Trip Start Jan 09, 2005
2Trip End Jan 09, 2005
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We arrived at the Lodge around 1:30. The parking lot was completely full, but surprisingly we didn't see many people. We got out of the car and put on all of our equipment. My pack was about half full. Mark had a little more. Basically, I left out my food and my clothing, and that would be the difference in weight. So, probably about 15 more pounds to go.
We started up the original trail to Natural Bridge. It was a little rough, a pretty steep hike and I wasn't used to the extra weight. Some older couple went buy us and disappeared. But, we had plenty of time and there was no hurry. I stopped to take pictures and sip my water when I needed to catch my breath. It probably took us 10 minutes to get to the top of that first steep area, so not to bad.
Our packs wouldn't fit through the Fat Man's Bluff to get up to the bridge. So Mark went up first while I stayed with the packs. I met a man from Ohio with his two children. He told me of a Cave that started on the trail (we had seen it) that you can walk through and spits you out on the other side of the mountain. It sounded very interesting, we'll probably go back and do that sometime just for fun.
Mark came down, and I went up. I stayed on top of the bridge for about 15 minutes. I hadn't been up there since I was probably 9 years old, and I wanted to enoy it. I got some pictures of Lovers Leap and of the bridge. The man from Ohio told me that there had been 3 tornadoes go through last week, and that Red River Gorge was closed off because of Rock slides. I don't know how I missed the news talking about tornados, but I did. Later we saw some evidence of strong winds on some of the broken trees.
I made my way back down and we looked at all the signs to figure out what trail we wanted. We decided on the Rock Garden Trail and started heading down the path.
This trail was a great one and I was very happy we decided on it. We went though many different areas that had beautiful rocks. We were maybe 100 feet below the tops of most of the big rock cliffs, and you could look up around every curve and see something new. Some of the cliffs have huge cracks in then and we wondered how many thousands of years it would take for those rocks to seperate themselves and fall into the valley.
As I had said earlier, there has been an ungodly amount of rain here lately. So, the trails were muddy and plenty wet. It didn't bother me much, but some of the places on the trail required us to put the rain cover over our packs. One spot was pretty cool, like a cave that went over the trail, only it was like 4 feet tall. I made it through fine, but Mark had a few problems.
We came to one area that was huge sandstone walls towering above us. We thought this was the rock garden because the ground was sand, and there were huge boulders just splayed out on the ground in an area that was probably 30 long by 15 feet wide. It was also raining from the rocks there, which was very cool. Not a cloud in the sky, but there was so much water on the rocks, in came from everywhere and really seemed as if it was a small shower overhead. From the far angle, the droplets just caught the sunlight and glistned all the way down. I tried to take a picture, I hope it comes out well.
The trail headed down after that. Some places were really steep, with little steep stairs carved into fallen rocks. The trekking poles came in heavy, especially in areas where it was hard to see the trail from dead leaves and pine needles. Here we saw some of the damage caused by the storms, right before the steep trek down (about 400 feet I think the altimiter read). Some of the smaller, weaker trees had been snapped by some force, and were still pretty fresh breaks. We assumed it was heavy winds from the tornados, but not a tornado itself because there wasn't enough damage. All the big trees that had fallen had some rot to them, they weren't freshly broken like the little fellers.
We kept on walking and came through an area that could really be a temperate rainforest after this year. If we still keep seeing rain the way we have, it very well may become one! Moss was on everything in site, ferns everywhere, and huge evergreens everywhere, all different varieties. I couldn't believe how green the area was for January.
We came across a huge rock just sticking up out of the ground and decided to stop and eat lunch. A few families went buy us, but that was it for people on the trails. We ate one of those backpacker meals and learned the first rule of backpacking, don't let Mark stir the meals inside the bag. He used the fork and punctured the side of the bag, so we had to lay it a certain way to keep it form leaking and the noodles didn't cook all the way through. It was a Pad Thai meal, which Mark hated, but I loved. I don't know if I would want to take that particular meal out in the wilderness just cause it could give you heartburn pretty easily with all the curry! So, we decided that we were going to buy up a bunch of these meals and try them all before we go out!
After eating, we got back up and headed on. We thought we were out of the majority of the rocks, but to our surprise, about 1/4 a mile from where we stopped to eat, was the real rock garden. A nice open space under a huge rocky cliff where boulders slide down and meet their new resting place. There was one massive boulder on the left side of the trail was half the mountain!!! It had been there for a very long time because there was a huge tree growing right infront of where it would have fallen from. I was in awe of it's size. Every where you looked there were boulders, and all were completely covered with beautiful green moss. It was spectacular.
The Rock Garden was pretty close to the end of the trail. It spit us back out on the steep part we started at. This is when we realized just how steep this part of the trail it was. It didn't seem that bad going up, and so now I didn't feel so bad for having to stop and take so many breaks.
I have to say, with the pack half full, the only difficult part was when I first put it on. I was able to manuver just fine under fallen trees and caves that crossed the path. Flat land was almost too easy, it really didn't feel like I had a pack on for most of the time. So, next time we go out, I'll put more weights in it and see how I do!!! We hiked between 3 and 4 miles, and were done by 4 o'clock. We also took our time and enjoyed the day, so I think we had a pretty good pace going.
On the way home, we were extremely happy to have had such a beautiful day. The sun started setting and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in awhile. It lasted the whole way home, which is about an hour and a half away. By the time we had got to our house, the sun had finally sank, and the sky was magenta and purple...just radiant. The perfect finish to a day of sun worship out in the wilderness!!!