This weekend I enjoyed a pastoral retreat away from the urban hustle of my downtown Lexington apartment. It was nice to get away from the concrete jungle of the city and see something besides grey and red brick buildings and black asphalt for a change. Pulling off of Mountain Parkway near Slade, Kentucky I immediately rolled my windows down and enjoyed the fresh air of the mountains – a nice change from the stale, coal-sulfur mix I am used to around west campus. As an avid hiker, camper and health nut, I try to frequent the Red River Gorge area as often as possible throughout the summer. I parked my truck in the farthest lot from the main trail to the Natural Bridge attraction and began my hike. There were several other tourists enjoying a pleasant Saturday morning as well. Most were also hiking enthusiasts such as myself, and had no problem traversing the one mile path up the mountain side to see the attractions. What really caught my attention once I was at the top, however, was the number of people actually using the sky-lift.
What is most perplexing is why people would choose to use the sky-life if they are traveling to Natural Bridge on purpose to enjoy nature? The bare, treeless path carved up the mountain side is a blight on the entire attraction in my opinion. Is it because we are really too lazy to walk the mile-long trail or do we just want to enjoy our temporary escape to nature without having to leave behind our technology?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly knocking people for wanting to ride the sky-lift. For example elderly and small children may be better suited for riding the sky-lift or those without the cardiovascular capacity for reaching the summit of the Natural Bridge trail. But, why go out of your way to enjoy nature only to utilize the technology we are trying to escape. The picture to the right for example shows part of the trail that leads to Natural Bridge. Obviously this path was improved by man and is not exactly “natural” looking. I think this takes away from the ambiance and true character of the forest.
What is even more paradoxical is that I was taking these pictures of my adventures with my cell phone. Now why on Earth would I have my cell phone with me in the mountains if I am longing to escape work, and be at peace and one with nature? The simple answer is that it is nearly impossible for me to be without communication from the civilized world for extended periods of time. Not necessarily because I don’t desire to be, but as a business owner I must be readily available to answer questions for my clients and associates all of the time. The down side to this is that I rarely get a vacation, so instead I get to enjoy tiny bits of solitude occasionally like the Red River Gorge.
The picture to the left shows a stairway that was built at Devil’s Gulch, in Kentucky’s Natural Bridge State Park. Obviously this timber didn’t just happen to fall over and land like this “naturally,’ but nature was controlled by man. I’m sure that the stairs make it easier to traverse the steep gulch, but are they really necessary? Short of being in a wheel chair or on crutches I believe that most people could navigate the corridor with relative ease. While I believe that we all long to be away from urban life, I find that we still want to enjoy our technology and advances while we are away. Perhaps the stairs were just a simple solution to the complex problem of how to make attractions in the park more accessible? After all, they are made of the same wood that grows all around and not steel or concrete. Still to me, personally it takes away from the natural feeling of my surroundings. Perhaps the sky-lift, and the gravel path and the stairs are just there to add the “simplicity” which we desire? As for me, I’d be fine with having to hike and climb rocks during my ascent, and if it weren’t for my pesky cell phone ringing, I just might have!