Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone NF
Trailhead: Martins Fork
Backpack 2/2 - 2/3/18 (1 night)
2018 bag nights: 1
The Forest Service has closed Tunnel Ridge Road for repairs which means it takes a little effort to get out to Auxier Ridge. I decided to take advantage of the closure. I started at the Martin Fork Trailhead and took the "backdoor" up to the ridge. I first hiked north and checked out the view of Ravens Rock and then south towards the road and Auxier Ridge.
The clouds were low and grey and made for a striking looking sky, but the wind was gusting about 40 miles per hour which made it feel a lot colder than the actual temperature of low 40s. I hiked lots and did not linger for many photos.
Looking at the "backdoor" ridge, the Martin Fork trail head is to the left and the Tunnel Ridge Road to the right.
One of the few times I have had the view of Haystack Rock all to myself.
I enjoyed the solitude so much that I decided my first backpacking trip of 2018 would be Auxier Ridge. So a week and a half later I was pulling into the Martin Fork lot. The forecast was a lot colder (lows around 15), but thankfully very little wind and lots of sunshine. I was really hoping for clear skies at night so I could try out my new camera with the stars.
When I got to the lot, it was still snowing, but it stopped after about an hour. Since I had a pack and the ground was covered with snow, I decided that a scramble up a rockface was not a good idea, so I went up the D Boone trail and then out the road.
I went a little way out the Jailhouse Rock trail, but bushwacking through snow covered brush was not very fun, so I decided to stick to the official trails and headed out the Double Arch trail. First I checked out the Rocky Branch Overlook trail which was a new one for me.
I then headed for Double Arch, very weird to have this popular spot to myself.
I had never noticed this rock before, looks like a snake head
Then over to the other side of the valley and Auxier Ridge. I set up camp and then hiked back towards Courthouse Rock to cook dinner and wait for the sunset and some stars. It was just past a full moon, so I knew there would be a lot of light to make my way back to camp once the sun set.
Courthouse Rock waiting for the sunset.
It wasn't the best sunset I've seen, but it was nice. I was hopeful that the limited number of clouds boded well for stars.
It was cold waiting for the stars to come out, but it was worth it. Looking south with Orion peaking out from behind the trees.
Looking north towards Cassiopeia, I even got the Andromeda Galaxy by accident (the small smudge near the middle left)
Orion again and then time for bed.
Since the forecast called for zero chance of rain/snow, I decided to cowboy camp for the first time. I don't know that I would have been warmer in my hammock, but I was very cold in the night and ended up being wide awake at 6:45, plenty of time for a short hike to catch the sunrise.
Pano composed of 6 individual photos
Mountain ridges catching the sun
Double Arch catching the morning sun
I quickly ate breakfast after the sunrise and headed back to the car. I was really surprised as I got close to the Auxier Ridge trailhead to hear voices. It turned out to be four young guys from Cincinnati who had woke up early and drove down for the day, they said they had hiked in from the gate at the beginning of the road. I gave them some ideas for destinations and went on my way.
I got to the Grays Arch trailhead and headed down the Rough Trail and ran into a solo woman heading up the trail and then not long later ran into three guys my age who had camped up on the ridge near Grays Arch. I passed a couple more dayhikers and when I got to the parking lot there were about 10 cars there, very different from my one car the day before. I ended up with complete solitude for the part I cared about so I was happy. Not a bad way to start 2018.