Saturday, July 30, 2016

Our Summer of HIking

So if you know me you know I don't care much for exercise, but I've been trying to be more active. I do love the outside, minus the bugs and the Kentucky humidity...

But nature is gorgeous and I'm amazed and in awe when I'm out in the woods.

So naturally, because I'm such an outdoors girl and love to move so much, Wallace and I decided to take up hiking. I've lived an hour from the Gorge all my life, and have never really spent much time there. Oh, sure there's been the requisite trip to Natural Bridge most summers, and we spent a lot of time at the picnic shelter and in the creek there when I was young feeding ducks with Mamaw Na, but I'd never really hiked...

because, you know.  Bugs and snakes and sweat...

So, anyway, we researched a little bit and found a site that had 10 top hikes in the Gorge, and we set out to go see them... because Kentucky is beautiful and it's something we can do together (and we have limited cell service, which is a plus for me!)

We had hopes to get them all accomplished this summer, but then got sidetracked at Natural Bridge because who knew there was more than one trail there???

And also, rain and humidity and hot weather because who wants to die hiking in 90+ degrees?

So, our plan is to finish up this list during the fall on weekends when there isn't volleyball or SMS football or UK football.
  1. Indian Staircase and Indian Arch (3.5 miles – unmarked – difficult) *to be completed at a later date
  2. Whittleton Arch (2.5 miles – easy)
This one actually doubles on our to do list because it connects the Natural Bridge to the Gorge. On June 28, Wallace and I walked 7.1 miles- parked and walked Lakeside Trail at Natural Bridge, up to Hemlock Lodge, around to Whittleton Campground, and then followed Whittleton Trail to Hwy 15, and went to the overpass looking at the Mountain Parkway at Slade Hill. On our way back, we sidetracked to Whittleton Arch, which is one of the prettiest arches I've seen. Lots of huge rock formations along the way. (And, of course, we then celebrated our hike with some Miguel's Pizza!).

3. Double Arch, Star Gap Arch, Arch of Triumph (5.6 miles – unmarked – moderate) *to be completed at a later date
    4. Gray’s Arch (4.0 miles – easy)
June 6, 2016- Wallace, Caleb, Lauren Green and I hit the trail for this one in the afternoon after summer practice. It was a nice 75 degrees, so not too hot. Beautiful scenery, even though I struggle with looking at my feet and missing out on what was around me because I'm a clutz and I was afraid I'd trip. One time, though, about a mile into our walk, I looked over and saw that we were on top of the ridge line and it was gorgeous. We walked and stayed on the trail and did pretty good until we were about 3 miles in. We came upon a staircase and Caleb said "God told me to take that." Which was quickly followed by "This is the staircase to Heaven because I feel like I'm dying." (Noone has ever said Caleb isn't dramatic). Then, halfway up the staircase, "If this doesn't lead to where we are, I'm going to be mad." At the top of said staircase, Wallace decided that we had taken a wrong turn, so back down we went. We made it to Gray's Arch, and it was beautiful. Truly beautiful. We climbed up directly underneath the rock and ran into a friendly snake (as friendly as snakes can be) who let us just proceed on our way... except there was nowhere to go. So, after being convinced that we were lost and needed a helicopter to come pick us up, we backtracked to the staircase and decided that maybe Caleb had been right. I've never seen him so relieved to see the car...

5. Auxier Ridge & Courthouse Rock (5.0 miles- moderate) *to be completed at a later date
6. Natural Bridge & Laurel Ridge Trail (3.0 miles – easy)
5-30-16 We were more familiar with this one, obviously. After dropping Caleb and Lauren Green off to ride the skylift up to meet us, Wallace, Helen and I parked at the parking lot closest to the swimming pool and I may or may not have commiserated on how I missed the paddleboats (because y'all know how much I would have used them!) Again, no surprises here, because I had hiked up to the bridge... but at the top there was a family who were singing from the Sound of Music and How Great Thou Art and as I looked around it was just fitting. We made our way to the skylift and met up with the kiddos, and then headed over to Lookout Point. I honestly don't know that I have ever walked that trail, and it was awesome to look across and see the view of the bridge. Then we followed the trail on to Lover's Leap, and again the views were awesome. We hiked back to the bridge, and followed the trail to Balanced Rock, another trail I had never been on before. After what seemed like a million steps, we met up with Papaw William, Greg, Regina, and Will and had lunch at the lodge. Great family day!

When we walked at Natural Bridge, Caleb was given a map that showed ten trails around Natural Bridge. I'm pretty sure the only one that I had ever walked was the original trail... so we decided that we'd conquer all of those trails, too. We did 3/10 on this hike.
June 14- We completed two more, walking Battleship Rock Trail and Rock Garden Trail for a hike that was about 3.5 miles. We traveled up Needle's Eye Staircase, which was erected in the 1930s and has a fitting name. We were also pleasantly surprised to find ourselves below the skylift. We had often seen people underneath as we rode up but didn't know their was a trail.
And we rewarded ourselves with Miguel's Pizza!
June 19- Wallace and I hit the trails and walked to Henson's Arch, near Whittleton Campground. We didn't climb down the sinkhole because a couple we met on the trail said they had just seen a copperhead that snuck back into the leaves, but it was beautiful.
We then rode the skylift up to the Bridge to hike down Hood's Branch Trail. I was not reassured when the lady selling tickets at the lift told us that the trail was more wooded so we'd be more likely to see snakes, and when she asked if we had on boots it worried me even more. Wallace was not reassured when she asked what model of car we drove and then wrote it down... but it was a nice hike and we finished it quicker than we had thought we would. It truly was a walk through the woods, with some lovely footbridges and a trek over rocks and fallen logs.
* At Natural Bridge we still have two trails to finish up. One is a 7 miler, and the other is just 0.5 mile
7. Silvermine Arch & Hidden Arch (5.1 miles – moderate) * to be completed at a later date
8. Turtle Back Arch & Rock Bridge (4.0 miles – unmarked – moderate) * to be completed at a later date
9. Rock Bridge Loop (1.5 miles – unmarked – easy)
This was the first one Wallace and I decided to do, on a spontaneous drive through the Gorge. Creation Falls is beautiful. An easy hike until we started back up the hill =)
We hope to do this one again with Caleb and Will and let them hang out at the swimming hole.
10. Chimney Top Rock, Princess Arch, & Half Moon Arch (1.8 miles – easy) * to be completed at a later date

Plus, driving through the Gorge I saw several other trails that I wanted to do... including one to Copperas Falls.
Eastern Kentucky... it's beautiful! We have it right at our fingertips. Get out and explore!

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