Grayson • Olive Hill Quarterly Spring 2019 - Page 20

Winter Hike Adventure in Laurel Gorge By Michelle Brand Sitting here with a blanket on my lap, hot chili soup in my stomach and the temperature gauge reading a frigid 15 degrees, it’s hard to believe I was hiking the Laurel Gorge trail just three weeks ago. Last year our family started the tradition of having a bucket-list of fun activities to accomplish during the Christmas break. When I was growing up my parents took us kids “exploring” on the weekends. We explored hilly pastures, swam in the Little Blue River, fished, followed game trails and climbed trees. We also ice-skated on tiny ponds, sledded down cow pasture hillsides and rode horses. Adventure was always close by we just had to get outside and go find it! It was the appreciation for God’s beautiful creation that made me want to continue this family tradition with my own children. Most people would think that we would be crazy to go on a hike in December. But I think it’s a great time to go. There aren’t any crowds to deal with and I start to go stir crazy if indoors for too many days in a row. So this year on a rare 60 degree day, we made the short drive to neighboring community of Sandy Hook, Ky. in Elliott County, to hike the Laurel Gorge Trail. This year was the third year in a row that we have walked this trail. Last year we got pretty wet and cold in the rain, so we learned our lesson and came prepared with warm jackets and an umbrella. (I am so glad that we did as it rained the entire hike!) A couple of pick-up trucks were in the parking lot next to the Cultural Heritage Center when we pulled in. There’s always an air of excitement when we get to the trail head. This time my personal goal was to hike all the way to the waterfall. I knew that it would be running full- bore because of all the rain this past week. My husband and son were impatient to get started, as I organized my cameras and gear. I felt like a little kid, giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing the huge waterfall today. A short distance from the parking lot we started walking down the boardwalk. It didn’t take long to discover the boards were quite slippery with the rain. So husband and I started sliding our feet along without lifting them. Son thought this was hilarious and laughed his 20 SPRING 2019 head off. He continued to tease us until we reached the end of the boardwalk. There are three trails at Laurel Gorge. The left turn takes you down the hill to the Little Sandy River. The right turn goes up the hill and along the bottom of the cliffs. And the middle trail goes in-between the two. We turned right and headed up the steep incline. The trail was covered with pretty bronze colored leaves wet with rain. White rocks of different sizes dotted the dirt trail. Surprisingly we didn’t slip too much as we headed up. Taking this trail requires a little more endurance than I have. So we stopped after climbing a ways and enjoyed the view. An amazing thing about the Kentucky woods in the winter, is there is always something green. Green ferns, green moss on the boulders, green pine needles, and other green tiny plants. All of the plant-life looks and smells so fresh and clean. It’s such a wonderful feeling to breathe deep the forest. A person really does feel invigorated hiking in the woods. The Cliffside Trail twists and turns, always following the bottom of the limestone walls. Sometimes we have to climb between huge boulders, and other times we walk downhill holding on to skinny trees or grapevines so we don’t slide off the trail. Son leads the way, encouraging his middle-age mom to keep coming. As I stop again to catch my breath and give my stinging hamstrings a rest, I ask him how much farther is the waterfall? Of course being the young adventurer that he is, he always replies “We’re almost there mom. It’s just around the corner.” I’m beginning to have my doubts as we continue to climb this rigorous trail and with no waterfall in sight. But I remember my goal, so I continue on. Luckily I have a very patient husband and son. They stop and wait while I gather my resolve to finish this hike. Son had been to the waterfall viewing deck two previous times in years past, so I figured he knew how far it was. (Note to self: I am not a teenager anymore! I really should have taken the middle trail.) Thankfully Son was just ahead up on the trail and Husband was by my side. They encouraged me to keep walking, and that we were almost there. (continued)