You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We're here for a few days to do the pleasant walks, and see the Natural Bridge
Amongst the many state parks and forests in Kentucky, there are 17 'resort parks' with 'lodges' like this one, slightly dated but attractive, fully provided with amenities and wifi, and relatively inexpensive. We stopped at the Carter Caves State Resort Park last October, very nice.
And this one is the Hemlock Lodge in the Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade (a town which can scarcely be said to exist; pop. 300, post office closed in 2004), about 50 miles southeast of Lexington, in the Red River Gorge area.
Here are two cute little cats who've just spent eight months in an upstairs flat in a condo building in Virginia, with windows that can't be opened. Aside from the odd 4 or 5 hour road trip, locked in a motel room, that has been their world. Soon they'll be let loose into the Wisconsin wilds for the summer, but for the moment they can refresh their memories about what fresh breezes and an abundance of foliage can be like.
Tree leaves actually waving and bouncing in the breeze; fascinating.
The view from our window. The lake below is unnaturally turbid after last night's rain, but soon, by the next morning, it had settled down again.
Leashes obligatory on the balcony. This cat is a practiced railing dancer.
Still, it was a longish drive from the horrible motel and restaurant experience in Elkview, West Virginia, last night, and it's time now for another nap.
Taking turns in the comfy suitcase (to be honest, Choupette invariably rushes over to push Melvin out of any enviable snuggly place he's found)
Mesmerized by La Nature. The next morning, we'll venture out to see the famous Natural Bridge.
The advent of the rolling thunder. Nice people, apparently, though huge and strangely garbed, but just vrooming through the region, not here for the hike up to the Natural Bridge.
Oh, wait just a minute! What's all this then.
A gentle and genteel path for getting started out with, 10 June 2021. This is called the 'Original Trail' and dates from 1890.
The Natural Bridge area was operated as a private tourist operation from 1895, owned by a local railroad company, but was donated to the state and became one of Kentucky's first four state parks in 1926.
Now we know whom to thank for all this good stuff -- FDR and the young men of the CCC, one of the most brilliant government programmes for the people of the Depression era.
Penetrating the primeval forest, towards the Natural Bridge (presumably)
Half of our hiking party is beginning to feel somewhat poorly, so our expedition will continue a bit shorthanded.
Oh good grief! See what's just emerged from the foliage.
We're already here! Just 20 minutes from the lodge -- excellent!
This is going to be a bigger deal than we expected . . .
. . . and how! A sandstone monster.
Should we really be standing right under this thing? How often do the inspectors certify this?
The next leg of the journey appears to be about 18 inches wide -- we'll let these folks clear out of the thing before we have a go at it. [The tower spiral stair of St Vitus' Cathedral in Prague is two-feet wide, with traffic both up and down, and on our plod up it, some large lady found halfway up that she could go no further and sat down. That's a lesson well learnt.]
A short wait in the staging area, and then . . .
. . . it's our turn.
We've just realized that we don't have a Plan B.
[This, according to some sources, is actually known as the 'Fat Man's Squeeze'.]
Now we're on the bridge, wondering if this mass of people might be exceeding its load limit.
That's apparently Lookout Point over the way . . .
. . . we'll have to see if we can add that to today's itinerary.
Across the bridge and over to . . .
. . . the Laurel Ridge Trail, and our access to the Lookout Point (and to Lover's Leap, if we become uncharacteristically despondent along the way)
Another fine path
This is the 'Skylift', which is like a 'skilift' but without the skis.
Rules and prices
The Skylift runs about 800 meters northward down the far side of the Laurel Ridge Trail, like this --
[borrowed from Google Maps]
Scenic Skylift views
We press on.
Approaching Lookout Point
Lookout Point itsownself, and . . .
. . . the Natural Bridge just over the way
A little more zoomed. That's some accident of nature, or something!
We're expected and mustn't tarry.
Back onto the Bridge, wondering how that tree worked its way on here
At the far end of the Bridge, we opting to return by the Balanced Rock Trail instead of scraping through that orange-squeezer of a stairway.
A shortcut onto the trail, which is . . .
. . . another nice, broad track, with, from time to time, amenities.
Little loss of elevation -- we're going out along a ridge, evidently, and then will have to parachute off the end of it.
We're still going along the base of the Natural Bridge escarpment.
And very welcome amenities, in fact
Extremely fascinating scenery hereabouts
All with helpful railings
Finally, we go down.
Zigging a bit, and then zagging
Now we really begin to descend.
Nearly continuous stairways now -- better than no stairways, but not always appreciated by aging knees
That, we're guessing, is the 'Balanced Rock'.
[Spoiler: it's not actually balancing, it's all one big sandstone hunk, a formation known, we're told, as a 'pedestal rock'.]
That may once have been a balanced rock.
It's not over yet!
We seem to have come down five times as far as we went up.
But that's it -- the parking lot is just below us here.