 feet above the trail below and about 20 feet wide (maybe a little more). There are no rails to block your fall is you get to close to the edge and the there were a lot of puddles where the recent rain had left their deposits. The unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside were breathtaking, so we joined the rest of the visitors getting pictures by the edge. After the obligatory pictures, we decided to go down one of the trails. I am having some knee trouble, but it wasn't too outlandish and the trail was short. It was really nice to stretch our legs after such a long drive.

After our hike and another beautiful ride on the lift, we were back down at our car and ready to get on to the cabin. It was well after 4 pm, so we could check in whenever we wanted to now. The drive on to the cabin took us through some more beautiful countryside. There were tree filled forests, rolling hills and open pastures all green with the lushness of late spring. Our drive took us through a long rock single lane tunnel. I expected that there were some kind of controls in place to ensure that you did not meet another vehicle coming the opposite way, especially since there were a lot of drivers on the road. In fact there was a line of Jeeps waiting to go through when we got there. There were no controls in place at all, however, and each driver had to simply get up to the entrance and check to see if there was anyone coming before proceeding. This led to the inevitable face to face encounter for the vehicle ahead of us. We and the line of cars behind us had to back up in succession in order to allow the car in front of us to back out of the tunnel. It turned out that two other cars were ahead of that driver and also had to back out. With a little finagling we were finally enough out of the way to allow the line of cars already in the tunnel their escape. Finally, it was our turn. The tunnel was long but you could see the full length of it. The rock was roughly hewn and barely wide enough for a single car. Water was dripping from the tunnel walls all around us as we drove. I loved it! I am easily impressed. haha.

The road continued on for many more miles and we decided to pick up some groceries at a Dollar Store along the way and not go out again to the small town of Frenchburg to eat dinner. We arrived at the cabin sometime around 5:30pm. It is a small but perfectly well appointed little red cabin. The deck on the back that features a hot tub is as big in area as the entire spans of the cabin itself. It's very clean, pretty and with an amazing view out the back. It has everything we could ask for, including Wi-Fi, which is why writing this blog is even possible. 😊 We are going to leave the blog behind and enjoy the hot tub now that the sun is low in the sky and the air is getting cool.

Day 2 May 29, 2022 Sunday

Today is Rob's birthday! We had stayed up late last night enjoying the hot tub, the sunset and then the stars. It is really dark here and there are lots of stars to see. It was beautiful. We still managed to get out of bed fairly early and were ready in time to head out to find SUP Kentucky for our underground kayaking tour. The cabin is well appointed and the shower was especially nice. The bed was very comfortable as well. Good cabin for sure.

The SUP Kentucky place is a small shop just outside of a 100 year old limestone mine that had become flooded many years ago after the miners accidently tapped into a water table. A man bought the mine in 2015 for only 20,000 dollars and eventually turned it into a tourist destination. They take groups of 10 or so people at a time into the mine in clear kayaks so that the people can see the huge rainbow trout that they stocked in the mine for our viewing pleasure. Each kayak has an LED light that can be set for any color we want that shines into the water below so we can see what is down there. It is really a cool effect in the dark mine. There are very few lights in the now partially flooded tunnels, other than a few for highlights or effect. The main source of visibility were our LED lights on the kayaks and our headlamps if we chose to use them. The tour guide was really knowledgeable and tried to be funny (poorly). haha. The had a mike on the guide, so that there was never any trouble hearing all the interesting facts that he shared along the way. Bringing up the rear was another guide whose primary purpose was to take pictures of us along the way. They would sell you any pictures he took at the end of the trip. I had my own camera on my new phone, so we opted out on the pictures.

It was really cool inside the mine, with a year round temp of about 50 degrees F. The water temp was even cooler at around 40 degrees. The hour and a half that it took us for the tour was right at the limit to what I could take in the cold. 😊 I even had on a jacket. I just don't tolerate cold well. Neither did any of the others, I guess as many talked about being cold and that although they loved the experience, they were glad to get into the 80 degree temps out of the mine.

After our tour, we found a nice BBQ place for lunch and then an ice cream joint for a nice treat. We decided to eat at the cabin for dinner, so we picked up Subway sandwiches in Frenchburg for later and just came back to enjoy some time at the cabin. It is so pretty here, with an amazing view and such perfect weather for sitting on the deck and just listening to the birds singing. Couldn't ask for more. Later, when it cools off some, we will get back into the surprisingly big hot tub and have ourselves a little wine and chocolate to celebrate Rob's birthday. I'm very glad we decided to try this place out.

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