Mammoth Cave

The largest known cave system in the world.  It’s pretty big.  One might even say it’s mammoth, and it was kinda on my way home from Virginia so I figured I had to stop at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

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Red River Gorge Geological Area

The one stop I planned during my drive back home from Virginia was the Red River Gorge Geological Area (RRGGA) in eastern Kentucky.  This is 29000 acres of the Daniel Boone National Forest protected since the 1960’s when it was to be flooded by a dam.  Combined with the 12600+ acre Clifty Wilderness to the east and Natural Bridge State Park to the south, there can be found over 100 natural bridges and arches along with numerous rock shelters, cliffs, caves, and other formations.  It’s definitely a geological wonder, and has been on my to-do list for a while.  In the one day I spent here, I barely scratched the surface.

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New River Gorge (West Virginia)

I planned one stop on the way back from Virginia but added two more.  The first was New River Gorge National River – a 72,000 acre national park that encompasses 53 miles of the New River.  The area is chock-full of hiking, camping, floating, fishing, and other recreational opportunities as well as driving tours if you don’t feel like doing anything.  Nearby is the Gauley River, which is a popular destination for whitewater enthusiasts.

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Summer vacation 2015, part 2: Thunder Ridge Wilderness & Apple Orchard Falls (Virginia)

My brother and I hiked through part of the Thunder Ridge Wilderness, across Apple Orchard Mountain, and down to Apple Orchard Falls.  It was just under 8 miles for the round-trip, a bit more than half on the AT and the rest on the Apple Orchard Falls Trail.

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Summer vacation 2015, part 1: Blue Ridge Parkway, James River, and Crabtree Falls (Virginia)

2100 miles, 9 days, 6 states, 527 photos; summer vacation is over.  I began by driving east on I-40 and then up I-81 to an area northeast of Roanoke in central Virginia – a route that offered almost all new scenery for me.  I spent 4.5 days with family that now live in this area.  It’s mostly in the George Washington National Forest and very close to the Appalachian Trail and many others so I was able to do a little hiking.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is also very close, with many sightseeing opportunities.  Add in some stops on the way home, and I’ve got material for 4 more posts to come ASAP.

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Late spring update

Contrary to appearances I have not vanished.  In the 7 weeks since finishing my section hike of the Ouachita Trail I just haven’t done any one thing that seemed to deserve a blog post.

The first 5 of those weeks were kinda wet but I found 10 days that were relatively cool with a low chance of rain so I could do some work on both the Highlands and Ouachita trails.  I cleared brush along about 8 miles of trail that has been inadequately maintained.  The Highlands segment is probably now “under control” but the Ouachita segment will probably still need a lot of work this fall and next spring.

My sister and brother-in-law visited for 3-4 days.  One day we went to Mt Magazine for some sight-seeing and then did a tour of the wine-producing area just north of there around Altus.  I don’t drink wine but I’ve been wanting to see the wineries.  They do enjoy wine and went home with almost 2 cases, I think, from the Post and Chateau Aux Arc wineries.  We had dinner in the Weinkeller Restaurant in Wiederkehr Village.  The food was fine, but not anything special.

The last couple weeks have been dry with heat indexes over 100.  I’ve been shifting attention back to the to-do list at home that was abandoned when backpacking season began last fall.  Painting, landscaping, and some minor plumbing projects are underway.  By the end of the summer I might even be able to finish unpacking from the last move.

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Queen Wilhelmina State Park

There are 3 short trails at Queen Wilhelmina State Park that have been on my to do list for a while and I found myself in that neighborhood with a bit of free time so I checked them out.  Note that the lodge is still closed for remodeling and is expected to reopen “in summer 2015″.  The campground is open but has recently been without water.  That is supposed to be fixed by early summer.

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Ouachita Trail – Deadman Gap to Talimena State Park: the grand finale

With the completion of the segment from Deadman Gap (mile 8) to Talimena State Park (mile 0) today comes the completion of the double section hike of the Ouachita Trail that I started 5 months ago.  Officially, that’s 445 miles but the GPS track puts it about 10 miles shorter.  I’m sure I’m not the first person in history to do it but I like knowing that I’ve done it.  Of course, it’s not  as big an accomplishment as doing a through-hike even once.Ouachita Trail.Deadman Gap to Talimena SP.2015-04-25.002 Continue reading

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Ouachita Trail – Winding Stair Campground to Deadman Gap

The weather was beautiful Friday – perfect for hiking – so naturally it was one of the rare Fridays that I needed to work.  The forecast for Saturday and Sunday had a good chance of thunderstorms pretty much all day but I said I was going to finish this trail ASAP no matter what it took, so Friday evening I headed southwest.

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Ouachita Trail – State Line to Winding Stair Mountain

Whew, what a weekend!  I finished section 2 of the Ouachita Trail – from mile marker 46.3 at the State Line west to mile 23.7 near the Winding Stair Mountain campground, and as usual did it twice.  With a climb up the west end of Rich Mountain, the east end of Winding Stair Mountain, and over Wilton Mountain from both directions, this was one of the more physically demanding trips I’ve done in this area.

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