Monday, July 27, 2015

A Visit to Barea, KY and a Hike to Anglin Falls…

Passport America, Save 50% on CampsitesWe left Lexington, KY and drove only a short distance south to Renfro Valley RV Park. This is a Passport America Park and allows stays from Sunday to Wednesday for $17.50 per night. They put the Passport America members in their more remote Creekside Park but for the price it can't be beat. We have 50 amp,full hookups and cable. Staying here for three nights easily paid for our Passport America membership. Because of the value we feel every full timer should consider membership to this organization.

Renfro Valley RV Park is part of the larger Renfro Valley Entertainment Center in Renfro Valley, KY. It is the self proclaimed "Kentucky Country Music Capital!" The shows are Thursdays thru Saturdays so we Passport America folks can enjoy some inexpensive camping during the off days.

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Just down the road from Renfro Valley is the small town of Barea, KY. We drove over to Barea to enjoy a stroll around the town. There are some nice historic buildings and a small but very interesting college called Barea College. We parked near the visitor’s center and first explored Berea’s art district. The friendly ladies at the visitors center told us the town hosts a large number artisans and musicians. While we were there a small class had gathered where citizens were learning how to play the dulcimer.

After a bit we headed over to the Berea College which interestingly is the only college I  have ever heard of offering free tuition! It is home to a student crafts program that preserves traditional  Appalachian arts. Founded in 1855 as  the first interracial and coeducational college in the South they offer each student the equivalent of a full-tuition scholarship worth $20,900, or $83,600 for four years! In exchange students are required to work at least 10 hours per week at campus and service jobs. Wow, 10 hours per week of work for free tuition! I sure wish I knew about this place when I was in college.

We also wanted to do a short hike in the John B.Stephenson Memorial Forest State Nature Preserve to find the elusive Anglin Falls.  Since the area recently had a good rain we hoped to catch this waterfall in its full glory. The directions to it are tricky so we were fortunate that the Barea visitors center had a detailed map for us to take along. Even with the map it was tricky and in fact when we turned on the last dirt road (nearly a jeep trail) it appeared as if we were driving to someone's property.  We were relieved to see a trailhead sign a short way down the road along with a small gravel parking lot.

The hike was only a mile in and a mile out with some elevation gain going in. The vegetation in this wooded gorge was lush and thick. The mostly uneven trail meandered along the creek fed by the waterfall. Rated as moderate to strenuous we found nothing strenuous on this hike. Once near the falls we were in for a treat! This 75 foot waterfall (especially after a rain) showers water from high above as the trail ends directly at its base. We really enjoyed this short but very scenic hike…

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hiking in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, TN…

A short drive away from where we are staying is an area called the Red River Gorge in Kentucky with a unique feature found more commonly in the western states, a Natural Bridge.  It is located in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park. which is one of the seventeen state parks in Kentucky called a resort park because it has a lodge, Hemlock Lodge, within the park. This is one of the top state parks in the Bluegrass State and there were lots of folks visiting on the day we were there..

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Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest ,the Red River Gorge, at 29,000-acres, is a geologic playground with cliffs, rock shelters, caves, waterfalls, mountain pools and nearly 100 natural arches (the largest concentration east of the Rocky Mountains). However, the best known one and the one that most everyone comes to see is Natural Bridge. The bridge is 65 feet high and 78 feet long and is the largest of the all the park's arches. It is estimated that it took 65 million years for nature to carve this magnificent wonder.

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This cool sandstone formation can be reached a myriad of ways. There are several different trails that take visitors to the bridge and there is even a pricey sky lift that can be taken to the top. We chose to park at the lodge and hike the trail called “The Original Trail” up to the top. Although it is a short 3/4 mile of trail it does cover some elevation so it isn’t as easy as it seems. The trail was built in the 1880’s and after about 2/3’s of a mile near the top of the limestone stair steps the trail levels off some. After more than 400 feet of climbing upstairs and following the trail through a dense forest of hemlock, tulip popular, white pine, lots of blueberry bushes and rhododendron we found ourselves beneath the wide span of the Natural Bridge.

From below the bridge there is a trail through a tight “crack” in the sandstone that we took and it took us on top of the natural bridge. We were actually walking on top of the bridge before we even realized it. This is the Laurel Ridge Trail which is an fairly level trail along the rim of the sandstone cliffs. After a bit we walked past the sky lift drop off point which explained where all the people suddenly came from. We kept following the trail until we came to an exposed sandstone cliff we previously could see from the natural bridge. This spot is called the Look Out Point which offered us a panoramic view of the rolling Cumberland Mountains and a unique perspective of the Natural Bridge!

After sitting at Lookout Point and soaking in the vistas we started to head back but decided to take a different return route  We did re-track some of the Laurel Ridge Trail until it connected with the Battleship Rock trail. There were a series of stairways built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 taking us down the hills eventually leading us back down to the parking lot. The vegetation along this section of the trail was quite lush and had this trail pretty much to ourselves. We really enjoyed this hike despite the somewhat crowded part on the top of the Natural Bridge near the skyway but it is after all still summer and many people are on vacation…

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Before leaving we just had to go see the Nada Tunnel which is known as the gateway to the Red River Gorge. This 900 foot long tunnel on KY 77 was originally built for use by a logging railroad during the early 1900s. A National Register of Historic Place this one-way tunnel is only 12-foot-wide by 13 feet high. This is still a very primitive tunnel where rock and dirt were removed using dynamite, steam drills and hand tools. It is lore that one man was killed in an explosion when he set frozen dynamite near a fire to thaw (not a very smart fellow).