There was a moment this weekend when I looked up into the night sky, while ducking out of the tent during the early hours of the morning, as I was visiting the Daniel Boone National Forest in 22-degree temps. Wearing nothing more than long johns, a hat and an REI puffer jacket, with too little down. The sight overhead, through the nearly barren trees, made me feel small, but significant and full of possibility again. I think that’s why I am seeking out these remote places for two years, and counting, after sitting behind a computer screen for too many decades. It’s my journey toward freedom and meaning. Well that and slowly teaching myself to enjoy life and stop worrying all the time.
I drove 4 hours to Kentucky to spend my weekend outdoors in the Daniel Boone National Forest this weekend. I didn’t have the tech handy to catch starry sky moment but, as I said before, every time I got out of my tent that night to take a comfort break, facing the brunt of the Winter temps that dipped into the lower 20’s, it held my attention longer than the discomfort of being cold demanded. The trees are now in the process of shedding their summer leaves. Yet it was all the stars above that blazed like a blanket of light, showing the full arc of the Milky Way, through the branches that just crushed me. This alone was worth the 4-hour trip down from Columbus. It made me glad for feeling cold, for the drive down South of Lexington Kentucky, for being solo outdoors for another weekend (until Sunday when I met up with a hiking group through Red River Gorge for the first time), the time away from the comforts of home, and grateful for the remaining heat from my campfire to warm myself by while simply looking up at the Kentucky night sky. It was absolutely incredible.
Sunday came and I met up with four other hikers, mostly from Lexington, at a Cit Go station. To use this area for hiking you have to get a pass to put on your car if you are staying more than the day. You can get this pass at the Glade Visitor Center or at most gas stations around the area. After that, you just hang the pass in your car after parking at the gas station or along Tunnell Ridge Road if you are lucky enough to score a spot. Then head down whatever trail head you want to head down.
Today we did the Double Arches trail under the guidance of our leader and her husband. These folks are teachers in their early 30’s. World travelers and socially conscious people. There was a woman who runs her own accounting business. Great conversationalist and adept hiker. Lastly another gentleman in his early sixties who is an avid hammock camper, seasoned hiker and playwright. The group was pretty awesome actually. I walked away from my first event with the Central Kentucky Backpackers group experience seriously impressed.
We walked through the hills, watched as the rock formations rose and fell. Sat on the peaks we climbed. Talked about our life stories. Learned about the Gorge on the larger scope. The Double Arches were beautiful and the views were stunningly full of rock formations, cliffs, a bowl full of blazing orange, red and gold trees. From there we trekked over to Haystack Rock and then we walked the ridge back to the car.
I may go back there this weekend for an overnight “how-to” with another group Central Kentucky Backpackers organizer if I can manage the time. This is an area that is probably going to be on my short list for an annual trip.