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Topic: TR: Winter Scenery in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 08 2013, 9:56 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Although I usually err on the side of caution in regard to weather, I took my chances (along with my best backpacking gear) and headed out to the Red River Gorge area of Kentucky last night to camp. A winter weather warning was in effect, forecasting a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to fall overnight and throughout the next day. Highs for each day were in the mid-30s and lows in the mid-20s. The hike in was brisk, with a hurried breeze blowing constantly across the ridge and the sun was hidden behind thick, gray clouds. I actually saw about a half-dozen dayhikers, which was a bit of a surprise given the weather.


Paused for a quick snack break before setting up camp.

After setting up camp, I changed into my insulating layers and prepared for a relatively sedentary evening consisting of eating and watching the gray, overcast day grow gradually darker. There was no real sunset to speak and stargazing was definitely not in cards. However, watching the transition from light to dark and seeing the clouds roll through was enjoyable and a great prelude to the more dramatic and severe weather that would follow.


Double Arch seen from Auxier Ridge.

The view from Auxier Ridge of Double Arch was recently rated as the best view in Kentucky by Backpacker Magazine. I'm tempted to agree. It really is an amazing view. Auxier Ridge Trail was the second trail I hiked in the Gorge (the first was Rock Bridge Trail) and made a huge impression on me when I was first getting interested in backpacking. It was interesting to reflect on the fact that years later I was back in the same spot, enjoying the same view, but under drastically different weather and personal conditions.

While enjoying this award-winning view and watching darkness consume the landscape, my attention was drawn away from the arch by a blinking red light. I cheerfully thought perhaps it was Santa taking Rudolph out for practice, but it was actually just a cell phone tower (one of several visible from Auxier Ridge). The effect on the view was somewhat akin to having a laser-pointer set on "blink" pointed at a painting while in an art gallery. Small complaint, all things considered, but it seems to me that such a great view deserves more respect.

I ate a simple meal -- pasta and tuna with mushrooms and spinach mixed in -- and enjoyed some hot chocolate before heading to my tent, reading for a bit and going to sleep. I awoke a couple of time during the night, to the sound of wind and unidentifiable precipitation, but was able to return to sleep without any difficulty and awoke for good at 7:45 a.m. The conditions outside were cold, wet and white.


Everything was warm and dry inside the tent, but outside the tent was a different story.


Morning fog on Auxier Ridge.

As I've learned from other backpacking trips in similar weather, everything takes longer. More layers to put on, more attention paid to not getting items wet, and more time with tasks that in moderate weather are of no particular concern. I eventually shouldered my pack and headed to Double Arch to enjoy the view and use the arch as a dry spot to make tea, eat more breakfast and get out of the rain for a bit. The view from Double Arch is nearly as nice as the view of Double Arch. The hike along Auxier Branch was magnificent in the conditions. The stream was lively but not flooding and the trees were covered with ice. Patches of snow added more to the scenery and the entire setting reminded me of winter in the Smokies.


Auxier Branch Trail.

I'd initially planned on just completing a loop back to my car by using the Double Arch Trail, but at the last minute I decided to re-trace my steps. The scenery along Auxier Branch and on Auxier Ridge was worth the extra mileage to see again and in slightly different lighting. The sun never came out, but the ambient light had increased throughout the day. Walking back on the gravel road that is part of Double Arch Trail just didn't seem as appealing.

The scenery was dramatic and even a bit eery. The dampness of the cold and the fog gave the entire landscape a certain mood that was dreamlike. The ice-coated and bent over trees made seemed as if they were frozen amidst a gust of wind. Here are several of the photos that approximate the feeling of the day:


Haystack Rock.


Ice covered trees.


A pothole filled with frozen water on Auxier Ridge.


Ice-coated trees.


A very "seasonal" photo opportunity. Happy Holidays.

Against all odds, I managed to stay comfortable throughout this entire trip. Backpacking always reinforces the wisdom of the Scandinavian proverb "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." The only significant complication was on my drive out. A tree had fallen across the Forest Service Road leading from the trailhead to the state highway; it wasn't very large but too heavy to drag out of the way. I ended up using a small hatchet I keep in the trunk of my car to cut the branches, dragged them out of the way, and continued on after about ten minutes of labor. I've kept the hatchet in there for six years or so and this is the only time I've used it.

Sometimes this best trips are in bad weather, as long as you are properly prepared. I look forward to seeing some winter photos from the rest of you all over the next few months.

On a sad note, these types of storms will likely be responsible for bringing down the hemlock trees that are such a charming part of the landscape in all seasons, but particularly in winter as they're evergreens, and an integral part of the ecosystem. As a result of the hemlock wooly adelgid, the hemlocks will eventually die (as they have in other parts of the southern Appalachians) and fall to the ground. Enjoy them while you can.


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kevinumberger Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 12:23 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sounds like ya made the best of it...

What kinda tent is that?   Sorta looks like the hubba but I'm viewing on a phone.....and how'd it hold up in the weather?

The gorge will always have a place in my hiking "career" as I spent a lot of time there when I lived in Lexington...

One of the last places I went to was a bushwhack to the road which lead got that big ole rock where they used to hang glide off of...can't remember name of it now though....

And hopefully I'll be able to add some winter photos this season.....lots of things planned til the beginning of January but hope to get out after that..
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 12:26 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Very nice.  Looks  like it was a good hike.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 10:29 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

man, i love those Cumberland shallow-soil ridge landscapes. the vegetation seems to grow out of bowls carved into the landscape.

some of my favorite trips have been lazy winter, sit-around-and-soak-it-in hikes. thanks for sharing.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 4:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(kevinumberger @ Dec. 09 2013, 12:23 am)
QUOTE
What kinda tent is that?   Sorta looks like the hubba but I'm viewing on a phone.....and how'd it hold up in the weather?

The gorge will always have a place in my hiking "career" as I spent a lot of time there when I lived in Lexington...

One of the last places I went to was a bushwhack to the road which lead got that big ole rock where they used to hang glide off of...can't remember name of it now though....

Good eye . . . it is indeed an MSR Hubba.

It performed reasonably well given the conditions, although I never can seem to get it taut enough even when guying it out from multiple points. Freezing rain coated the fly and caused it to sag some, and some strong gusts shook the fly some, but overall it was solid.

I've used the Hubba in some serious rain/rain-to-snow conditions before and never had any problems staying dry inside. I really like the tent, especially in spring and fall, when my sleeping bag takes up less space and there's less changing of clothes involved, or what is being changed can be done outside the tent. When I get in there with my 15* bag I run out of space quick. Changing clothes takes some flexibility, especially if I'm trying to keep wet clothes from touching dry clothes.

The Gorge is where I got my start backpacking and has been a pretty big part of my life in various ways. I lived in Lexington for about 6 years, but am now closer to the Gorge . . . I'm only about a 20-30 minute drive from most trailheads.

You're talking about Raven Rock. There is still no official trail up there but it is easy to follow the old road to the top. I biked down to the Gorge (about 25 miles) in September and met up with a friend, we then hiked up Raven Rock and camped on top. Here's a shot from that morning:



The Gorge is an awesome place but is really suffering from over-use. Going there on a fair-weather weekend is not pleasant, I usually go during the week or in bad weather.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 4:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ashepabst @ Dec. 09 2013, 10:29 am)
QUOTE
man, i love those Cumberland shallow-soil ridge landscapes. the vegetation seems to grow out of bowls carved into the landscape.

I know exactly what you mean. On the ridgetop you almost get a desert type of feeling . . . stunted trees, sandy, pockets of vegetation here and there amidst rock outcroppings. Beautiful, especially with a bit of snow.
The Cumberland Plateau is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated landscapes in terms of natural beauty in North America . . .arches, waterfalls, dramatic overlooks, rock formations, etc.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 4:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
Good eye . . . it is indeed an MSR Hubba.



yeah....thats what i thunked it was but was kinda guessing that you added the guy lines on there..........i havent done that to my hubba as i plan on selling it...


QUOTE
You're talking about Raven Rock



yeah.....i ended up looking it up after i posted as i wanted to figure the name out...

its way cool up there and killer photo from up there....


QUOTE
The Gorge is an awesome place but is really suffering from over-use



yup.....when i first started going there in 96 and 97, it was overused.......i moved away for a bit and then back to lexington for the years 2000-2003 and it got worse in the gorge....

at one point, i didnt even want to go back in there as i was so discouraged by what i was seeing (piles of trash, gear left behind, the spray paintings, etc etc etc).....

after that, i moved back to knoxville.......
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 12:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Any reason you're selling your Hubba? What are the details on it? A friend of mine is looking for a tent, and he's used my Hubba and might be interested in buying yours.

The Gorge can be a very depressing place because of the impacts from visitors. I really wish the area had been made a national monument in the 1970s and heavily regulated so that it was better preserved.

I did a lot of backpacking in the Big South Fork and other parts of the Daniel Boone National Forest instead of the Gorge for several years, but now that I'm a 30-minute drive away from the RRG it doesn't make sense to go anywhere else for quick trips.

I'm kind of worried about Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness areas being overwhelmed the same way the RRG has been. I've only been down there four times -- all in the past year -- but it seems like it could look like the RRG does on certain trails within a few years. Maybe I'm just paranoid from seeing so many trashed areas in Kentucky over the past few years that were relatively un-impacted when I first started visiting them.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 1:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

do you really think the two compare, visitorship-wise?

i'm no expert --i've done 5 trips to JKS-Citico... about 9 nights worth-- but the place doesn't seem that over-used at all. at least three trails that i can think of were fading away into oblivion in stretches from under-use.

Big South Fork is interesting in that respect. i've spent many nights in the backcountry there and hardly EVER see another soul. but the horse riders seem to own the place and a lot of the trails are true-to-form miserable... deeply rutted, gravel pits, mud pits, poop-ridden. and they have a hard time keeping those sneaky buggers off the hiker-only trails even though MOST trails in BSF are horse trails or multi-use trails (heck... spend enough time there and you'll start to realize that they have their own trail system that the park doesn't even put on the maps.)


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 1:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
Any reason you're selling your Hubba? What are the details on it?



im selling it cause quite frankly i have too many tents......right now i have a hubba hubba, a hubba, a copper spur, and an eureka tent...

i also have a big agnes fly creek 2, sierra design clipflashlight, and a cheap bass pro tent that im going to sell shortly...

as for the hubba----it's one of the last years version.....the green model.........will come with the foot print....

i've used it 6 nights and the person i bought it from used it 1 night....

its in great shape.......nothing wrong with it at all....

i'd sell it for 225 plus maybe 10 or 12 bucks shipping...

let me know if yer friend is interested as probably later in the week i will put up on other boards.......
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 1:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

[/QUOTE]do you really think the two compare, visitorship-wise? [QUOTE]




i dont see a comparision between the two at all...

one reason is that red river gorge's trails are really not that long compared to JK/Slickrock...

also, RRG trails are maintained a bit better than JK/Slickrock although Tipi has been clearing a bunch of trails lately...

also RRG doesnt have the elevation gain that most trails in JK/Slickrock have.....

and likewise...........for many trips this past summer in JK/SLickrock/Citico, i wouldnt see any people what so ever........

only when it became warm did i see people at the popular spots such as bobs bald, naked ground and the hangover....

maybe the only trails that i would compare to RRG are north and south fork of citico creek trails as they are kinda flat and used by many people compared to other trails....

but, all together, i havent seen the damage in JK/Slickrock/Citico as i have in RRG.....
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 3:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Kevin, no worries about the tent. Go ahead and post it elsewhere . . . my buddy is slow to make decisions and I don't want to keep you waiting.

Anyways, you all are definitely right about JK-S/Citico vs. RRG. I am just paranoid . . . on a trip there in June we were on popular trails and only saw 8 people over three days.

However, on a Thursday - Saturday trip in October we encountered more people. Two guys were camped at Bob Bald, then the next day we bumped into a hiker there who said he was camped at the Hangover with about 15+ people for the weekend . . . part of the Southern Highlanders gathering. I sincerely appreciate what they do as Southern Forest Watch, but I'm less enthusiastic about having 15+ people camped at the Hangover. Oh well, free country right?

Anyways, we bumped into probably 10 other hikers over the next two days. So the area was getting a fair amount of use. Granted, it was mostly day use and during the government shutdown (i.e. the Smokies were closed) but it was still surprising to see that many people in the woods.

But yeah, you all are definitely correct . . . it was a ridiculous comparison to make at the present time.

In regard to BSF, ashepabst, you are absolutely right. I rarely see other backpackers down there (I've probably done 20+ nights there in the past two years) but the horses are all over the place. I've actually seen maps that some of the stables/horse outfitters there have produced showing the trails they have created. Fortunately, the BSF is a big enough to place to get away from most of those impacts if you want to but it is discouraging to see equestrian users reasonably accommodated -- if not over-accommodated -- and still not abiding by restrictions in regard to hiking-only trails.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 4:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
part of the Southern Highlanders gathering. I sincerely appreciate what they do as Southern Forest Watch, but I'm less enthusiastic about having 15+ people camped at the Hangover




nothing like low impact camping......
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 11 2013, 8:28 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

wow, who does that?  are they up there partying or something? the problem with groups like that... besides the high impact as kevin said... highly obnoxious.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 11 2013, 11:33 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Not sure . . . it was apparently just the annual gathering of the Southern Highlanders ("Outlaw Hikers") which are somehow affiliated with Southern Forest Watch -- which has a great mission and needs support.

Once we heard "15+ people . . . camped at the Hangover . . . all weekend" we re-routed and headed to Fodderstack Trail and North Fork Citico Creek Trail for the rest of the trip.


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