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Lucky in Kentucky Part 1 Posted on 03.25.2012 by greg.kuchyt

Hiding in the hills of Eastern Kentucky lies the Red River Gorge, home to one of the world’s first-class climbing destinations. Sport climbers from around the world come to test themselves on the infamous overhanging sandstone cliffs that define Kentucky climbing. In fact some of the hardest climbing in the country is still going on there.

Many have come to refer to the Red River Gorge as simply “The Red”. I really don’t like this name and try to use the full name at all times, but for the sake of brevity I will sell out my values.

Climbing in the Red is a nice logistical change from climbing in the Adirondacks. The overhanging nature of the rock means that many of the climbing areas are completely sheltered from the rain, meaning you can climb even in a downpour. As conditions would have it, this was something that we took advantage of on a couple of rainy days. Additionally, many of the approaches are very short, as in 5-15 mins short. After a season of a lot of backcountry climbing last year, I was used to hiking miles to get to a cliff, so this “roadside” climbing was a welcome change of pace.

Since the Red is a world-famous climbing location, the area has grown to somewhat embrace and cater to the climbers. The local climbing scene centers around Miguel’s Pizza, an eclectic mix of campground, pizza restaurant, climbing shop, and hangout. Miguel has staked his claim as the preferred hangout of climbers by offering fields for tents ($2/person/night), a coin-operated bathhouse and laundry, and delicious food. The only thing missing from the equation is the universal constant of beer. Interestingly, the Red River Gorge is comprised of a jigsaw puzzle of counties, many of which are dry. As Miguel’s is in a dry county they stock a strategic reserve of the local favorite soft drink Ale 8₁, known as an “Ale 8” or “A late one”. My personal after climbing treat at Miguel’s is a 4-slice pizza (you can order 2,4, or full 8 slice pizzas) topped with chicken, spinach, green peppers or pesto and a couple Ale 8s.

On my previous trips I have stayed in either a cabin or a hotel (when you know someone with a plane your life changes). On this trip we were looking to go as cheap as possible but we wanted to avoid the chaos that is the Miguel’s camping environment. One of my climbing partners had spoken many good words about the Lago Linda Hideaway. So we chose to follow the praise and stay there. At $5/night/person with included water, covered cooking areas with a kitchen sink, showers, wireless internet, and a peaceful, secluded setting it is jokingly referred to as the “climber’s retirement campground”. In other words, for a campground it is palatial. I was really impressed with the facilities and the sense of shared responsibility from the patrons to keep the place in good order. I would emphatically recommend Lago Linda to friends and will stay there exclusively whenever I am climbing in the Red River Gorge.