Tag Archives: nature

A Walk in the Park in Kentucky, Part 2

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Day 2 of our trip to Red River Gorge was a bit less hiking, but even more to see. When we turned into the park, on day 1, we went right. On day 2 we went left.

The first thing we found was a tunnel in the mountain. Nada Tunnel. IMG_8929

The tunnel used to be a railroad tunnel. It is now a 900 foot, single lane, passage through the mountain for cars.

We came out the other side, to this.

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Pretty much, through out this whole portion of the drive, the road looks like this. It is beautiful, though I wish we had been able to go a couple weeks later to watch those leaves change!

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One thing I found interesting here was that we crossed a lot of bridges. Everyone was very different.

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That last bridge is called the Sky Bridge. It is a natural stone arch, that crosses over another path. The hike is easy, though you will want to be careful walking across the bridge, as you can see, there are no walls. And, the edges are worn down, so the very center is high and flat, and the close you get to the edge, the more sloped the rock becomes.

I found this little guy on our hike.

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I think this may be one of my best pictures!

On the route to the Sky Bridge hike, you will also find a sign that read’s “Devil’s Canyon Overlook” This is the view.

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Now, if you are anything like me, you will decide that standing by the fence is not good enough, and you will walk down a little side path, with no fence.  And the side path will lead you down here.

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Can you see, under that one pine tree, the bright green moss on the edge of the rock? If you are anything like me, you will decide you MUST sit there to get a picture. If you are married to anyone like my husband, you will keep inching over there while he shouts “Get back here!” I made it, and sat on that ledge, and enjoyed every second of my view, while my husband had a panic attack. (Ok, not really, but he was not happy with me and was very tempted to pick me up and move me back about 4 feet.) I took this picture though.

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Those are huge, fully grown trees under my feet.

We eventually had to make our way out of the park. Remember how I said it stormed on day one? This was how a good portion of the roads looked on day 2.

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Next, I’m working on the basic info post. Soon I will have posts from the Las Vegas trip we just got back from as well.

Niagara Butterfly Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

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My American readers will need their passports for this one, but it’s worth it.

The Butterfly Conservatory is located in Canada, just north of Niagara Falls. There are over 2000 butterflies flying around.

You will enter a large dome, where the butterflies fly around freely. The signs say not to touch, but, the butterflies do what they want, and it isn’t hard to hold them. Be careful though!IMG_4453

There are about 45 species located in the conservatory. And, they are all beautiful, but some are more so than others. I don’t know what you are all used to seeing, around here we have lots of orange and/or white butterflies. The greens and blues there were beautiful.

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Interestingly, the butterflies are not able to reproduce in the dome. This is done on purpose, so they don’t overcrowd the area. The butterflies will only lay eggs on certain food sources, so those flowers and plants are kept out of the dome.

You can walk the conservatory at your own pace, and read the signs as you wish. The employees are helpful and informative.

My son did find out, if you spill syrup on yourself at breakfast, then go to the conservatory, you will end up with lots of company. :)

NEED TO KNOW:

  • Probably not a good place for small children, or kids who may be creeped out by things crawling on them. Lots of kids crying there, and even my 10 yr old got a bit overwhelmed when the 10th butterfly landed on him.
  • It is $13.50 (Canadian) to get in for adults, and $8.80 for children 6-12. Under 6 is free.
  • Parking is $5, but if you plan to go back, there is an annual parking pass for $10. They only take cash at the gate, but luckily they will take American.
  • Plan on maybe 2 hours, tops, to walk the whole dome. It isn’t a huge place (600 ft of pathways), but you might want to wait around for the perfect picture.
  • The hours are varied throughout the year, so check before you go.
  • The parking lot is shared with the Botanical Conservatory, so, that $5 is for both attractions.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens surround the Butterfly Conservatory. They are free to enter, but parking is $5.

The gardens span over 100 acres, and are cared for by the students of the school of horticulture that is located on site. There are also several water features.

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They are beautiful to look at, and on a nice day you could easily spend several hours walking a couple miles. There is a rose garden boasting over 2,400 roses.

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The paths are easy to walk, and there are horse drawn carriage rides for a fee if you really want to sit back and enjoy the view. I did not check while I was there, but a couple websites say the carriage rides are $18.

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I went in early May and again in July. It is definitely prettier in July, but if you are at the Butterfly Conservatory anyway, wander the gardens and see what you find.

If you are there without a car, or don’t wish to worry about parking, the bus does stop right out front.

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Helpful links

Niagara Parks-Hours, admission, general information for the butterfly conservatory

Niagara Parks-same info, but for the botanical gardens. This also includes a link to download the app, which will take you on a guided walking tour of the gardens. Free wi-fi is available at the gardens.

Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory- Information about the conservatory, it is actually a really interesting read.

Fact Sheet- This is facts about the botanical gardens.

Whirlpool State Park- Need to Know

This is not a park. There are few benches, and no water fountains. You come here to hike and take pretty pictures.

It is free.

Do:

  • Wear good shoes. I had on Walmart tennis shoes, and my feet hurt so badly when we were done, from the jagged rocks on the trail poking the bottom of the shoes.
  • Bring water! We made a terrible mistake and didn’t bring it. So, we were quite dehydrated when we finally climbed out of the gorge.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Watch out for snakes.
  • Take out anything you bring in!
  • Take your time and be careful.

Don’t:

  • Don’t get in the water. The whirlpool and the rapids are incredibly dangerous. If you live through your adventure, you will be prosecuted.
  • Don’t eat any plants, there are some that look like onions, but are poisonous.
  • Don’t take anything out with you. Leave plants and fossils there.
  • Don’t feed the animals.

The park is open, year round from dawn to dusk. There are restrooms in the welcome center, but they are only open April-October.

There is a playground and picnic tables. Taking a lunch is a great idea, but, take your trash out with you.

You can fish, and the few other visitors we saw there had brought fishing poles.

I, personally, wouldn’t bring anyone here who is under the age of 8 or so. But, I happen to have a very athletic 8 yr old who hates people but likes walking. 10 is probably a better guideline. Because you will be walking miles, and  climbing up and down rocks.

After writing that, I went looking for more information, and found the Niagara Falls State Park website. They agree, no one under the age of 8 should be on these trails.

For More Information:

Visit Buffalo Niagara- This has information, the actual address, a phone number and a map.

Niagara Whirlpool- History and information about the river and the whirlpool.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation- This actually is the site for the park, so there is a lot of information available.

 

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Whirlpool State Park

IMG_7003Whirlpool State Park in located in New York.

It is just off the Robert Moses State Parkway, Niagara Falls, New York. Do you know what else is off the Robert Moses St. Pkwy? Niagara Falls. So, that explains the lack of people when you pull into the parking lot of this state park. If you like people and touristy things, Niagara Falls is where you want to go. There are all sorts of places to spend your money. However, if you are looking for a bit quieter, or maybe you’ve spent all your money at the Falls, but don’t want to sit around your hotel room, than this is the place for you.

I read some reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. The reviews are colored by people’s perspective. I saw many that said “nothing to see except water.” which,is almost technically true. But, let me tell you, it is worth it.

Both parking and admission into the park is free. There is a playground beside the parking lot, as well as picnic tables. There is a small welcome center, with some history, and a couple bathrooms.

If you are not in shape, or not a hiker, this is a difficult place to visit. If you are a hiker, you will think this is an easy day. I felt I got a great workout, and was able to go everywhere, even though I’m not in the best shape.

Come see Whirlpool State Park with me.

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This is toward the beginning of the trails. It looks nice, and simple. This is at the top of the gorge. After walking a half mile or so, there is a break in the railing.  You can continue along the railing, or you can look in the break, to see stairs.

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This photo is taken, looking up, from about the middle point of the stairs. This is the easy part of the stairs.  Take the stairs! This is how you get to the bottom of the gorge. You walk down 300-400 steps. I don’t know how many, I lost count. Please remember though, you have to go back up them.

The stairs will give way to ground. I’d like to tell you it is flat, level ground, but it isn’t. We found a rocky, steep, area, that might have been a path, but we aren’t sure. We took it anyway. (Watch out for snakes and ticks.) If you take these random, rocky paths you might end up somewhere like this.

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This is downstream from the whirlpool. If you look closely toward the top of the picture you can see the Whirlpool Aero Car (click it, it will take you to their website), taking people over the top of the river, to see the whirlpool. That was actually how I found this park, months ago I took the aero car and saw people standing on rocks, 300 feet below, and I needed to find those rocks. I did.

You can sit on the rocks and watch the jet boats, or you can keep on walking. We sat for an hour or so, just watching. Then, kept walking.

This is where you begin to lose the trails. Watch for neon orange spray paint on rocks or trees. Those are the trails. You will eventually find another rocky path. Take it. It leads you to flat rocks, directly under the cable car. Straight ahead, as you walk, you will see the whirlpool and the rapids. IMG_7063

Now, allow me to explain, this is not a whirlpool like you see in the movies. Where the water spins in a perfect circle and creates a sort of underwater tornado. The whirlpool effect is much subtler. It is caused by the river taking a sharp turn at this point, almost a 90 degree turn. The rapids are a category 6 in this place. DO NOT get in the water! You will die.

Once you’ve had your fill of this scenery, you can continue down the path. At some point, you will look up, and see how far you have come down.

IMG_7069The parking lot is at the very top of this rock.

This is about as far as we went, because we planned badly. And, that is actually part of what got this blog started.

Do I have you interested in seeing this? The next post will be the practical side of things, thing you need to know if you are going to visit. Things we’ve learned from experience.

I’m still figuring out how to organize this, so be patient with me.

 Whirlpool State Park