For years we have heard talk from our climbing friends and associates about the great rock climbing in the southeastern United States. Part of the reason for this adventure on the road is to visit rock climbing areas that we have not enjoyed. First on our list of new places to visit was Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky.
My first impression of Kentucky was the beauty of the scenery and picturesque rolling pastures. Horses grazed in pastures rimmed with black painted wood. It is what any horse loving girl (me) dreamed about. Most barns are painted a neat black to match the fences. Within some barns I caught glimpses of kelp like tobacco drying in the breeze. The rolling blue grass melded into mountains.
The mountains are covered with a deciduous forest comprised of oak and many trees I don't recognize. These trees are interspersed with evergreen pines, holly and Rhododendron shrubs. The tree leaves turned orange, red, brown and yellow. When these vibrant colors were dispersed with pops of dark green, the hills were a gorgeous site. The steep rolling mountains hide bands of hard, coarse sandstone. It is unlike the red and sometimes brittle sandstone found in Utah and Nevada. The rock provides some wonderful climbing. The rock climbing in Kentucky is located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky about 1.5 hours southeast from Lexington. The closest town to where we are camped in Beattyville.
My second impression of Kentucky was of the poverty found in the mountains. There is a certain level of detritus that occurs when living in the country. I would expect to see some abandoned cars, outbuildings and equipment. However, as we drove through the hills, I was completely dumbfounded at the percentage of residences that go beyond rural detritus to trash heap. Debris starts on the front porch and spills across the yard, through the garage, to the barn and down the hill. The houses are so rundown I cannot fathom anyone living there, yet someone does. Sometimes the house is abandoned and has been left to deteriorate. Even more amazing is that the trash heap very easily could be next door to a very well groomed mini-estate.
No matter what the quality of the housing stock, everyone has a front porch. These porches range from a small stoop to a spacious covered porch that stretches the entire front of the house and sometimes around the house. All porches are completed with the classic slat back chair and a porch swing. I can just imagine a summer evening on the porch sipping Kentucky bourbon whiskey on the rocks.