For the past few summers some friends and I have taken a summer bike trip. Most of these have been out of state rail-trail tours such as the Little Miami Trail in Ohio or the iconic GAP & C&O from Pittsburgh to D.C. However with Covid out of state trips seem risky and can require 2 week quarantines upon entering a new state which puts a damper on a short tour. This summer we decided to explore our own backyard and ride into the Daniel Boone National Forest for several days of riding and bike-camping.
The crew for this trip was my buddy Dean (who’s been with me on every tour either of us have done) and Austin (another dear friend but our first time touring together). We started the trip from Austin's Farm in a small town named Winchester outside of Lexington to cut some more trafficked roads off the trip. The riding from the farm was mostly nice country roads and mostly downhill with a couple minor climbs. When we reached the midway point we stopped at a gas station to refuel with snacks and electrolytes and the road flattened out, but also got more busy as we went through Clay City and Stanton.
The riding was a little stressful for that stretch with narrow roads and moderate traffic but we all commented on being surprised at how respectful most of the drivers were. Once we got out of Stanton we crossed the Red River (the Red River Gorge’s namesake) and crossed the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway, which is the major highway most people use to get to the Gorge. From there on out it was absolutely beautiful riding on one lane roads with little to no traffic. We had been told by our friend Adam (one of the owners of our favorite local bike shop: Broomwagon) who’d done an extended version of the route from Lexington that the riding once we passed the Mountain Parkway was some of his favourite in the area. We thoroughly enjoyed that section and were able to successfully outpace the one dog who chased us.
We got to the turn off for Indian Creek and with the pavement ending despite riding all day in 90 degree weather I found a second wind. It was great to be surrounded by the forest and so close the water. We decided to take another break to eat and spend some time in the creek to cool down. After our break in the creek and a quick snack we decided to push on to our final destination. The ride the rest of the way in was primarily set-in hardpack through tree tunnels lit by the late afternoon sun. We saw a couple campsites that were already taken but the one we were headed too was a mile and a half from the nearest car accessible location and through increasingly rougher conditions. After the first creek crossing it turned to forest doubletrack and after the second and third increasingly overgrown singletrack.
The campsite we were headed to was one we found on a ride on an unseasonably warm January day at the beginning of the year. I had camped there once before on an unseasonably cold day in the beginning of March for my birthday bikepacking trip but I was excited to be able to take advantage of the site’s incredible swimming hole. We got to camp and immediately headed back to the water but after cooling down and resting, we got camp set up and were excited to have completed our first day of riding.