...and I know that word is overused. But if you've ever found yourself exiting the Mountain Parkway, plunging headlong into the blackness of the Nada Tunnel, only to emerge to a beautiful day filled with eastern Kentucky sandstone and sunshine, you understand what I'm talking about.
If not, then you're like I was just three short days ago. Growing up, my family had spent plenty of time hiking around some of Kentucky's best trails, forests, and caves. But on Thursday, my old friend Zach and I ventured somewhere I had been near dozens of times, but had never really gotten to explore.
The Red River Gorge is known the world over, particularly by climbing enthusiasts, for its cliffs, arch formations, and climber-friendly atmosphere. Less than 100 miles from my home, it is a place I often wanted to fully experience, but had never actually visited (much like the interesting fact that despite living most of my life surrounded by horses, horse farms, pictures of horses on horse farms, and people who ride horses for a living, I've never actually had the chance to get on one and ride). Zach, on the other hand, has been to "The Gorge" (as it's called by n00bs, like me) approximately 200 times in the past 5 years (his count being only moderately suspect simply because he is a climber, and climbers obviously have questionable levels sanity somewhat below average). Suffice it to say, he knows the area quite well. We only hiked a modest distance (because of my stupid freaking ankle) and found ourselves atop a rock formation known as Cloud Splitter (Latitude: 37.8375, Longitude -83.62056... in case you'd fancy a visit yourself) where we spent most of the day exploring a wicked-cool cave, praying, reading the Anglican daily liturgy (The Book of Common Prayer), talking about life, love, & other mysteries*, and generally enjoying the (literally) breathtaking spectacle before us. After building the fastest-lighting fire of all time (seriously, those chemically enhanced "fire-starter" logs have nothing on us) and a night beneath the stars (and airplanes, lots of airplanes) we awoke early, as campers are wont to do, dodged a spot or two of rain, and made it to Miguel's for omelets (we had already been there the day before for pizza... delicious) before heading home.
I've heard it said that "a day in the mountains is worth a thousand in the city."** Now I'm no math major, but I'm not sure how that exchange rate really works out, what with crude oil at over $130 a barrel and the declining value of the dollar... Anyway, what I mean is: I still like spending days in the city, because people live there, and people are really interesting. But every now and then, people can kind of get you down, and what you really need is to get away from most of them and spend some time with your Father in the extraordinary playground He's set up for you.
All of us, no matter where we live, can find ways to get outside, take in some sunshine and admire the creation around us - whether that's among the misty peaks of the Rockies, the town park a few blocks from your house, or just the trees and birds in your own backyard. It really is therapeutic... unless of course you hate good things, in which case you probably ought not to spend time outdoors, nor should you purchase the new Coldplay (review forthcoming).
So I'm not sure how many days I saved up with my trip into "The Red" (as it's known by the elite, climbers and the like), but I do know this: I got a chance to connect with God, with a friend, and with the place where blue sky meets sandy stone. I would also like to return soon, so please let me know if you're interested. Plus, Miguel's Pizza is seriously some of the best I've ever tasted...
* The 1996 release from contemporary Christian pop sensations Point of Grace, which may or may not have been the first record I ever purchased (insert shame here).
** See here for the blog post I'm referencing. It's the first one at the top. How can I say with assurance that it's the first one? Because it will literally never be updated ever again.***
*** I would like to preemptively apologize for the (extremely unlikely) possibility that Sara and Alli do in fact update their blog eventually.****
**** I would also like to state that these asterisk footnotes are a blatant rip from Steve Conn's blog (look at that link love)*****
***** But that's okay because he ripped it off that guy that used to write funny the funny column in The Echo (and no, I'm not talking about Steve... the other guy... Joe somebody).
Annnnnd, I'm done.