Friday, October 31, 2014

Sal Hollow

Before we took our cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park we noticed a station for backcountry permits, and figured why the heck not? We got a trail map and chose a back country campsite and that was that! Little did we know we were in for a strange adventure.

Our tour ended after 4pm so we decided we’d sleep in the van at the trailhead and hike out the next morning. As we we’re driving through the park checking out wild deer grazing on the side of the road, unfazed by cars and humans, and just taking in the views of the dense wooded land suddenly the road ended going right into a river! I slammed on the breaks and Mike realized there was a small ferry taking cars across. Somehow this was very exciting, and also baffling that they didn’t just build a bridge instead of manning a ferry for like 15 hours a day. I’ll admit I don’t know a thing about bridge construction.

We made it to our trail head parking lot to find this area is heavily used for horseback riding. There were piles of evidence everywhere. We slept well in the van that night and got a late start the next day since it was only 5 miles to our campsite, Sal Hollow. We started in and found out that this park is possibly the flattest National Park in America. It was a nice walk with sights of more deer and forest landscapes, and the sound of acorns falling from trees frequently.

We made it to our campsite in 2 hours which included a detour to the Miles-Davis cemetery, a centuries old graveyard. We thought the graveyard was pretty cool at first because of its age and remoteness, then realized it was full of the resting places for many children and babies of the Miles-Davis family. I knew that infant/child mortality at the time was nothing like it is now, but this family seemed to have suffered a lot if loss.

We made it to Sal Hollow at around noon and wondered what on earth we were going to do for all of the hours until dark. We decided to make an epic campfire starting with magnesium and flint, so we started gathering wood. It is really hard (or we don’t know what we’re doing) to start a fire with magnesium and flint so we eventually gave up and used a lighter. We’ve lit a fire that way before and it literally took hours haha!

Later on we went to collect more wood and Mike came across a bear’s scratching tree about 100 yards from our camp.

This was not a good sign! By this time it was too late to hike out and changing campsites wasn’t an option so we ate dinner, strung up our food in a tree and went to bed when all of our wood was burned. As soon as we got into our sleeping bags panic set in. Suddenly the dropping acorns sounded like footprints, and Mike swore he heard the sound of scratching on that tree he saw. We were frozen. My heart was beating hard and my mind was racing. It’s dangerous to hike at night, but surely we couldn’t stay there! After Mike unfroze he explained that he has never been more aware of his place on the food chain.

Eventually Mike fell asleep and I was still panicking. I decided we couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stay sane laying there terrified all night so I assumed the fetal position, stuck my finger in my war that wasn’t muffled by my jacket I was using for a pillow and fell asleep too. I slept better than I expected even though I woke every hour or two to check the time and to hear a pack of coyotes howling and barking 3 times. Overall the park got quieter as the night passed. When day broke we packed up and had breakfast quickly then took the same 5 mile route out instead of the 7 mile route we had originally planned. 5 miles of super flat trail is plenty!
The creepy hike out.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Other Side of Kentucky

After our couple days of climbing we headed west in Kentucky to Mammoth Cave National Park. The route there took us through many beautiful farm towns and the city of Lexington. It was interesting to see the difference between farms in eastern vs. western Kentucky. What we saw in the eastern part of the state was the “poor American farmer”, and the farms in the western counties were beautiful sweeping fields of green, hundreds of cows and horses, and a very large and beautiful home overlooking it all. Does one farmer work harder than another?

Not only did we notice the farms, but we also took a road that overlooked what seemed to be a canyon or gorge. There was nowhere to pull over to check it out on the narrow road, but it seemed like a place that could be explored for weeks. I’ll have to look up the name of this area.
Lexington was a very nice city as well. Very clean, and there seemed to be a lot to do there. We didn’t stop even though all of the bourbon distilleries wanted us to.

After a tour of Kentucky we finally made it to Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s a very large park with very nice visitors’ center. We signed up for a short tour of the limestone caves. What I really wanted to do was the 4 hour full value tour, but to Mike’s relief the tour was only offered on the weekend and it was Wednesday. Caves and what can be lurrking and crawling in them are one thing that creep him out. The one we did was called Domes and Dripstones and showed off some tall openings in the cave and stalactites and stalagmites.
(no flash photography allowed)
We also saw a fossil and creepy huge cave spiders. I really wanted to explore more, but they don’t just let you go in there and start spelunking whenever you feel like it. We did learn a lot though, and the next time I’m in western Kentucky I’ll be stopping in for my 4 hour expedition!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Back to the Rock

We’ve spent the past two days in our beloved Slade, KY. We got in some great climbing and great sleeping! It seems like it’s still dark past 7am here and we’ve been falling asleep early. God I love vacation!

So Monday we hit Muir Valley to climb at Great Wall and Practice Wall. For the first time ever Mike and I are climbing at the same level, which means there is an upside to Mike needing wrist surgery! I hung the draws for the first route so Mike could safely test out his wrist, and all went well. We did every easy climb we cloud find (everything 5.7 and below) and had a great day at The Red followed by the best pizza in Kentucky.

Day two of climbing was even better, despite a shaky start. We were at Muir Valley again at Bruise Brothers Wall warming up on a short 5.7 next to a guided group. The guide began talking about all of the terrible climbing incidents he’s witnessed and heard of and it was all I could hear. He was making a point about helmets to his group, and he was totally correct, but talk about your brains splattering on a rock makes a 5.7 feel super hard! Luckily that group moved along and things got better. We did a couple more 5.7 climbs, then finished up with an awesome 5.9-. Unfortunately climbing as a pair means no climbing photos, but we had a great two days of climbing and now we’re off to Mammoth Cave National Park!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Start of Our Journey

We started our journey on Saturday, October 18th at about 4pm. Mike has never been to Times Square, so we took a detour within hours of our send off to actually DRIVE through New York City. Luckily the driving wasn’t actually that bad and Mike was amazed at the sight of all of the lights. We may stop and walk around on our way back in November so he can really experience the big city.

We got back to the highway pretty easily and just chatted, decided we would try to spot license plates from each state while traveling, and then spent a solid 30 minutes trying to list all 50 without cheating with our atlas. Shockingly, the one state we couldn’t think of was New Hampshire!!!! I was just there last weekend, and between the two of us we’ve probably been there 150 times. I think it was a sign that we were getting tired. You believe me, right?
Our brains took a turn for the worst at about midnight when we passed the exit for Shartlesville, PA. We both saw the sign at the same time and busted up laughing until we cried without saying a word. Potty humor never dies! Pennsylvania has the worst town names. Ever. You will be happy to know that we stopped at a rest stop an hour later to sleep. The sign there said you’re not allowed to park for more than 2 hours, but we slept for 7 without being bothered.
A few minutes into our drive Sunday, the 19th we drove under an overpass where Amish people were taking horse and buggy (we assume) to church.  It’s kind of crazy how close Amish Country is to the Big Apple. It’s crazy enough that we even have that kind of contrast in America. It’s definitely a good thing, though. We need to always advance and grow without losing sight of our roots. The negative side is the kind of bigoted church radio we listened to driving through there. Coming from a blue state that was one of the first to legalize gay marriage, these sermons just sounded ridiculous and unreal to us. Unfortunately the preacher never said “just kidding!”

The rest of the day was uneventful until we finally made it to Miguel’s at the Red River Gorge in Slade, KY.

Nada Tunnel at Red River Gorge in Kentucky.