More and more, I find myself overcome with the small details of life. The work tasks that add up, the social engagements that I put off, the dishes that sit in the sink, the flashing oil maintenance light in my car. Then the weather turns cool, the landscape grows stark, the light fades faster. In times like these, it’s nearly impossible to sidestep the growing pit of anxiety and responsibility that is suddenly in your path. It’s here, at the edge of this fall, to leave the overstimulating life of your home and head out on a mini vacation. You can hop a plane to warm weather, drive to a beach, luxuriate in a hotel. I found haven closer to home, along the trails of the Red River Gorge.
Find a place to stay. A tent, a cabin, a treehouse, make your basecamp. An inn works nicely — one like Cliffview Resort — welcoming you with a freshly-made bed, a friendly host and all the accommodations you need: a private bathroom, a kitchen, grills, a wraparound porch. When it gets cool at night, wrap yourself in a blanket and sit on the porch swing. Talk to the does that wander nearby, foraging for food. They’ll turn their heads to you — ears pricked, eyes big — fostering a feeling of calm that you can’t find from the deer along the highway back home.
Wake up the next morning, your shoulders a little less sagging then they were when you arrived. Stretch and enjoy the morning light, without pressure to go to work, clean your apartment, go to the grocery. You don’t have to be anywhere and breakfast lasts until 10.
Grab a map and make your way to the loop that corrals the Gorge. Pick a trail. Looking for a leisurely pace and engaging sights to sooth your screen-stressed eyes? Hop onto the Sheltowee Trail for a bit and make your way to the suspension bridge. Enjoy the world around you, see the colors in something better than 1080p. Let the cool air cleanse your lungs, detox your skin, crawl into the space between your skin and your sweater. Hike back to the car, seek out your next trail.
When your body finally tells you to eat, make your way to one of the gorge’s staple spots. Grab pizza at Miguel’s or a burger at Red River Rock House. Fill your empty stomach and forget to count the carbs, the calories, the grams of sugar in your Ale 8. Meet the people seated with you — the group of businessmen from California, the RRG regulars, the guys who live a neighborhood over from you.
Take a friend, someone who can help lift off the weight of the world outside of this small sanctuary. Someone to share a platter of fries with, get some things off your chest, sympathize with. Wander back to the lodge, crawl into bed as your body gives in to sore muscles. Revel in the weightlessness that comes when your troubles aren’t so troublesome anymore.
Drag yourself out of bed late the next morning, not yet ready to leave, but feeling better than when you came. Grab lunch, idling over your last few bites. Finally get back into your car and onto the highway.