Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009, Day 4

Day 4 of the Summer Road Trip Posts, Start with the Introduction Post.

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After our very pleasant stay at the Beaumont Inn, we set off east, trying to cover some ground towards West Virginia as well as stop and see the sights. This leg of the trip brought us up into the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

We decided to head towards the Red River Gorge and see what we could see along the way. Driving along one of the smaller state routes we saw a State Park sign for "Cottage Furnace". Neither of us had any idea what this meant but it looked like it would take us further up the mountains and it was an awful pretty drive. Following the signs down increasingly smaller roads we arrived at the Cottage Furnace picnic area parking lot, nestled up at the top of a mountain in the woods.

We walked around for a while trying to find what the point was. There weren't really any helpful signs with information about the site and we headed back to the car. Fortunately, we noticed another trail near the car then headed down that to see if we could find anything. Down the hill a bit and we came across the Cottage Furnace.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

Unfortunately there is not much in the picture to provide scale, but that entrance is probably 10 feet wide and the whole structure is maybe 40 feet tall. As you can well see, it is somewhat overgrown. This large stone structure and a pile of discarded flint shards are about all that is left to see. At this point, you might be asking yourself, "What is Cottage Furnace?". Well, so were we. We found out later that it was used to make pig iron and operated in the mid 19th century. There are a number of sites that talk about these types of furnaces this site has a brief history of cottage furnace.

Having discovered Cottage Furnace we hopped back in the car and continued east. We found a Natural Bridge State Park on the map just south of Red River Gorge and decided to see what that looked like. I guess there's little mystery there ... it's a natural bridge! There are a number well maintained trails, as well as a sky lift, leading up to the bridge.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

Once you have gotten up top there are a number of other trails you can follow around. One of them leads to a lookout point that makes for a great picture opportunity. Unfortunately, Cara was caught licking her lips here. I assure you, this picture is much better than her attempts to photoshop in a proper smile :)

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We climbed down the "Balancing Rock" trail and picnicked in the park at the bottom then set off to the Red River Gorge. Red River Gorge has an excellent visitors center next to a historic farm. Our trip to the center brought us through the single lane 900 foot Nada Tunnel, which was an old railroad tunnel. The day was getting late and we had already had our hiking in so we failed to visit any of the many trails in the Gorge, but it made for a nice drive.

At this point, we pressed on east looking for a place to stay. We stayed the night in Prestonsburg, Kentucky at a Super 8 next to the worlds most scenic Wal Mart.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We had dinner at a restaurant down town and got a good rest for the next day's push into West Virginia.