1-2 October: Heading south to Red River Gorge

Author: Mrs A

Location: Natural Bridge State Park, Kentucky, USA

Monday: We farewelled our friends in Cicero and took the Interstate south, heading away from the flat cornfields of Indiana, briefly through Ohio and up into the rolling forested hills of Kentucky.

The changing scenery was quite beautiful, and the temperature climbed too, up to 30 degrees celsius by the time we nearly reached our destination at 3pm.

We’d booked in at a lodge in Natural Bridge State Park, but on arrival we soon found it was not ideal. Built in the early 1960s, we suspect the rooms have never been upgraded, with a strong smell of damp, every surface slightly sticky and swollen doors we cannot open…or then close. We were checked in for three nights! Ugh!Mr A did some careful negotiating, using my breathing as an excuse, managed to get them to agree to refund us the next two nights…we’ll be checking out in the morning and moving to a better rated hotel.

We had a short stroll around the area – it’s very pretty and extremely quiet, a lakeside walk surrounded by oak trees filled with birds and chirping insects. We’re excited to look around over the next couple of days.

Natural Bridge State Park is famous for several weathered sandstone archways, often over watercourses. It is also home to numerous other unique weathered sandstone formations. Very close by is the Red River Gorge and the Clifty Wilderness Area – all in all an area with much natural beauty.

Tuesday: The day dawned overcast and misty but that didn’t stop us heading out for our first hike to Henson’s Cave Arch. This was not a particularly exciting walk, but got us warmed up for a day of potentially hiking in the rain as the heavens opened as soon as we left the car! The arch is more of a cave, and the downpour livened up the waterfall which is often a trickle through here. We could see the area was not a stranger to damp conditions, however, with moss, lichens and a wide variety of fungi growing in the forests.

We checked out of our damp and smelly Hemlock Lodge and headed across to our new accomodation at Cliffview Lodge. So much nicer! A large, clean room with a sliding door leading to a wraparound veranda with rocking chairs and swing benches overlooking a beautiful view.

The rain started to die off around midday, so we headed out again to our next hike. This time we followed the recommendations from our friend Tom in Indiana, as he had selected some highlights for us which fit our criteria – not too steep or strenuous!

First of all was the Rock Bridge Trail, a very pretty hike through the forest with not only a stunning rock bridge, but the picturesque Creation Falls on the way. We were unable to get to a couple of the other walks he recommended due to bogginess of the road – we really missed our Landcruiser here. But after this walk headed to Gray’s Arch.More spectacular scenery awaited us there with just the very beginnings of autumn beginning to show in the foliage. We’re just loving being among these deciduous trees, reminding us of our lives in England, and the scenery and walks otherwise quite reminiscent of the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney.

Our final walk for the day took us to Natural Bridge. As this is a long way up, we decided to take the chair lift to the top and hike back down. Thankfully by this time, the rain had really dried up and it was a beautiful afternoon.Once up, it was a spectacular view as we walked over this bridge, and then climbed under it to begin the walk back down.To reach the underside of the bridge we had to squeeze through a narrow crack in the rock, but the view was worth it. The geology sure is impressive here!Our hike down took us through more narrow, low and extremely steep and slippery pathways – we were so grateful Tom had loaned us two hiking poles.Before long we were back at the car, ready to head back for showers and food.

We’ve clocked up 11.5km (7.2 miles) and climbed 64 floors today…our fish and salad burritos were much appreciated, enjoyed with cups of herbal tea (still drying out after the weekend!). Fabulous – and another day exploring tomorrow, too!

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