Saturday - 9.2.00

Kurt and I woke about 4:30 AM with something wet hitting our faces. We were both sleeping so hard it took a minute to comprehend it was rain. So we slowly got up and put the rain fly on the tent. We were able to get back to bed about 15 minutes later. It rained pretty hard but the tent stayed nice and dry. It was nice listening to the rain. Kurt woke up again around 6:00 from the noisy father-son group from the night before. It appeared they were already up making breakfast.

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We slept in 'til about 10:00 AM since it was so nice and cool. Finally, we got up and had the gear stowed by about 10:30 AM. We then hit the road. First, we drove into the town of Cumberland, TN and hiked about 3 miles to see the actual Gap in the mountain range.

We were a little disappointed since once we got up there we found an old road! We later learned that this road was used before the tunnel was built to get people through the pass.

After hiking back down the trail, we found the "Iron Furnace"; the first smelting operation in the area. We also climbed up the mountain stream that powered the furnace over a century ago.

Kentucky - for real

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Kurt and I drove though the tunnel once again - back into Kentucky. This time we drove up Pinnacle Overlook. From that point you could see all three states in one shot. The mountain was roughly 1000ft higher than the surrounding mountains and provided a fantastic view of the entire Gap area.

We hiked along the ridge trail for a bit but you couldn't see much because of the trees. The mountains weren't nearly high enough for a tree line (what were we thinking?).

We left Cumberland Gap and decided to have lunch in Corbin, KY. Corbin is the place to "Eat where it all Began". We visited the Cafe and Museum where Colonel Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken. We had to have the original crispy chicken of course. Disappointingly, it tasted just like all the other KFC's. After lunch we stopped at Wally World for more ice and film.

Cumberland Falls, KY

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We continued on our trek and made an unexpected stop at Cumberland Falls. We hadn't seen a waterfall on the trip yet so we had to stop.

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At first we walked along the nice calm water upstream from the falls. Kurt waded in a bit even though the signs said not to. After all, he hadn't misbehaved yet that day. We could see mist ahead so we figured it must be a pretty good-sized waterfall. So we headed downstream to the Visitors' Center.

Once we followed the Tourists' path around the falls, it turned out to be one of the best waterfalls either of us had ever seen; over 65 feet high and 100 feet wide. We read about the moonbow the river is capable of producing; Cumberland Falls is only one of two places in the world were you can see a rainbow from moonlight regularly. The only other place is Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We tried out all the different Visitors' Observation Points and decided they weren't good enough. We noticed fishermen down on the rocks (about 50 feet below us) right near the falls - we both vowed to get there. Kurt and I walked downstream to the sand beach along the river and followed the bank back up to the waterfall. We had to climb over boulders the entire way - in flip-flops. The rocks were anywhere between bowling balls and Jeeps in size. It was hard work - 100% humidity from all the mist. After about 25 minutes we got to the fishermen - in fact one rock closer to the falls than they were. After basking in our glory - we asked the fishermen how they got there. We followed their example and climbed straight up to the Visitor Outlook. We carefully jumped the rail between groups of passing tourists. No one spotted us or suspected a thing - so we booked it on outta there.

Natural Arch

The next stop was the Natural Arch; a small park we spotted on our Rand McNally map. Finding this natural attraction was a lot tougher than finding the previous ones.

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First of all, the road leading to the park was extremely difficult and once we did find the park, we were the only people there. The view of the arch was definitely worth the struggle, however. The span was huge and sprawling just across the valley from our lookout point. In our glow from the success of the waterfall journey, Kurt and I thought we needed to find our way to a point under that arch. This time we were more sensible and put on hiking shoes. We set out on (down) a somewhat challenging path and found some cool overhangs and cliffs. The path led us through a very intensely wooded area - almost like a rain forest. Most of the fauna either had huge waxy leaves or was some sort of fern. There was a lot of humidity and birds but no people, not even any signs of human life other than the marked trail. Unfortunately we never found the arch - we hiked over 1.5 miles before we turned around. We did find a small arch but not the one we wanted to see. We were too deep on the valley floor to get our bearings in relationship with the 'real' arch. It was getting a little dark so we had to turn around. I was a little scared when we were trying to make it back to where we dropped in. The area didn't look very familiar and the path was non existent at that point; I was worried we would never see the Jeep again. Climbing out was extremely tough and required a team effort at some points. The ability to jump between rock outcrops and do pull-ups was required. We finally got back to the Jeep - absolutely soaked in sweat once again. We got back on the road and headed to the town of Somerset, KY. Considering it's day 8 and no Mexican food had yet been consumed (Taco Bell doesn't count) I needed a Mexican dinner. We found a joint right on the main strip through town. The restaurant was very similar to our local El Cazador restaurant. The waiters could barely speak English and the place had strikingly similar menus. The restaurant was dirtier though - chips on the floor and bad bathrooms. It was odd that no beer or margaritas were available. The food was ready in 2 minutes (like El Caz) and they used the exact same cheese and sauces (except salsa). Never the less, I had gotten my Mexican fix and I was pleased.

We got back in the Jeep around 8:00 PM and headed off again. Cruising down the interstate at 81 MPH we managed to get pulled over by a Kentucky Trooper. The speed limit is only 65 MPH on the Interstate in Kentucky. The cop was very cool - he looked at Kurt's license and told us to slow down. We were on our way once again without a ticket - Wahoo!!!

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

Kurt and I continued on the Interstate into the park area. The area immediately outside the National Park boasted a conglomeration of tourist traps; at least 4 miniature golf places existed on the road. We continued on into the park and finally found the campground - unfortunately, it was completely full for the night. So we decided to find campground number two on our map. Try as we might, we couldn't locate it. We found ourselves outside the opposite border of the park before Kurt and I decided it didn't exist. So we headed back into the park and with some reservations, found an area alongside the road which was flat enough (and clear enough) to pitch a tent. Yep, we were forced to camp back country. We found a place to pull the Jeep off the road a short ways from the area we were going to pitch the tent. I was extremely nervous at first but then decided, "What the hell - it's our park". Plus we were getting low on gas. We packed our stuff on our backs and hiked a couple hundred yards into the woods on the opposite side of the road from the Jeep. It was a nice spot behind a hill with lots of trees. Kurt also stomped out a "decoy path" on the Jeep side of the road. We set up the tent within 10 minutes. Kurt ended up having to go back to the Jeep since we forgot the pillows. Kurt couldn't remember what direction he came from for a minute (momentary retardedness). Finally, he was able to find the Jeep in the darkness and fetch the pillows. That's how far into the backwoods we really were. We finally got to bed a little after 11:00 PM. (Day 9)

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09.25.2000 -