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Kywilderness.com Discussion => Photography => Topic started by: Mark W on February 25, 2013, 04:30:01 PM

Title: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Mark W on February 25, 2013, 04:30:01 PM
The Cumberland Plateau possesses a seemingly infinite amount of awe-inspiring qualities. Rare and endangered flora and fauna, thousands of miles of sandstone cliffline, caves, white-water rivers, and a stunning amount of biological diversity are just a few of its attributes. The patchwork of public lands in Kentucky and Tennessee provide hundreds of miles of trail through which a hiker can experience the Cumberland Plateau, which is a landscape beautiful in all seasons. Spring brings mild weather and wildflowers, summer allows one the opportunity to enjoy the refreshment of a swimming hole, fall the chance to admire the multitude of colors in the foliage, and winter is a pleasure all its own. Not much compares to hiking along a stream on a sunny, cold winter day, on top of a thin carpet of snow, beneath hemlocks and through rhododendron, with the beiges, browns and reds of the sandstone clifflines glowing in the sunlight and a blue sky overhead. Something about the mix of white, green, brown and blue is nearly transcendental.

I could ponder the intangible beauty and charm of the Cumberland Plateau and its seasons for the better part of a lifetime, but I decided to focus this post on one of its superlative characteristics. The Cumberland Plateau has the highest concentration of natural arches east of the Rocky Mountains, and two areas familiar to many people here on KyWilderness -- the Red River Gorge and the Big South Fork -- are particularly abundant in natural arches. Aside from waterfalls, arches are probably the type of landform that I visit the most when I go hiking. Fortunately, the Cumberland Plateau has an abundance of both -- both on and off-trail. Similar to my post about off-trail waterfalls, this post will have pictures of off-trail arches that Iíve visited in the past few years.

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5213/5490974724_4bc647358b.jpg)

One of the more elusive off-trail arches in the Red River Gorge: Red Byrd Arch. A really striking span and well worth the effort to visit.

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5007/5379024299_6b92bcf8b2.jpg)

Snow Arch, living up to its name. Red River Gorge.

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5201/5379018529_da1f4704df.jpg)

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5289/5379017423_f34e19113a.jpg)

Two different views of Hopewell Arch. Red River Gorge.

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5206/5334223143_649e9d837d.jpg)

Sandy Arch. Red River Gorge.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8053/8369274906_9bb4ec4990.jpg)

Morning Arch. Big South Fork.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8320/7989402496_7406eaa1f6.jpg)

A 40-foot sandstone spire with a window about 1/3 of the way up. Big South Fork.

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7261/8151384350_35e5bf1f9f.jpg)

Arch. Private property near the Big South Fork.

(http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5044/5234259585_4f0a67b544.jpg)

(http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7117/7815617882_d556b9444c.jpg)

Cherokee Arch. One of my favorite arches to visit. A winter and summer view. Red River Gorge.

(http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6229/6322567401_560769081a.jpg)

Massive limestone arch. Wayne County, Kentucky.

(http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6099/6272198105_588e58fc7d.jpg)

Coon Den Arch. Daniel Boone National Forest.

Those are just a few of my favorite off-trail arches. There are a few dozen more on my list to visit  8). I also need to visit several on-trail arches that I haven't checked out yet.

Looking through my photos of arches really made me appreciate what a beautiful landscape the Cumberland Plateau is -- and how lucky I've been to get to experience so much of it. Some of my most memorable backpacking trips have included stops at several of the arches pictured. A winter overnight trip near Cherokee Arch and a perfect fall backpacking trip that started with a trip to Morning Arch are especially pleasant to recall.

Hope you all are able to get out and check out some arches soon once with the pleasant weather of spring on the way. . . I'd love to hear any stories about off-trail adventures to arches and see any photos of off-trail arches from other KyWilderness posters.
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: CheeseyDean on February 25, 2013, 08:44:24 PM
Awesome pics. I haven't been to any of those, but I'm hoping to do some or all of them this Spring. Have you ever been to Turtleback Arch in the Gorge? We found it in August 2010, but when we tried to find it again in 2011 going along the same path, we were unable to. It's kind of concealed along a ridgetop.

(http://imageshack.us/a/img842/7282/img00062201008221344.jpg)
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Mark W on February 26, 2013, 02:17:57 PM
I've been to Turtleback Arch a handful of times, but have never taken any decent pictures of it. It's an awesome arch though!

Like you, I've had trouble remembering exactly where to skirt the ridge to get inside it. There is a good description of its location with GPS coordinates in Hinterlands by Jerrell Goodpaster and in Hiking Kentucky by Michael Brown.
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: copper creek on February 26, 2013, 05:01:35 PM
One of my favorite activities is finding one on the many off trail arches in KY.  I've never used a GPS device to find them, although I have plotted their coordinates on maps and then gone searching.  There are several that have taken me multiple tries to find and there are a few I've looked for and never found.  As an example, it took me two times to find Black John Arch.  However, I stumbled upon Mill Creek Arches, discovered a rock shelter with an old large wooden seive (probably used for illegal collection of artifacts), found an unamed arch/window, and got plenty of aerobic exercise rock scrambling and swimming through rhodo thickets prior to eventually finding Black John on the second attempt.  At Black John I was greeted by a grouse that flushed out from its hiding place within the arch.  It can be a bit frustrating when you don't find what you're looking for right off, but the fun is in the looking as much as in the finding.

(http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii318/coppercreek-bucket/001-5.jpg)

Black John Arch
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Mark W on February 27, 2013, 12:41:41 PM
Awesome picture of Black John Arch. I'm eager to visit that one, maybe this spring.

Thanks for the photo and story -- that's exactly what I was hoping people would post in this thread.

Like you, I've never used GPS in the woods for any of the arches I visit, just the "x on a spot on a map" approach which I really enjoy and don't see any reason to stray from. I know exactly what you mean about the frustration but also the joy in just looking even if you don't find it.

A friend and I had a really rough time finding the 40-foot sandstone spire with a window in it that is in my initial post . . .we had the GPS coordinate plotted on a map courtesy of a friend, had directions from him on the best way to get there, and still ended up pushing through briars, thick mountain laurel and downed trees for the better part of an hour to cover 2/10 of a mile to get there -- while checking the map about every five minutes. We nearly turned back but kept pushing on to reach a designated turn-back point at which we would admit defeat if we didn't find it (we still had a few miles to go get to our campsite and only about 2.5 hours of daylight). Luckily, we reached it and were able to admire the formation for awhile before returning to where we had ditched our backpacks and continued on to our campsite.  On our way out we "discovered" the simple ridgetop path and covered the same amount of ground in about 5 minutes  ::)
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: onemansadventure on May 08, 2013, 08:58:55 PM
Some stunning arches.  The spire is unreal.  Very cool finds!
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: sweeper on November 14, 2013, 05:17:23 PM
I need to visit this forum more often! Great photos. I will have to add Cherokee to my "must visit" list.

Anyone ever been out to Short Creek Arch?
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Mark W on November 17, 2013, 11:47:20 AM
I've been to Short Creek Arch once. It's a beautiful arch; some really striking pinks and purple in the sandstone. There is also an outstanding overlook on one of the ridges past the arch.

It's pretty easy to get turned around on those ridges out there . . . we got off track both on the way to the arch and on the way back.

Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: KeyserSoze on November 19, 2013, 10:02:33 PM
We tried to find Hopewell arch this past weekend.  There three separate groups there that day hunting arches around Copperas Creek.  None of us found Hopewell.  Judging from the picture, I don't think we were close at all.  I think the GPS point I have is just completely wrong.  How hard is it to find with a good GPS point?
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Bazinga on November 21, 2013, 07:43:21 AM
On a hot, wet & slippery day back in July, we tried to find hopewell arch...but didn't have any luck either (the hardest outing in the gorge yet).  But found snow arch & double deer arch later in the day.  Hope to get back to the "hunt" soon.
Haven't used a GPS, but wanting to get one for Christmas!!
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Mark W on November 21, 2013, 10:07:34 PM
We tried to find Hopewell arch this past weekend.  There three separate groups there that day hunting arches around Copperas Creek.  None of us found Hopewell.  Judging from the picture, I don't think we were close at all.  I think the GPS point I have is just completely wrong.  How hard is it to find with a good GPS point?

Gadzooks! Holy crowded wilderness Batman!  :o

I don't know what's more surprising to me -- that there were three (four?) separate groups trying to find Hopewell Arch on the same day, or that none of you all found it.  ;)

All good-natured kidding aside . . . I knew that "arch hunting" was getting about as popular as an obscure outdoor hobby with no organization or centralized community boasting place could be, but I never would've thought it was that popular. I've noticed the Copperas Creek area really increasing in popularity over the past few years, too. Guess it's the combination or arches, the waterfall and great camping. Plus the whole vibe there is just beautiful. Err . . . I mean people just enjoy braving the rattlesnakes, bears and impenetrable rhodo thickets mixed with briars and poison ivy . . . stay out of Copperas Creek, and the entire Red River Gorge for that matter, for your own safety. Do a Tough Mudder instead!

Maybe I'm just cantankerous, but I wouldn't really have been "happy" to run into three other groups "off-trail". Guess it just re-inforces my idea that when I want solitude I should probably head to places other than the RRG or go there on a weekday. I mean it's cool to see people out there enjoying nature but I don't know . . . just seems like those areas get beat down and abused looking with so many people trampling around. It's one of those weird Catch-22s where after so many people go there looking for arches there isn't any "looking" left for people a few years later, because a user-trail has been created and the whole attraction in the first place -- the search for a beautiful, hidden landform -- is gone. You just follow a trail. Maybe arch hunters should sprinkle Miracle Grow behind them so the vegetation grows back thicker than ever for those that come later? Just kidding.

Anyways, I don't know what to tell you man . . . Hopewell Arch isn't really any more or less difficult to find than any other arch if you know where it is on a map. When I went we had an accurate dot on our map of its location and arrived there without any undue difficulty. It's just about knowing where you are in relation to the dot on the map and then closing that gap using the path of least resistance.
Title: Re: Off-Trail Arches of the Cumberland Plateau
Post by: Bazinga on November 23, 2013, 08:05:01 AM
Visited cloud splitter (10/26) a beautiful fall day in the 50s.  Climbed on top & checked out the lookout at the end.  Then sat down on the path and ate lunch.  As we were packing our stuff away, two guys came over the hill.  So we were chatting with them and that's apparently when the bus dropped off all the sightseers, because climbing up the steep slope was an additional 20 or so other folk.  OMG!!! Grand Cental Station. LOL!!!!

BTW the view at cloud splitter is AWESOME!!!!!!