The 05' Polar Bears: Rick Walters, Jim O'Toole, Mark Thieman, Greg Shade, Lawson Brown, and Pete Ramsey.
The 17th Polar Bear destination was Red River Gorge in Daniel Boone National Forest. The group assemble at Koomer Ridge Campground Friday night. The group was one of the smaller ones as work schedules, injuries and other obligations kept others occupied. Greg, Jimmy and Rick were the first to arrive at 3pm. They selected a nice campsite on the backside of the campground and setup. Rick and Greg both had new tents they tried out. Mark showed up an hour later and Pete and Lawson arrived before dark.
The most unusual thing about the day was that we were not alone in the campsite. There where 6 other groups camping. The mild weather had brought them out. We enjoyed the short sleeve weather but as the weekend continued we realize that so did a lot of other people.
After a hardy dinner of shrimp, steaks and Marks famous Subway, the group gathered around the fire to catch up on one anothers lives and adventures. We also got to know the newest Polar Bear, Lawson, a Georgian transplant who Pete had met at church. (I bet Lawson becomes a regular.)
One of the most memorable items of the first night was Jimmy explaining to Lawson in slurred language (one too many taste tests) how he was the liability on the Fall trip and that that had never happened before. I am not sure that Jimmy was convincing given his state.
We all had a great evening of stargazing with a little instruction help from Mark. The night sky was awesome.
Saturday morning the breakfast cook off was in full swing. We had shrimp scampi for appetizer, omelets, Guatemalan Black Beans and shrimp Guatemalan eggs. WOW!!!! Lawson left us after breakfast as he had a family obligation.
After breakfast we packed up and headed to the Auxier trailhead off Tunnel Ridge Road. The trail is 5 miles round trip and fairly level. As we hoisted our packs we where excited about the beautiful weather and the chance to spend 24 hours in the woods.
About half way in we found a very nice, large campsite where the trail takes a hard left. (GPS:Elevation: 877 ft, N:37º 49.743 minutes,W:33º 40.749 minutes) It sat at the rim of the Gorge and had a nice view through the trees. Greg and Jimmy decided with weather this nice, it would be a great night to sleep under the stars. The night sky coupled with a glorious morning sunset rewarded their decision.
After our camp duties where complete, we hiked to Courthouse Rock. Along the way we took in the views of Haystack Rock and Raven Rock. A super ridge walk with views left and right. Returning to camp we were all high on the fresh air, a beautiful day and good camaraderie.
Dinner Saturday night was a little less extravagant then Fridays, but for camp food it was great. We enjoyed a clear night and a great heat / light fire. Jimmy had sorted out all the peckerwood prior to starting the fire and between that and Marks box fire design it was roaring all night.
The next morning brought high clouds but a beautiful sunrise. After getting the fire going again, we cooked up a breakfast of sausage gravy biscuits and coffee. It was time to say goodbye to our much-enjoyed campsite. We hiked out to the trailhead and loaded up the vehicles. Greg, Jimmy and Rick decided that they had not had enough, so they headed to the Grays arch trailhead for a 3-mile round trip to the magnificent arch. A great hike and wonderful views of the landscape topology.
When they reached the arch, there was a wreath and laminated note saying this was the spot on March 21, 1986 where Jim Graf fell to his death trying to keep a burning log from rolling into the valley floor. The note explained that the family makes a yearly pilgrimage to the spot to celebrate Jims short life. We noted that we had been very fortunate over the last three decades and had not had any major incidents over the many miles traveled.
As the sun began to fall in the sky, we new it was time to rejoin the world again. We slowly hiked back to the truck and said farewell to RRG until the next time.
Click here for some photos taken by the Polar Bears.
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