After a couple of days of steady rains, cabin fever has set in. Yesterday I stepped outside to see a strange golden orb in the sky, not without a little cloud cover mind you, but yet I saw it. “Let’s go”, I shouted, “before the day escapes us!” It was time to see some fall color and I feared with all the rain I had missed the trees announcing the change of seasons in their own unique fashion. Until I could get outside and see for myself, there was no convincing this gal that they hadn’t already peaked. Silly me!
The truth is, central Kentucky’s trees are only at about 20% peak color well into mid-October, emerging slower than past years. Maples, poplars, hickories, black walnuts, beeches, sweet gums and sassafras trees are holding fast to their verdant greens of summer, just beginning to turn their trademark autumn golds and reds. It is as if they know what is to come, a quick peak that will be over within a blink of an eye, then late autumn’s chill and ensuing winds will strip them bare, a stark reminder that winter is not far behind.
We headed to Lake Cumberland, a popular vacation destination for those interested in hiking, boating, fishing, or just chillin’ on a deck of one of the various lodges overlooking the lake, with refreshment in hand. With over 1200 miles of shoreline, this reservoir covers 65,500 acres and this time of year has a sublimely tranquil feel.
As of September 2011 the lake is about 50 feet below its normal levels due to a crack in the Wolf Creek Dam. Engineers are keeping a close eye on this situation, as water seepage has begun to erode the limestone under the dam, causing some concern for a breach and subsequent flooding. From my reading, no good solutions have yet been devised for sealing the crack. One would never suspect anything was amiss, looking out over these placid waters.
We ventured further east into the Daniel Boone National Forest to check out Natural Arch. Having our hearts firmly entrenched in the west, where hiking into the wilderness will reward you with many red rock arches, we ratcheted down our expectations a bit. Yes, this sandstone arch, spanning 78 feet across and reaching 65 feet into the sky, is not as stately as those found in Arizona or Utah, but enveloped by the rich, warm hues of autumn, it was quite lovely.
Our last stop of the day was Cumberland Falls, known by some as the “Niagara of the South”. This waterfall forms a 125-foot wide curtain of water that plunges 7 stories into a boulder-strewn gorge. It is reputed to be the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and south of Niagara Falls. Having seen Niagara Falls, I have to say that this waterfall (imho) cannot hold a candle to the real deal, but it does have one unique quality found nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere. On a clear night during a full moon, or a few days before or after the full moon, the mist of Cumberland Falls creates the magic of the moonbow, a spectacular nighttime rainbow.
The best time to photograph the falls, other than during this phenomenon, is during the morning hours. Unfortunately, because of our drive and many stops along the way, we did not arrive until late afternoon, but I was able to capture a double rainbow even at this hour.
And wonder of all wonders, the government is open once again so it is on to Mammoth Caves and Abe Lincoln’s birthplace. Since Kentucky is the horse capital of the world, I am chomping at the bit 😉 to visit some of the thoroughbred horse farms in the area.