A weekend at the Red River Gorge

With only two more weeks until one of my best friends leaves to go back to Michigan and then to embark on the journey of a lifetime, we decided to make the best of this past weekend with a trip to the Red River Gorge in Slade KY.  Our other friends Ben, the Gypsy Rover, Farmer Annie, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo joined us for a weekend of outdoor adventures.

I’d like to know which government agency you apply to, to receive extra hours in your day, because Friday I could’ve used at least 4.  I had planned on leaving very shortly after my one o’clock photo shoot with baby Connor and his little dog hippo (is that not the cutest name for a dog?!)  Anyway my photo shoot ran over and by the time I packed my gear and got back to the bf’s house in Mason Ohio it was 3pm! He wanted to have lunch together since I was leaving and he was also leaving Saturday morning for Disney World for a week.  So we met at Putters in Kings Mills and had a yummy lunch and a beer.

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Afterward I drove back to his house to pick up Eureka and then head back to the house to grab my camping gear and meet up with Viking Greg.  Of course once I was at the house I had to upload the photos from my session and take a quick glance through. Perfection! By the time we got the car packed and left the house it was around 6pm and we still had to stop at Krogers for food, REI for sleeping bag fabric repair tape and lastly the gas station, for gas, of course.

We bought about $90 worth of snacks and stuff to sustain us over the weekend. Basically gold fish crackers, beef jerky, trailmix and alcohol, lol.  We drove completely to the other side of town to REI, where I’d never been before, and I don’t know why not, because it’s awesome.  It’s like an outdoorsy person’s heaven!  They have everything you can possibly think of pertaining to outdoor activities.  I got tape to fix the hole in the awesome Marmot Trestles 0degree mummy bag that I found on craigslist earlier in the week. I also found a BRAND NEW, never been used or even set up Big Agnes tent for literally half the retail price! I decided while I was at REI I may as well pick up a pair of waterproof hiking shoes. We cashed out and headed towards Kentucky to grab some quick dinner and get gas.  At Taco Bell, we waited in the drive-through for literally 25 minutes behind one person, who must’ve ordered the entire restaurant.  FINALLY we got gas and hit the road.  I checked in with the Gypsy Rover (Ben) to see if he’d talked to Music Man Kyle to see where we should meet up.  After confirming with him, I entered Red River Gorge into the GPS and off we went.

Before long I realized that the way the GPS was leading us, was definitely not the way I went the last time Ben and I went to the Gorge.  Turns out, the GPS took us backroads, literally the entire way there.  While most people would see this as a pain, and become frustrated, the Viking and I saw it as an adventure. The scattered cloud cover and bright moon made for a beautiful view on the back country roads.

Greg is lost!

Greg is lost!

We decided it would be pretty comical to stop and take a photo of Greg in the middle of the road with an expression that said “I don’t know where the hell I’m at.”  As we pulled over, I saw a handful of hovering blue lights in a field.  As my eyes adjusted to the dark I realized the lights were on the eyes of horses. Cyborses!  I pointed them out to Viking Greg. I’m pretty sure he thought I was ‘effin with him, but he soon realized that I wasn’t.  After taking a couple neat pictures we hopped back in the car and I promptly googled “horses with blue lights on their eyes.” Turns out they use the lights on brood mares to put them in season earlier.  Who knew!!

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After about 2 1/2 hours of winding back roads we finally arrived at the Gorge and headed in to the Indian Creek campsite where everyone else had set up. Greg swore he could remember where it was from the last time but after several times turning around I wasn’t so sure lol. When we finally found the campsite, lucky for us they had a nice fire going, because it was chillllllyy!  After setting up my tent and spending a few minutes admiring its beauty, I joined everyone else around the fire.  My toes felt frozen and I began to regret not buying boots instead of shoes.

After warming up and chatting a bit, I decided to turn in and Eureka and I crawled in our new tent.  I laid a blanket down for the dog and the folded another blanket and laid it long ways under my sleeping bag for extra padding and insulation from the ground. Unfortunately, the blanket wasn’t long enough and though my body and upper legs were warm, my feet felt frozen and numb all night long.  For those of you who’ve never slept in a mummy bag, there’s only 2 maybe three positions you can sleep in; flat on your back, flat on your stomach or flat on your side.  No curling up on your side or bending your legs due to the structure of the bag, which is designed that way to keep you warm.  My rest on Friday night, was not great. I woke at around 7 am with Eureka curled up on my pillow next to my head. I instantly shooed her back to her own blanket and spent a moment pulling her hair from my mouth and fully waking up.  I could hear Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo chatting, the fire already crackling, the stream by our campsite babbling and the Gypsy Rover groaning from his tent. I crawled out of my tent and joined everyone else around the fire.  Music Man and Sammy Jo were kind enough to bring breakfast food to share so we feasted like kings on fire cooked sausage, bacon and egg burritos. They were friggin delicious and really hit the spot.

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Since we were meeting farmer Annie at 3 at the Shell (the only place you get cell phone reception) we decided to hike Half Moon since it’s a short trail with an awesome view.  It was my first time up there, but Sammy Jo recommended it, and that girl knows the gorge!  We walked along a trail and came to a point where we had to climb up some rocks to continue.  Since Eureka and Dhalia (Ben’s dog) couldn’t continue one the path they were instructed to stay.  We reached Half Moon and I was far from disappointed with the absolutely spectacular view.  We soaked it in, took pictures and goofed around (a safe but still scary close distance from the edge).

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The Viking and I decided to try a bound headstand, which might I add, I did perfectly on the loveland trail just a week ago.  He went first and I captured a photo (I was a proud teacher!). When I went to do mine, fear took over my brain and I just couldn’t get my feet up and get balanced.  Viking offered to help me lift my feet up but I didn’t realize he was standing behind me and when I swung my feet up I kicked him directly in the face, specifically the nose, which was red and bleeding. What an awesome friend I am! Geez.  I felt so terrible, but he was gracious and even gave ME a hug and told me it was ok, that he knew it was an accident.  Needless to say, I did NOT complete my headstand.

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We took an “Us-ie” and headed back down the path. When we reached the dirt trail the dogs hadn’t moved an inch, ok maybe an inch, but there they sat loyally waiting for our return. What awesome dogs we have and even better, they are best buds.

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We arrived back to the cars just a few minutes after 3pm and headed to Shell. Farmer Annie was there waiting on us.  After a brief food stop, we headed back for camp. We spent the remainder of the evening hanging around the fire like a merry band of woodland dwellers.  We drank under a clear crisp night sky and a bright moon. We played the “word pun” game. It was so much pun! After enough drinking, the singing began. I’d estimate we spent the better part of two hours singing acapella, every song we could collectively think of the words to, and some we didn’t know well at all. We struggled through some Madonna, Queen, Backstreet Boys and many others, but we were all smiling ear to ear.  It was so much fun, a memory I’ll keep for a long time to come.

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We started fading out and since it was super chilly we thought it would be best to tent-buddy up, especially since the Viking only brought a hammock and had nearly frozen solid the night before.  The Rover, Dhalia, Eureka and I piled in my tent, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo in theirs, and Farmer Annie and Viking Greg into hers.  Kyle let me borrow an extra sleeping bag to put under mine and let me tell you it made all the difference in the world.  I lay there in my mummy bag as everyone drifted off to sleep and thought how grateful I am that the universe aligned and brought together such an awesome beautiful unique group of people, and how glad I am to call them friends.

I woke up to condensation dripping on my forehead like chinese water torture. All the hot breath in my tent had made it quite stuffy and unbearable once I was awake, so I HAD to get out, but once I did, I realized it was a beautiful day.IMG_7853As the sun came up, the frost on the ground melted away.  I thought I was the first one up, but as I stretched and moved around I saw Viking Greg walking back from his car. Apparently he had gone to sleep in there for a few hours because he was cold in Annie’s tent.  Two nights of bad sleep for Greg fried his brain a bit and I could tell he wasn’t functioning at full capacity. So once everyone was up I suggested a Shell run for coffee which Greg gladly agreed to.  We rode with Kyle and Sammy Jo to Shell and left Ben and Annie to build a fire so we could cook breakfast.

When we returned from Shell, Viking and Music Man were much more lively and the Rover and Annie had a HUGE fire going.  Those two crazy critters were going skinny dipping and invited us to join, but you can count me out on that! I have no desire to stick my cold naked body in to close to freezing stream water. But those crazy kids went through with it! Maybe next time when its a little warmer, lol (sorry folks, no photos).

After a steak breakfast, Music Man Kyle and Sammy Jo were packing up to head out and the rest of us headed to Natural Bridge.

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We parked at Hemlock Lodge and took the trail up the hill, the Gypsy Rover practically running as usual with Viking right behind him and Annie and I (us old folks) trailing a bit behind.  We reached the top of Natural Bridge and sat and rested for a while, enjoying the view.  IMG_8073

After snapping some pictures we continued on the trail to Lookout Point. As I was sitting there, just a few seconds after snapping a picture of Annie, I somehow lost hold of the lens cap (which belongs to the fisheye lens I BORROWED) and it rolled over the cliff and I heard it tink tink ti ti tink tink tink, all the way down.  My mouth hung wide open. It was like I saw it happen in slow motion, but couldn’t do a thing about it.

I was determined to go look for it, so my friends, although unsure we’d find it, humored me and we hiked down Devils Staircase to the trail that wraps around the front of Lookout Point.IMG_8153

The trail is about 75 ft downhill from the rock face itself, and in between the trail and the rock is very dense plant life and fallen trees.  It wasn’t an easy climb to get up there, but once we did, we found there is another trail that wraps directly along the rockside.  Not two minutes into looking I heard Viking yell, “I found it!” I was so relieved I wouldn’t have to tell Steve I lost his lens cap over a cliff. Turns out the trail we found was pretty rad, and in a way I’m glad that I lost the lens cap over the cliff.IMG_8174

As we made our way back to the parking lot, we all agreed it was time for some Miguels Pizza!! Miguels is a popular spot to find the Gorge’s most ambitious climbers as well as some pretty darn good pizza. We all met there and sat at a Picnic table out back to have our fill of pizza and enjoy the beautiful weather. After Miguels, Annie left for home and the Rover, the Viking and I (and the dogs) headed back for camp.

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We debated on whether to stay another night or not. Final concensus; yay. We were all out of firewood so the boys spent the next hour collecting and chopping wood. We got a little fire started and as they chopped I built up the fire little by little. We finally had a nice fired going and were relaxing and conversating, when out of nowhere, it started to rain. At first it rained gradually, then pretty hard. We scrambled to get all our stuff in the tents to keep it dry.  The rain made me want to turn in early so Eureka and I crawled into our tent. Ben pulled his tent across the campsite closer to mine and him and Dhalia turned in for the night. Since the Viking didn’t bring a tent and I’m not mean enough to make him sleep in the rain, he tent buddied up with me and Eureka. It rained well into the middle of the night, but I was warm and comfy.

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the ride home

We packed our stuff early the next morning to head home. Since my tent was soaked I shook the water off and stuffed it in the trunk to lay out to dry once I got home.  We said our goodbyes and headed for home. Driving out of the gorge, as the sun rose, just peeking through the trees, I thought, “I’ll miss this, a lot.” Although I plan to have many more adventures to the gorge this year, this was the only one with Viking Greg and I’m so glad we made it!

What a lucky girl I am to have met such diverse and wonderful friends in the past couple years, people I can share adventure and exploration with, people who share my passion for life. You guys rock my socks!