Last Friday was my golden birthday - that’s when you turn the age of your date of birth. So, you guessed it, I turned 27. I wrote a blog piece on how I feel about turning this age and everything leading up to it, if you want to check it out. But one thing that I have learned over the years of existence is that I am the creator of my own happiness. I had hoped for a long while that someone would throw me a surprise party, but with the fear that I’d be let down, I planned my own birthday weekend celebration. I decided that I wanted to go to Red River Gorge in Kentucky.
A total of 7 of my closest friends (including cousins) opted in for this adventure of a weekend, which made my heart happy. Even my cousin from Colorado flew in Thursday night, with only a 5 hour delay (sarcasm).
On Friday (April 27th), I woke up early to do the finishing touches on packing and ensure that I had everything I needed to go to the cabin I rented in Red River Gorge. Then my three other cousins showed up and started loading the car. Little did I know that they were also decorating the inside AND outside of the car. Balloons and gold stars lined the inside and the back window said “Honk 4 Birthday Girl.” They even got me a cake!
The 4.5 hour drive to Louisville seemed to take forever to me. Usually the drive flies by, but I never really drove it WITH other people in the car before. But, we finally got to Louisville and met up for lunch with my other friends who were joining. Because it was my birthday, I went to my fave Mexican place, El Nopal (the Pollo con Arroz [a.k.a. chicken and rice smothered with cheese] is killer).
After lunch and our grocery store run for the weekend, we were off to the cabin. Of course the cabin I rented didn’t have an exact address because it was located on someone’s large amount of private property. But, we were up for the challenge. And a challenge it was. We followed written directions that took us everywhere but our cabin and we all ended up getting lost. Luckily the phone number the cabin company left us worked and they led us to our weekend home. The hills to get there were crazy on this one lane gravel road, with hard twists and turns and extremely steep hills.
We finally arrived and the place was better than I expected. There were 2 waterfalls on the property - one directly behind the house and the other about a hundred yards away. We unpacked and my friends decorated the place (including an inflatable golden swan!) while my cousins and I explored the land and foraged for firewood. That evening my friend cooked us all a mighty dinner of salmon and mashed potatoes then we continued the stuffing with birthday cake.
My dad got this really awesome candle he wanted me to use on my birthday. It’s this flower that opens up and sings happy birthday. What happened towards the end freaked us all out and wasn’t supposed to happen.
The next day we woke up to an egg, sausage, and hash brown frittata my friend made. We all got ready for hiking and I packed us some sandwiches and apples. The majority of my friends and cousins who came had never been to Red River Gorge, so I wanted to hike something that wasn’t too long, but was also scenic. Which is why I picked Indian Staircase.
Indian Staircase is an “unmarked” trail off of Bison Trail in Red River Gorge (RRG), though it’s heavily traveled. I think RRG doesn’t claim it as a trail because of the rock structure you have to climb. The weather was perfect this day - sunny with few clouds and a high of 65.
Once we finally made it to the base of the rock structure to climb, two of my friends stayed behind. I was proud of them for knowing their limits. Then, about halfway up, two more decided that was their limit of height. I carried on with three others and we made it to the top. The wind felt nice on our sweaty backs as we explored the top for a while. Then we decided to head back down to meet up with everyone. Surprisingly, getting down the rock structure was easier than climbing up.
We hiked out while taking photos on the way. Our group decided that we were done hiking trails for the day (Indian Staircase definitely took it out of us), and we drove out of the gorge. We made two stops on the way back to our cabin. One stop was at the natural spring - fresh, clean, and cold drinkable water comes out of this rock and it’s been tradition to fill up your water bottles. Actually the locals get their drinking water from that spring. They go there and fill up on it often. The second stop was at the best pizza place in Kentucky called Miguel’s. I’m sure it’s only “the best” tasting because you’re exhausted from a hike, but it’s fresh, served by the 2 slice, and made to order.
Two of my cousins and I weren’t done hiking and exploring when we all got back to the cabin, so we ended up hiking around the property we were staying on. With some creeks and waterfalls, there was a ton to explore. While out, we found a crazy looking red and black striped centipede. It was about ¾” thick. We also found a really awesome mushroom, some abandoned campsites, an abandoned road, and even a randomly built structure in the side of a cliff. We couldn’t get up the structure, but we tried a ton.
That evening was filled with white chicken chili for dinner while we made the best bonfire out back. After dinner and drinks at the fire, it was smores time. Maybe it was due to a long, exhausting day, but that smore was the best smore I’ve ever had. We continued drinking that night and all played games together, not wanting the weekend to end.
Sunday morning, I decided to wake up early and go on a walk around the property. I reflected on how amazing this past year has been and how life’s twists and turns have made me proud of who I am today. I chatted with God and thanked Him for all the crazy blessings I have in my life and just caught up with Him.
The cabin asked us to be out by 11am, so once I got back from my walk, we all cleaned and packed up. It was a bittersweet morning, but I think most were ready to crash back home in their beds. We all said our farewells and once the cars were loaded, I had to drive my friend’s car up the crazy steep hill because she didn’t trust herself.
On the way out with my four cousins in the car, we decided to make an impromptu stop and hike at the Natural Bridge. Since we only did one hike on Saturday, I was so happy when everyone was down for one last hike. The all uphill hike took us about 30-45 minutes and was definitely worth the view. When we got back to the car, we actually did a group stretch session because we were all so sore.
Our last stop in the gorge was a gift shop to be tourists for a minute. We each got something to remember the trip from, then we were on our way. With tunes blasting and cars passing us with honks (because of the windshield that said “Honk 4 Birthday Girl”), we were excited to get home. We stopped at Culver’s for lunch, which is only memorable because some guy rolled up in his huge Ford truck and asked “whose birthday is it?” Then he honked his horn, which made us all jump and scream out of fear because it was a freight train horn. Goodness it was loud - but so fun and great.
This birthday has been the best yet. I am so happy and blessed to have friends and family that want to celebrate and enjoy time with me. I’m thankful for the perfect weather that we had and the perfect cabin with waterfalls! Just reminds me how much I love Kentucky.