Our family hasn’t been out and about much lately. Winter-time is normally a tough sell anyway, and it seems as if our little family of three has been passing around a few illnesses since mid-November. Add to that an early cold snap and holiday responsibilities, and November through mid-January just hasn’t been conducive to our outdoor adventures.
That having been said, I do have a few things to share.
In mid-November, my wife and I planned a trip south. The original idea was to go to Gatlinburg, through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and finally to Asheville before heading back to Indianapolis. Unfortunately, our five day vacation was cut short by illness.
Our alternate destination became south-east Kentucky. My wife’s grandfather grew up in what is now the Redbird Unit of Daniel Boone National Forest, but neither of us had ever spent much time in the Appalachian Mountains.
Pine Mountain State Resort Park sits atop Pine Mountain which overlooks Pineville, KY and the Cumberland River. The town and river fill a narrow gap in a ridge that runs nearly 200 miles from the convergence of Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia to Pioneer TN. They are also just 10 miles north of the Cumberland Gap.
Pine Mountain SP has a WPA built lodge and 20 cottages. We stayed in a one-bedroom cottage and ate our meals in the lodge. The stunning view from the dining room looks down the ridge about 20 miles into Tennessee.
While the majority of one of our days was spent running to Cutchin, KY to meet family, we did manage to take a couple of short hikes. The trail that really impressed us was the Hemlock Garden Trail below the lodge. I was surprised by the size and profusion of rhododendron, hollies, and hemlocks. In many ways, the wet lushness of the canyon reminded me of Fort Clatsop or even the Olympic Penninsula in the Pacific northwest.
In all, it was a short but very rewarding trip. It was our first in several years sans child (let us all give praise to grandparents) and we made the most of the solitude provided by our childless state and the nearly empty state park lodging. The weather was fine (70s in November? Yes, please!), though the 35 degree temperature drop on the way home was a bit much. The eastern portion of last year’s Mammoth Cave trip was the most enjoyable part, and this trip will keep us coming back to Appalachia.