Family schedules for Mother’s Day weekend played out in a way that it was easier to have the local Mother’s Day gathering on Saturday evening in lieu of the typical Sunday morning brunch. That actually left me with a wide open Sunday afternoon schedule as “The Boss” had to work to make up for taking off Saturday. As soon as she mentioned that to me, I took one glance at the forecast and the route planning gears went in motion.
After spending several of the previous weekends “At The Red”, I decided this wide open afternoon that I was overdue to see Half Moon Rock up close. Per usual, just after first light I burned down US-68 to Maysville where I could finally find myself in the comforting curves of the Bluegrass State as I worked my way down toward the gorge. Once in Flemingsburg, I circumvented most of the major towns by picking up Kentucky Highway 111. Rolling and bending through Kentucky Amish country, 111 embodies what was once the quaint two-lane KY-11, which has since been “straightened” for convenience. From 111 it was a small handful of other numbered roads as I finally picked up KY-211 and KY-36 as the Appalachian foot hills began to appear in the distance. From Frenchburg I had to decide if I wanted to head west through town and use the rural backroads to get into the Gorge or if I wanted to twist down KY-77. The thought of backcountry solitude was quite alluring, but I couldn’t resist the urge to rail the Scrambler down 77, hoping the traffic would be light on the holiday weekend. 77 was a good choice, I found myself completely alone for the 9 miles from US-460 to KY-715.
Once inside the gorge, the story was completely different, I was shocked at how much traffic there was on 715. Apparently Mother’s Day is the day you take mom on a trip to see the gorgeous Kentucky cliffs, more power to you, but it was unquestionably the worst congestion I’ve dealt with inside the gorge. Fortunately, once on the Chimney Rock access road, it was 4 miles of gravel where many travelers won’t venture. Just short of the Chimney Rock trail turnaround, the adventure really began.
I caught a video a while back of a guy climbing up Half Moon Rock. I admit that I hadn’t made the venture before now having seen how difficult the assent would be; fortunately, aside from being solo, the weather was nice and time was on my side so it was time to have a go at it. The walk toward “the point” is not all that different from the trail down to Chimney Top Rock. As you near the backside of the Half Moon Rock, all of that changes. Stepping down several yards of tree roots, you arrive at a section of exposed sandstone. You actually have to “shimmy” along a narrow rock, using both hands to get to the base of Half Moon Rock. From there, you need to use a series of hand and foot holds to climb up a 5 foot section of the rock, and then another series of shorter “obstacles” to get to the top. This journey is unquestionably not for the faint of heart, and obviously not for anyone who remotely has a fear of heights. The edge of the cliff is never far away, and looking down is not recommended for anyone with a weak stomach. However, once above the trees, you have an unobstructed, 360 degree view of the gorge. Chimney Top Rock has officially been dethroned as Half Moon Rock is now my favorite view in Red River Gorge.
While it looked especially precarious, getting down was actually easier than up. There are several locations where you can actually see where a number of people have deliberately “slid” down the sandstone on their backside. Once back on the bike, I headed over to Grandma’s for a surprise mother’s day visit. It was an absolutely glorious day in Appalachian Kentucky, clear skies, coffee on the porch, and a chit chat with Grandma; I couldn’t ask for anything else.