Red River Gorge, January 2014

I went to the Red River Gorge in early January for my first backpacking trip of 2014. Unfortunately, I was a bit short on time so I ended up driving instead of biking down.

For a change of scenery I camped alongside Parched Corn Creek rather than on a ridgetop. My most recent backpacking trips have all been to ridgetop campsites with overlooks, so hiking down into a creek valley provided a nice change in landscape. Adding to the change was the light carpet of snow on the ground and the frozen pools in the creek that were a result of recent frigid temperatures (the night I camped out was mild by comparison, with lows in the mid-20s or so).

The combination of greens (hemlock, pine, rhododendron, etc.), white (snow) and the barely-blue sky were a beautiful combination, and the noise of the creek added a nice soundtrack. Other than the creek, it was very quiet in the woods and the crunch of snow beneath my boot even seemed unnecessarily loud at times.

Somewhat out of the ordinary for me, I brought a lightweight hammock to sit in when cooking and eating my dinner and for lounging around in prior to going to bed. I brought a warm layering system (wool baselayers, fleece top, hooded down jacket, waterproof/windproof jacket,insulated gloves, etc.) with a particularly exciting addition — down socks with removable outer shell. Not much beats sitting in a hammock in freezing temperatures, perfectly comfortable, while reading Jack London short stories about the Yukon gold rush with a cup of hot chocolate in hand and the forest providing the perfect atmosphere for contemplation and reflection. Adding icing to the cake, I was even able to glimpse some bright stars through the tree canopy and the moon seemed to be a creamy, yellow wink in the velvet purple-black sky.

After a sound night’s sleep, I hiked downstream to check out a small waterfall that I knew of and had hiked to the night before prior to dinner (spinach, mushrooms, pasta and tuna).

Here are a few other pictures from the trip:

Winter is truly a beautiful season along the Cumberland Plateau.

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