The snowfall, cold temps, and wind that visited the Bluegrass region this winter is a gentle reminder of what I am missing back in my hometown of Cold Spring, MN. My family has always enjoyed outdoor winter activities, especially snowmobiling, and more recently I’ve gotten into nature photography. So while the reports started trickling in that I was about to experience my first snowfall in Kentucky, I got excited. Since I moved to Lexington, KY in August of 2015, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Red River Gorge a number of times. While the lakes and rolling farmland of Minnesota have their appeal, nothing beats the geology of the Gorge, whether that is the numerous rock outcrops (great for rock climbing, I hear), over 150 natural arches, or spectacular waterfalls. I could see in my mind’s eye this gorgeous landscape clothed in the beauty that only comes with a first snowfall and became hopeful about the awesome pictures I might be able to take. I wanted so badly to ensure I’d be able to be there to capture the moment, that I contemplated heading that way during the storm on Friday (January 22, 2016). However, I had a few work related things I needed to finish before the weekend, and I was quickly convinced, once the snow started falling, that this would not be the most responsible idea no matter how spectacular the photos may be. I decided to go on Saturday, the day after the storm, giving road crews time to sufficiently clear the main roads from Lexington to the Gorge, and hit the Gray’s Arch near Slade, KY.
When I got to the gravel road that leads to the trailhead, I noticed others had parked on the side of the road and that the forest service road was closed. I could also see footprints in the snow, letting me know that I would be able to hike up to the trailhead. So I put on my boots, strapped on my bag containing my snowshoes and camera, (I also carried a flashlight, granola bars, first aid kit, and safety whistle, just in case) and was ready to head out. The brisk, fresh, air filled my lungs and as I looked around it seemed that snow covered everything in sight: the road, the trees--every single pine needle.
I walked along the roadway until I got to the start of the Gray’s Arch Trail. Even though the trail had already been broken, I put on my snowshoes for added benefit. As I walked along the trail the only noise to reach my ears was the sound of my snowshoes crunching in the freshly fallen snow. When I stopped along the journey, I noticed birds chirping and flying about. The quiet, serene, calm was almost too much at times. This is one of the major reasons I so enjoy making trips to the Red River Gorge. Many times the city noise, the buzz of life, becomes all too normal. I love moments like this where I can get away from it all and unwind for a moment by taking in the beauty of nature. Even after a storm like this, where plans were canceled and the constant drum of life was stirred up a bit, nature has its way of showing profound beauty.
As I mentioned, for the past couple of years I have been exploring photography and this hobby offers a great excuse for me to go out and explore the outdoors of whatever state I happen to be living or working in. So far, I’ve been in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, and now Kentucky; they’ve all had wonderful and unique places to enjoy. I use this time to not only indulge my hobby, but also to rest (even though the hike is more of a workout than I get most days) and appreciate the world around me.
All in all, the trail was more beautiful than I could have hoped for and I’m so glad I made the trip. While enjoying wonderful trails and a little time to yourself, there is no telling what you may discover about our natural world, or about yourself, along the way.
Hiking Tip: Always be prepared! When I moved to Kentucky, that meant I needed to find a good, local, up to date trail map. For me, the solution was the Red River Gorge maps produced by outrageGIS mapping. They are map makers based in Lexington, KY and they create easy to navigate, laminated maps that offer scenic highlights including arches, waterfalls, and the best places to catch the sunrise/sunset. I would highly recommend you check out their products if plan on hiking in the Red River Gorge. Visit their website at: http://www.outragegis.com/