The Following story appeared in Experience Kentucky Outdoors Magazine Summer 2004 edition. The pictures
you see were scanned and are not digital. The trip took place in June 2003.
A Creek Runs Through
a month ago my 13-year-old daughter Katie was prancing around the house with my half-full backpack. Over the years she has
heard me talk about my exhausting trips into the backcountry so I wasn’t surprised when she calmly stated “there’s
nothing to it.” She had never shown much interest in hiking or backpacking so her next comment did surprise me: "When
can I go backpacking with you?" she said. I considered quickly the first dozen or so reasons I could think of, took a breath,
and said “Okay.” I advised her we would start planning a trip to Red River Gorge. She immediately agreed to the
trip and seemed genuinely excited.
I went over all the usual stuff, like first aid, in case I got hurt. I think the part about the Copperheads and Timber Rattlers
shook her the most. I also showed her the delicious Mountain House freeze-dried foods we would be eating. I could see that
her enthusiasm was beginning to waver, but I knew she was tough and would see this through.
My daughter is growing
up, and like most teens, she is starting to pull away. I was looking for something to bring us closer. For her first eight
years she had us to herself. In the last five a brother and sister have come along, so I wanted this new adventure to be something
special for just her and I to share. We left our home in Louisville at and headed to the Clifty Wilderness. After arriving a couple
hours later, we stopped at the Shell to purchase a topo map and parking pass. We then made a quick stop to check out Koomer
Ridge Campground (I wanted to see the layout to plan for a future trip with my parents, both senior citizens). We made one
final stop to use the bathroom and then headed off on a side-trip down the RockBridge trail.
Above: Katie, myself at Rock Bridge and myself at Creation Falls
I had heard quite a lot about Rock Bridge Arch, but had never before seen it personally. We went down the trail without our
packs and stopped at CreationFalls. After taking a few pictures, we made our way over to the arch and I helped Katie climb on top.
She had a big smile on her face and I could see that she was really starting to enjoy the experience. After circling back
to our car, we headed to the Ashland station on KY Hwy 15 for a couple of cheeseburgers before driving back to the
we went into the woods we came up to the information hut which had a home made sign on it that read "The trail is poorly marked...enter
at your own risk." We followed "THE TRAIL" which led us to a dead-end down a ridge somewhere near a tributary of Reffits Branch,
so we re-traced our tracks back to the trail head. We got back to the car about an hour later, refilled
our water supply, and decided to give it another try. We walked down Route 715 to link up with the trail at the Cemetery road.
The trail was fairly well marked from that point on. We were now well on our way to our campsite and fishing hole.
We were relieved to reach the junction with Swift Camp Creek trail at which point I decided to shift Katie's Tent and
sleeping pad into my backpack. Swift Camp had me a little worried about how much Katie could take on her first trip. She surprised
me although it was a little slow going. At the top of the first ridge we stopped for a little snack. I could tell she was
starting to appreciate her old man and wish she hadn’t accepted my offer to come along. As we enjoyed our snack I told
her she was looking strong. This put a little smile on her face and soon she was ready to go again.
Above: Katie above then below Creation Falls, Myself on Swift Camp
leaving Louisville, I had heard about a great campsite at the confluence of Swift Camp and Dog Fork. It was a great site and unfortunately
already taken by four guys and a dog. I was a little disappointed but found another established site a little bit up the creek
and out of site of our neighbors. After setting up camp we decided to explore a little. Katie loved wading up and down Dog Fork searching for “critters”.Afterwards, we enjoyed our freeze-dry meals and some tea as the sun started to set. It had been a full day so we decided to hang out at
our campsite and go trout fishing in the morning. I wish we would have fished that evening because it rained hard all night
- we had missed our opportunity. Camping so near to the creek had me waking up about every hour to see if the creek was rising.
I heard Katie say her tent was leaking through one of the seams. I fashioned an extra rain fly with my poncho that helped
her stay dry the rest of the night.
We woke up late, ate a little breakfast,
and decided to head back to our car before lunch. We never did get to fish but Katie woke up smiling and joking about her
leaky tent. We broke camp at about and retraced our steps on Swift Camp Trail. Katie found a rust colored lizard to amuse herself with and I'm
sure he was happy to be placed back on his original path. And then came our E.W.A.C. (Encounter With A Copperhead). The
trail was a little slippery, especially near the rock shelters, so I would blaze ahead and turn around every so often to make
sure Katie didn't fall. As we approached one of the numerous rock shelters I was backing down a hill to keep an eye on Katie
- almost a big mistake! I walked past a copperhead that made a strike at my boot. Katie saw the whole thing and almost freaked
out. I backed off and tried to get him out of the path with my hiking pole. He didn't want to move and Katie certainly wasn't
going to walk past him.
Above: Katie catches an eft and our humble campsite along Dog Fork
was trying like mad to reach over my head and grab my camera which was stuffed in my backpack. I didn't want to take it off
for obvious reasons. He was in the classic strike pose with fangs showing. My hiking pole took more than a few hits until
he finally relented and went down the hill. Katie and I decided that she was on her own for the rest of the downhills - I
would walk forward and watch the trail. When we finally reached Wildcat Trail we took our packs off and Katie started to laugh. The forest
was still wet and humid from the rain and thus steam was rising off the top of my head and arms. She found this site to be
very funny. We shared a snack and talked about how cool the snake encounter was. We reached the car a short time later and headed back to the Ashland station for lunch before showering at the Natural Bridge SRP Whittleton branch campground. In
less than two hours we were back in Louisville hanging our wet gear in the back yard.
I looked at Katie and I said "Well?" She replied, "I had fun Dad...thanks." She
gave me a hug and I told her how proud I was and how tough she had proven to be. I suggested that she would have a great story
to tell when she returned to school in August. I wasn’t sure how ready she would be to do it again, but when I mentioned
taking two of my nephews backpacking, she asked, “Can I go too?”
Getting lost, rain, snakes, and a great campsite already taken...all in all it was a
wonderful weekend adventure. The fact that it was not perfect...made it perfect. My daughter and I have a special memory we
share...and a creek runs through it.
Above Clockwise: Katie on the trail after the rain, Katie atop Rock
Bridge, and her in a Rhodo patch in full bloom.