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The Bloggery

Kentucky: Day Two

Nature

When on vacation, the absence of a plan is a good thing as far as I’m concerned… ‘Get out and explore’ is how we roll. (Full disclosure, I’m not even sure that we do, in fact, ‘roll’ in the strictest sense of the word. I’m pretty sure we’re not cool enough to roll. At our best we mosey… usually we amble.)

So today we ambled off in the direction of the Red River Gorge to see what we might find, and as much as neither of us tends to give off a particularly strong ‘nature lover’ vibe, some of the coolest things we’ve done while exploring have involved getting out in nature and seeing some really cool stuff. This definitely qualified as ‘cool stuff’. The views and vistas you get from the geologic features around the area are awesome, and we both felt that the Fall would be a particularly phenomenal time to visit.

Quick note to anyone thinking about following in our ambling footsteps: I strongly suggest at least one change of underwear for a day of driving (or riding) through and around the super-narrow roads that lead from one point of interest to another throughout the area. It starts with a trip though the Nada Tunnel that serves as the gateway to the RRG Geologic Area:

Can I just point out that the car you see squeaking through the tunnel in this photo is a MINI COOPER? The super-chic rented minivan was about as big a vehicle as I’d want to try to maneuver through this thing.

Can I just point out that the car you see squeaking through the tunnel in this photo is a MINI COOPER? The super-chic rented minivan was about as big a vehicle as I’d want to try to maneuver through this thing.

 
There it is… the unscathed family truckster.

There it is… the unscathed family truckster.

Apparently constructed to move logs out of what is now the Daniel Boone National Forest, the tunnel serves as a gut-check for the navigation that is to come. Remember Brook, the 1:30 am hotel check-in guy with the vast historical knowledge? He told us that when the original tunnel was finished, the first train through got stuck in the tunnel and they only carved out enough around it to get that train through. I’m here to tell you that that has got to be a big, fat LIE… there is no train on Earth small enough to fit through the Nada Tunnel. (Worth noting that this prompted the two nerds in the sweet rental minivan into a long discussion about late 1800’s narrow-gauge vs. regular gauge railroad track installation in the United States. #historynerds)

As if to emphasize the travel-at-your-own-risk point, while we were looking at the park map at the visitor’s center, two clearly shaken and ashen-faced guys came in and asked if they could get a tow truck because they had just rolled their pickup truck off the road. We saw the carnage as we left, and I can’t even begin to imagine how they were going to get it out. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you we made it though the entire day without incident… mostly. Nothing serious, just a couple of vehicles that were adamant that their half of the road come from the middle, oncoming traffic be damned.

We hiked the Sky Bridge and Chimney Rock trails, which were both amazing but not super-conducive to being photographed. The scope and scale just don’t translate without the 360 degree views they both provide. I did get some shots of the scenery.

 
Nobody I know, just some rando that ignored the “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” signs posted all over Chimney Rock and hopped over the fence to pop a squat. I appreciate him both risking his life and wearing a nice, contrasty red t-shirt in order for me to get a decent photo.

Nobody I know, just some rando that ignored the “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!” signs posted all over Chimney Rock and hopped over the fence to pop a squat. I appreciate him both risking his life and wearing a nice, contrasty red t-shirt in order for me to get a decent photo.

 
 
 
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The final stop of the journey turned out, for me, to be the photographic gold mine of the day. The Rock Bridge trail is a 1.5 mile trail (with some serious elevation changes) that winds back to a stream and a set of waterfalls.

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In order to smooth out the waterfalls, I use a neutral density filter and a long exposure… 23 seconds in this case. The added benefit of doing that is that as people move in or out of the frame they generally don’t show up in the final image, or if they do it’s faint enough that they’re super easy to Photoshop out. This little dude stood stock-still for the entire 23 second exposure and actually turned out to provide a really cool element to the final image.

In order to smooth out the waterfalls, I use a neutral density filter and a long exposure… 23 seconds in this case. The added benefit of doing that is that as people move in or out of the frame they generally don’t show up in the final image, or if they do it’s faint enough that they’re super easy to Photoshop out. This little dude stood stock-still for the entire 23 second exposure and actually turned out to provide a really cool element to the final image.

Tight crop of Standing-Still Kid.

Tight crop of Standing-Still Kid.

The added moisture in the air from the sheltered waterfalls in the bottom of the gorge also made things really green.

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Refueling

Having walked 3.5 miles and the equivalent of 35 flights of stairs up and down, I Googled “best Kentucky food” to find a place for dinner. Not that I minded Chez Kroger dinner from yesterday, but I was looking for something a little more substantial after all of today’s naturing. All I have to say is “Thank you Google, from the bottom of my heart.”

Unless you’re visiting Eastern Kentucky University or have relatives there, or are the sort of people who will venture off in your super-chic rented minivan an hour out of the way to find good food, you might never find yourself in Richmond, Kentucky. (In fact, there’s a solid chance you probably didn’t even know there was a Richmond, Kentucky until the end of that last sentence.) But if you do find yourself there, do yourself a favor and find Meeple’s Restaurant and Cafe. You’re welcome.

It’s definitely a college-haunt, hangout type of place… very casual, no table service, games and puzzles at every table, and good food. Really. Good. Food.

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The Charlotte Burger: Angus beef, pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, a fried egg and blackberry jam. Yup. I’m sure I would never have dreamed this combination, but I’m glad someone did. (Oh, and a honeydew lemonade.)

The Charlotte Burger: Angus beef, pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, a fried egg and blackberry jam. Yup. I’m sure I would never have dreamed this combination, but I’m glad someone did. (Oh, and a honeydew lemonade.)

Great punctuation on a great day. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy-stormy-miserable. A good day to be inside. Fortunately most distilleries are inside.