I was on my way to the Gorge. I didn’t know if I would ever be back to this magical place; the place where it happened. After years of trial and error, fears and discomfort, I finally relaxed and let it all in. I first fell in love with backpacking in Red River Gorge (Daniel Boone National Forest).
Five years from my last visit, I was returning to the Gorge with my friend Caron. With Darwin away in Scotland it dawned on me this was my first time backpacking without him. I was now the one with the most experience.
We started our trip off with a visit to Miguel’s for pizza. The place had grown significantly since Darwin and I had last eaten there. The environment that had once seemed overwhelming with dirty climbers and hikers now felt like home. I was immediately taken back to a time with my tramily, lounging around outside a place and stuffing ourselves silly with food, feeling refreshed from a very overdue shower. As Caron and I ate conversation was easy and our excitement for the trail grew.
We approached the Nada Tunnel, a symbol of transition; leaving civilization for the wilderness. We entered the one car tunnel leaving behind cabins, gas stations and cell signal for a world of waterfalls and rivers, cliff faces and vistas. Everything was the same as I remembered as we drove to the trailhead but somehow different; I was different.
Caron and I sorted the last bit of our food at the car and took a pre-hike photo at the trailhead before heading off. I tried to remember my life the last time I had started off hiking up this same trail. I couldn’t exactly remember but I know I wasn’t as confident, as open to letting the adventure just happen back then.
We hiked on a dirt trail and up wooden stairs, down rock faces, and over streams until it was time to set up camp. We turned a bend and came up to a spot that I specifically remember from years ago. Darwin and I had come across the spot before but it was too early to stop hiking. Now coming across the same spot, it was perfect and where we called home for the night.
Setting up tents, filtering water, and hanging a bear bag are typical chores for a backpacking trip but with a good friend, each event is full of laughs and thoroughly entertaining. As darkness closed in, Caron and I retreated to our individual tents, emerging only once when Caron announced it was a full moon.
We stood next to each other gazing up at the bright plump moon hanging in the sky. A blessing of goodwill on our first night of my first girl’s trip and a fond reminder of trips past in the light of another full moon.
(Caron And I At The Trailhead; Me At Camp)
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