Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Canoeing the Elkhorn Creek

For a while now I've heard that the Elkhorn Creek north of Frankfort offers some good Class I paddling. Today, Noelle and I finally made it up there. We rented our canoe from Canoe Kentucky and paddled a twelve mile section of the creek.
Eric Paddling the Elkhorn
It was great to see lots of wildlife like turtles, great blue herons, and water snakes. Perhaps the best part of the trip was the lack of yahoos on the creek. Having off on weekdays definitely has its advantages! The weather was also perfect. On the drive there we were a little nervous because it was so cool, but by the time we got on the river temperatures were in the lower 70s with blue skies and light breezes. A relaxing day on the water!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Well tonight Noelle and I finally used the Kentucky Theater gift certificates my supervisor gave me for Christmas two years ago. We went to see the new Indiana Jones flick. Let me say that despite all the ridiculousness and the hokey science fiction spin on the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, I did enjoy the movie. However, that being said there were some scenes in the movie that would have been better left on the chopping block floor. Some of these scenes that come to mind include:
  1. Going over three different very tall waterfalls in a boat and having the boat remain intact until the last one with everyone in the boat surviving.
  2. Indy's son Mutt (terrible name) swinging from vines with a bunch of monkeys after falling out of an all-terrain vehicle and being abandoned. He actually managed to catch back up with the rest of the crew!
  3. The inclusion of aliens (cheesy).
Other than these complaints, the movie was just what you'd expect from an Indiana Jones adventure. On a side note, in case you haven't heard Indy marries long time love Marion at the end of the movie. I guess this makes her Marion Jones.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park: Ridge Trail

I finally made it out to the woods for what has become my annual backpacking trip at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. On Monday after work I dropped Parker off at the kennel and ten headed southeast to Middlesboro and the original "Gateway to the West". I pulled into the Wilderness Road Campground by 8:30 and was in the tent shortly thereafter. The next morning I awoke early and drove to the unopened visitor center. Since I had some time to kill before it opened I walked into town and got breakfast at Burger King. By 8:30 I had returned, paid for my tour of Hensley Settlement, and procured my backcountry permit for a night at the Gibson Gap campsite. At 9 I met my tour guide, Ranger Eddy, threw my pack into the 4x4 van, and headed out. I was the only one signed up for the 9am tour so I had a chance to talk to the ranger and found that we had some mutual acquaintances from our time in the NPS.

After a bumpy ride up the Shillalah Creek Trail we arrived at the Settlement and started the tour.
It was interesting and I enjoyed it very much. After the tour I went back to the van, grabbed my pack and hit the trail. I hiked about a mile then stopped for lunch at Indian Rocks.

The Indian Rocks site was appropriately named as there was evidence of Native American presence all over the dirt floor of the natural shelter in the form of chert flakes.
From Indian Rock I moved on to the Ridge Trail and headed east to Gibson Gap, my campsite for the night.
I arrived quite early and had camp set up by 4 pm. This had me wishing that I had brought the book I've been reading, Coldhearted River about Kim Trevathan's trip down the Cumberland River in a canoe. It's a very interesting read. Anyway, without a book or my MP3 player I was able to nap, daydream, and write in my journal for the first time in over a year.

After cooking dinner I drifted off to sleep. The next morning I awoke to blue skies, unlike the previous days which had been gray with a persistent threat of rain. The hiking was easy, mostly down hill, and I arrived at the Pinnacle by 9:30.
From the Pinnacle it was more downhill walking on the Fort McCook, Harlan Road, Object Lesson, and Thomas Walker trails. I arrived back at the ol' Subaru before lunchtime.

Since it was still early I decided to stop at some sites along the way home. I stopped at Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site (a waste of time), Pine Mountain State Park (nice but overgrown trails), and finally Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park (overgrown trail once again). Finally I made it back to Lexington to discover that the price of gasoline had risen to $3.95 per gallon! It's going to be an expensive summer for adventure. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Daniel Boone National Forest: Arch Hunter's Weekend

Well the bread to the meat of my day of work at McConnell Springs for Founder's Day was two days (Friday and Sunday) of joining a bunch of ASSES for their annual Arch Hunter's Weekend. Now the acronym ASSES isn't a derogatory one, it stands for Arch Seekers of the SouthEastern States. I had a great time looking for some of the lesser known arches in the Red River Gorge area. Noelle was able to join us for the Sunday trip, and it was on this trip that we saw one of the more impressive arches in the Gorge, Danger Arch.

Another highlight of the Sunday trip was a visit to the most intact moonshine still that I've ever come across. The site was quite interesting with lots of glass Mason jars, copper tubing, and even an intact oak barrel.
The area included many other interesting features like rockhouses and interesting patterns in the sandstone. I would love the opportunity to explore the area more some day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Daniel Boone National Forest: Parker Mountain Trail/Mark Branch

Got out for some more adventure the past two days. Noelle, Parker and I headed down south to the best little campground in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It's called the Great Meadow Campground and it's right on beautiful Rock Creek, a Kentucky Scenic River. It's quite secluded, thus it turns out to be quiet. But perhaps, the best part of the campground is the fact that it's free! We drove down yesterday morning and set up camp. Then we headed out to hike Parker's namesake Parker Mountain Trail
to Buffalo Arch. The trail, a bit overgrown at times offered a few good views,
some wildflowers and the chance to see one of the most impressive arches (in my opinion) in Kentucky.
After spending some time relaxing at the arch
we headed back down to the car. It wasn't a particularly tough hike, but hiking with the dog can sometimes be challenging. In the case of this hike Parker was battling allergies and sounded like he was about to hack up a lung.

After returning to camp and eating, relaxing, and sleeping, we awoke feeling refreshed and headed over to Hemlock Grove Picnic Grounds where we hiked the Mark Branch/Gobblers Arch Loop.
Another overgrown trail with two sections that were ridiculously steep. Another nice hike. After that we got in the old Subaru and headed north to Lexington.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Big South Fork NRRA: Laurel Fork Creek Trail

Well I just finished taking my last final, worked a full day at McConnell Springs, and then headed down to the Big South Fork for a little bit of adventure. Wednesday night I drove as far as Alum Ford Campground. It was the first night I had camped there without being serenaded to sleep by the local yahoos. No, on this particular night I was serenaded by Barred Owls. A real roadtrip would not be complete with some sort of mishap, and on this particular trip I forgot to bring along a headlamp. No big deal except I brought along a new tent that I'd never set up before. Of course it was dark when I arrived and I used the headlights of my car to get a little bit of light. Still a frustrating experience.

The next morning I packed up my tent and other belongings and headed to Bandy Creek Campground where I set up camp and then headed out on the bicycle for my destination- Jack's Ridge Trailhead. I knew the trailhead was on a four-wheel drive road, but I didn't realize that the road was just loose sand. It made for some difficult cycling. When I got to the trailhead I ditched the bike and started to hoof it down to Laurel Fork Creek. It was a beautiful hike along the creek and I even got to see some small waterfalls.
However, the creek was high from all the recent rains which made the fords a pain in the butt. I hate hiking in wet socks and boots, but by the end of the hike I got sick of taking them off for the fordings so I just got my feet wet. All in all a good day of hiking, an 11 mile loop. On Friday I had originally planned to hike another section of the Laurel Fork Creek Trail, but I didn't feel like fording the swollen creek numerous times so I changed my plans. I opted to hike the short,easy hike to Angel's Falls.

It was enjoyable, especially with all the pretty wildflowers in bloom. Then I drove to check out something on my Trails Illustrated Map that had intrigued me called "The Chimneys".
From there I hiked some horse trails to Indian Dome Rockhouse.

Finally I drove down the old O&W Road to the bridge. I parked there and hiked across and up to the Devil's Den Rockshelter,
then above for a great view of the Big South Fork River.