This map shows where we had multiple hiking adventures, from July 11 to 18, 2016. We were in the blue area, Powell County, Kentucky. We also drove over 60 miles on July 16 to Lexington, marked by one of the three orange stars, one day. We’ll have a post about that trip.
We stayed in a brand new RV park, 4 Guys RV Park. Some parts are still under construction, but it didn’t bother us. The office hours are of an evening, so we didn’t get a map or the Wifi password until after our hike to Natural Bridge. We were told the Red River Gorge (RRG) is excellent for hiking. I guess he was kind and didn’t mention our age….😁 I said we love to hike, so I guess he thought we looked fit enough (or again he was kind) to not mention how rugged it is!
Anyway, we were psyched from our hike the day before to Natural Bridge. And after hearing the affirmation the RRG is great for hiking, we were told to take the Historic Nada Tunnel. We were ready to tackle the RRG – or will it tackle us?
“An interesting way to enter the Red River Gorge is through the 900-foot Nada Tunnel, located along KY 77 on Cumberland Ranger District. This tunnel was built for use by a logging railroad during the early 1900s. The tunnel is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The tunnel is a one-way section of a two-way road, drivers must watch for the headlights of oncoming vehicles. It is 12-foot-wide by 13 feet high; so RVs, tour buses and other high vehicles should use extra caution.” (Quote taken from this Forest Service website.)
I’m loving some of the signs we are seeing in this part of Kentucky. A few hundred yards before this tunnel, the sign warned “Congestion Ahead.” To me, when I see that, I expect congestion. I guess we are in the “off” season since we’ve seen the sign in other places and we’ve never met with any congestion! We’re so thankful!
We were not warned about how dark or narrow the tunnel was. Again, we’re now doing research after the fact! Our limited Verizon plan (18 GB) for our Mifi is a bit of a deterrent as we usually wait to do much of our research and posting on our blog when we have free wifi.
The sign actually should have said as you enter RRG, “WARNING: Many Dangers Ahead. Are You Sure You R Up for this Adventure?” And now we understand the hats and tee-shirts that say, “I survived the Red River Gorge.” It is very sad as there have been too many deaths in RRG.
We know the trailhead is supposed to be soon after the tunnel. So we keep driving and driving….Bill sees a gravel road, but too late to turn onto it. But we think, certainly parking for a Trailhead won’t be down a gravel road. Then finally:
We see this parking lot! Yay, we (think we) found the trailhead. So we look around for the entrance to the trail. And we search and search. Looking closer at the map, it says it starts behind the bathroom, but trust us, there was no “official” trail there (we’ve since learned the official trails have white triangle blazes)…..
The little info box tells hikers to not desecrate the “rock shelters.” Also a bulletin board was next to it had some warning information, like look out for bears. We really don’t think bears would be climbing this trail….thankfully we saw no scat nor bears, nor any wildlife except some hawks. We were too busy watching our steps to have looked closely at them! This is where we entered the trail that actually is not on that map if you really look closely.
Every few 100 feet or so, we came to a three-pronged fork in the trail! We just didn’t take many pictures we had to keep our hands on our poles to help us stay on the trail. And we pretty much went straight up for over 1/10th of a mile. Maybe we should have turned around….but then what? We’re determined to see an “arch.”
We later learned this is a historical rock shelter. It was so sad to see litter on the trail and here. This is actually a trail, Rough Trail, but I don’t think the Forest Service monitors it. We thought we were on Arch or the Double Arch Trail. And Rough it was….
We came to what looked like the top of this “mountain.” Bill was able to peak over and saw a descent and could tell then we would have to also climb again. It was a hard decision, but we decided to turn back. We really didn’t go very far, nearly a mile but we just weren’t feeling “safe.” I was also watching the Weather App and a storm was approaching….If you want to see more pictures from this hike, click here.
It was starting to rain, so we decided to go for a drive, not knowing we were on a 46 mile drive on the Scenic Byway. It was an interesting ride along the Red River on one side and outcrops on the other side. But it took it us unexpectedly to the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center & Historic Site. What a gem it was and made it worth it!
We were able to talk to several Rangers. We learned a lot, mainly there haven’t been any bear sightings, but they know they are coming. They are trying to raise awareness as we have seen so many signs warning of them. We didn’t communicate very well when we said we couldn’t find the “official” trail but seemed to have found an unauthorized trail. They said they would go check it out. But now looking at the map closer, we see we missed the trail head to the Arch and Double Arch Trails, where we hoped to hike. That trailhead was off of the gravel road. 😒
We also saw an inspiring eight-minute video about the RRG. There were many educational displays and information that helped us better appreciate the attempts to preserve the heritage of the area. It was obvious there are many out there who don’t know or understand it based upon the litter we saw. I overheard another visitor also commenting to a Ranger about the trash. I was sorry we didn’t have a trash bag and gloves with us to cart it out. Here are a few pictures at Gladie:
We drove on for the rest of our journey, passing many scenic points of interests the Ranger pointed out to us. There just wasn’t enough parking for us to stop. There were a few more trails we could have tried to hike, but parking was limited plus the road was just too narrow and winding for our comfort level. So the bottom line is that we now understand when people say, “We survived the Red River Gorge!”
We could have been discouraged. To be honest, we did feel a bit defeated because we couldn’t really enjoy this as a day of hiking. We just decided to make the best of it and learn, we will never to hike on a trail without blazes! A friend commented on a earlier post, how do we think Daniel Boone and those who explored our great nation centuries ago did it? YES, we often say that! And even better, how did Native Americans survive in these wildness areas we are finding?
Next up, our successful hikes and more about the rest of our time in this beautiful national forest!
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9