Trip Report – Red River Gorge (Part-1)

Trip Intro
This is going to be a multi-part post over the next few weeks. I took a ton of photos and want to share some of them here as well as detail the trip as best as I can. I hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

I decided to take advantage of the July 4th holiday being on a Wednesday this year and plan a Hiking/Camping/Fishing getaway. Initially I was looking at the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to do some camping and cycling. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do up there but then I stumbled upon a YouTube video that featured the Red River Gorge (RRG) in Kentucky. It looked to have a lot of the things I was looking for and was a lot closer to Indy than the U.P.

I watched several more videos and was convinced this is were I needed to go on this trip. I was a little concerned about the holiday crowds and found the camping situation a little confusing. I opted to rent an inexpensive cabin so I’d have a place to stay and explore the area. I really wanted to camp too so I booked one the last available spots at a Kentucky State Park called Big Bone Lick that’s on the way to RRG.

Packing & Prep
Since I was going to travel solo and base out of a cabin I pretty much packed everything I though I’d need from camping supplies, to fishing gear, as well as an assortment of food and entertainment options. Of course I packed entirely too much but I had the room and figured this would be a good test to see what I’d actually use vs what I think I needed.

I store the gear for each of my hobbies in large, stackable, plastic bins that are easy to just grab and go. I ended up with the following assortment (some bins had more than one category):

  • Food and Cooking (cook pot, stove, fuel, dehydrated food, snacks)
  • Sleep System (tent, footprint, hammock, tarp, sleeping bag)
  • Fishing Gear (waders, boots, tackle)
  • Hiking Gear (packs, boots, trekking poles, maps, compass)
  • Clothing (hiking, fishing, sleeping)
  • Misc (electronics, lights, batteries)
  • Cooler (food, drinks, snacks)
  • Water (7-gallon plastic Jerry can)

This gave me the option to go with the flow and hike a little, fish a little, and relax. I’ll admit this is a lot of gear to bring but like I said, this is a shakedown to see what I would really use.

Car Problems
I was about 500 miles away from scheduled maintenance on the car so I thought I might as well stop at the dealer and get it knocked out. Boy was that a mistake… Long story short, the oil filter (that sits on top of the engine in this car) didn’t get seated correctly and proceeded to leak oil all over the engine as I drove to work. By the time I got there the car was smoking like it was on fire. After a tow back to the dealer I got home with a freshly cleaned engine at 8pm. It was still smoking a little as what was left burned off. By the time I got to my first stop the next day all was well again.

Day 1 – Leaving Home
I got things organized starting a few days before departure and loaded it all up the morning of the trip. Since everything was already grouped and in a bin it was easy to just slide things in and hit the road.

I use a medium sized snowboard roof rack (I think it’s designed to old 2-3 boards) to transport the fishing poles. It’s a lot easier than trying to have them in the car and the racks lock so things stay pretty secure and out of the way. I can carry about 10 rods and reels with this setup but I usually only have 3-4 up there.

REI Cincinatti
My first stop of the day was REI in Cincinnati. I was hoping they would have some maps and info on RRG. I was able to find a book dedicated the the trail system in the area & it’s been a great purchase. I found some areas I didn’t know about and more detail on the areas I was focusing on this trip.

Findlay Market
If you haven’t been to Findlay Market you should stop and check it out next time you’re in the area. I usually go on the weekend and it’s a lot different during the week (not nearly as many vendors). The market has a lot of specialty vendors and you can find some great food and produce.

Newport on the Levee
I haven’t visited this place for a while and WOW, it’s changed a lot. I almost got lost because of all the new construction. I mainly just stopped buy to do a quick walk through and get some pictures of the Cincy skyline (annnddd I left my phone in the car, oops!).

USA Soccer & Thunder Storms
The day was ticking along and I was killing a little time before heading to the campground. I happened to find a Drakes sports bar in the city of Florence and it was just in time to watch the Team USA beat England in the Women’s World Cup. A pop up thunderstorm happened to hit while I was watching the game. It also blew through the campsite I was driving to too, so taking a break to watch the game turned out to be a good idea.

Big Bone Lick State Park
This park has a lot of fosses in the area because it had an abundance of salt licks in the prehistoric days that attracted animals to the site. Today they have a herd of buffalo roaming the grasslands.

I arrived at camp a little after the front office closed so I cruised back to the spot I had reserved. Interestingly the 3 spots next to me were marked off and not being used. The other side of me had an RV from New York and their porch was on the other side, so I had a pretty private site at the back of the camp with very little traffic.

The neighbors turned in about the time it got dark and I sat out under the stars and enjoyed some wine and cheese before climbing in the tent and listened to the crickets and frogs until I fell asleep.

Day 2 – Waking up to Nature
The birds in the trees had me awake at sunrise and the Daddy Long Legs spider that ran across my face was better than any alarm clock I’ve ever used. As I exited the tent I could not believe how many of these spiders were on my tent. Took a while to brush them all off and pack up the tent.

I’m not a big breakfast eater and since I had a lot of things to do that day I packed camp up and hit the road about 8am. About 9am I got a craving for a Sausage McMuffin and had to stop. I also wanted a sweet tea which, I think, gets better the further south you travel in the US.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
The first stop of the day was the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort Kentucky. Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. The tour was pretty basic compared to other producers like Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark but it was very interesting to learn more about the history of the facility.

After the tour and tasking (it was 11 am so not too early for a nip) the gift shop had a nice selection for purchase. Sadly there was no Blanton’s or Pappy Van Winkle for sale.

Lunch
I had a few ideas for places to eat lunch in the Frankfort area but one was closed and the other one looked a little sketchy. I fired up Yelp and found a place about 20-minutes away called The Stave.

The Stave is in the middle of nowhere and is inside an old farm house. Once I got cellular coverage again I realized I was just down the road from the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The lunch menu had a nice variety of dishes. I settled on the Pig & Pickles sandwich with fries (as well as another sweet tea). The sandwich was amazing, and the fries were double cooked and perfectly crunchy.

My server asked me if I was one of the “Lookie-loos” and I had to ask her for some clarification. Evidently there was a big warehouse fire at a Jack Daniels warehouse the night before and the place was crawling with Media and people trying to see the damage.

Up next, driving to Red River Gorge. Lots more to come over the next few weeks. I have some more gear reviews in the works as well. Stay Tuned!

W.H. Harrison Indiana Bourbon Made in Indiana

News Flash!  Bourbon is NOT limited to production in Kentucky!  Evidently this is a common misconception as the few people who I’ve talked to about the new W.H. Harrison Indiana Bourbon thought the same thing I did.  Kentucky is  however the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle.

Named after the late William Henry Harrison this bourbon follows the Brourbon rules:

  • Bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn (maize).
  • Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume).
  • Neither coloring nor flavoring may be added.
  • Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Bourbon must be entered into the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon, like other whiskeys, may be bottled at not less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon that meets the above requirements and has been aged for a minimum of two years may (but is not required to) be called Straight Bourbon.
  • Straight Bourbon aged for a period less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
  • If an age is stated on the label, it must be the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle.
  • Only whiskey produced in the United States can be called bourbon.

Available a several retail locations in Indiana I’m planning on picking up a bottle for research purposes.  I have a few favorite Kentucky Bourbons so I’m curious to see how W.H. Harrison compares.  More to come on this one…

Kentucky Gumbo?

This morning while reading an article in the April 2008 issue of Food & Wine, about the Kendall-Jackson winery, I came upon a recipe for Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo. It’s a favorite of vintner Jess Jackson when he visits his horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Yes, they’re serving Gumbo in Kentucky!

Since it’s a cold and rainy morning in Central Indiana I thought I’d give it a try (actually turned out to be a nice day!). What kind of gumbo can you actually get in the Bluegrass State? We’re going to find out!

One of the main ingredients that makes this a gumbo (vs. a soup or stew) is andouille sausage (a little difficult to find in Indiana). It took me a while but I finally found what I was looking for at a local chain store & headed home to give it a shot.

I took a few pictures with my Treo 700wx but they didn’t turn out very well (note to self, break out the Nikon when taking pictures for the Blog). I pulled out my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven and got to work.

The basic steps of the recipe are:

  1. Brown Chicken & set aside (remove the skin after browning)
  2. Brown sausage & set aside
  3. Cook vegetables & add some flour
  4. Deglaze with chicken stock & add diced tomatoes
  5. Return everything to the pot for a 30-40 minute simmer
  6. Shred the chicken, slice the sausage & add some cooked rice
  7. Enjoy!

Overall it’s a pretty easy recipe only requiring a few ingredients. While not true Gumbo it’s pretty darn close.

About 30 minutes later it was time to pull the chicken from the vat of boiling goodness & shred it up (easier said than done with a mass of protein that’s been in 200-degree liquid for half an hour…

The article recommended a side of Cream Biscuits with Dill (these were AWESOME) as well as a bottle of Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay (nice wine!). Might as well go for the full effect! The wine was easy enough to locate at my neighborhood chain grocery store but it was almost double the estimated price in the magazine article…

The dish was a big hit with the family & we even had enough left over for lunch the next day (it reheats very well). If you’re looking for something a little different, give this recipe a try. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!