Up the Stairs and Out the Window

I have been very lazy in posting anything about my adventures in the Red River Gorge.  Most of the work that I have been doing in the past few weeks was an effort to finish the “write-up” of my last section on the Appalachian Trail.  I have almost completed that writing and I am planning to go back and write about some of my hikes, arch hunting trips, and adventures in the Red River Gorge and sections of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

My latest trip to the Gorge was a Friday, June 17, 2016 trip to one of my favorite areas with one little change.  I took Breck, Katie, and Lexie Clemons, the daughter of one of the Library’s employees, on a short morning hike to the Indian Staircase, around the loop of Sargent Creek, and then back to the Bison Way parking lot.


Headed into the woods from Bison Way parking area.

Our trip started early Friday morning as we left the Library about 8:15 and headed to Slade.  After a brief stop at Dairy Queen for some breakfast, we arrived at the Bison Way parking area at about 9:00.  We geared up and headed out the path.  We crossed the creek and headed up the trail to the first arch exit.

I had  thought about looking for two new arches on the left side of Sargent Branch that I have not located yet but after looking at my crew I decided that the hike might be a little much for them.  They were dressed in shorts and tank tops and not exactly the right clothing to go bush whacking in and the threat of snakes was more than I wanted to risk with my young guests.  We passed (to my displeasure) the Crawling Man Arch exit and Sergant Branch Double Arch exit and worked out way on to the trail that exits to the right and on up the point to the Indian Staircase.


Starting the Indian Staircase climb but erosion from an unmanaged trail has taken its toll.

We made it to the Stairs and started up.  There was quite a bit of “huffing” and a lot of “puffing” as we made our way up the hill.  The sandstone was warm from the morning sun despite the hazy mist and cloud cover.


About half way up the Indian Staircase and still climbing.


Praying for strength or a foot hold to make it to the top.

We made out way up to the top and everyone had an enjoyable break as we sat on the warm rocks at the top of the climb while the kids talked about food.


Cherokee Arch from the cliff line above.

We made our way along the rim of the valley to Cherokee Arch.  I climbed down and took some photos and measurements while my guests discussed food and what they wanted to eat.  Cherokee Arch is a small opening at the top of the rock and a sizable pocket in the side of the cliff line.  The pocket is nearly circular as are so many unexplained places in the Red River Gorge.

The party moved on around the cliff line and we made our way to Frog Head Rock and on to the Adena Shelter (which is also known as the Grand Ballroom).  The waterfall was nothing but a trickle and the evidence of numerous careless and rule-breaking campers was all around.  Beer cans, burned food containers, and every manner of garbage had been left by those who care so little about the Gorge that they would trash the place and walk away.


“Fools at the Frog Head”

From there we made the hike around the two-foot wide trail that leads from the Ballroom to the Ohm Hole.  Lexie, who is occasionally known for her awkwardness and tendency to trip and fall, was very careful to make sure steps and to take her time because the left side of the trail was a 300-400 foot drop to the jagged rocks of the valley floor.  I told the kids to be sure and not mention this trail to Lexie’s mother because she would kill us all and they agreed not to tell her.  So I am sure that no one else will either.

We made a quick stop at Indian Arch before heading on around the ridge to the Adena Arch and beyond.


A quick stop at Indian Arch was a nice break.



Inside Adena Arch.

From the Ohm Hole to Indian Arch and then a short trip out to Adena Arch for the group just as the a light, mist of rain started to fall on us.  The breeze of the ridge past Adena Arch and the light rain helped cool the temperatures to made the trip a little more pleasant.  After some photos and a short break, we headed out to find the Adena Arch Direct Trail down the hill to Adena Window.

I had not traveled this trail but I knew of its existence and the general route that it followed.  We climbed down rocks and over trees and finally made it to a small cut and drain in the rocks near a small rock shelter.  Below this run, and about 50 feet to the right we located Adena Window on the side of the cliff line.


I can mark Adena Window off my list of arches and windows to visit in the Gorge.

From there, it was a steep descent back to the roadway and a short walk back to the Bison Way parking area.  The whining and complaining along this last downhill section was great as the little green briars and holly trees welcomed all those who had on shorts with open arms.  In all, we had a good morning with visits to three arches, one window, and a great hike.  We traveled to the Cliffview area to scope out another arch but decided not to make the attempt due to the thick undergrowth and the bare legs.

We closed the day with a McDonald’s lunch at Stanton and a Cotton Candy Blizzard from Dairy Queen to stop their discussions of food.  We did enjoy a few songs by Breck Bowling and a visit from a Saturday Night Live celebrity.  A great day and a lot of fun.  Maybe you should all go with us the next time.

Sites Visited:  Indian Staircase, Cherokee Arch, Frog Head Rock, Grand Ballroom, Ohm Hole, Indian Arch, Adena Arch, and Adena Window.


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
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