When I first heard I was going to Hazard, KY I was slightly skeptical as I had never heard of the place. Devin joked that it was the town from the Dukes of Hazard... turns out it's not.... but it's equally as remote and rural. My local colleagues as Census however were thrilled to have a few folks from DC coming out, and expressed how essential it was to google the area and plan to visit some of the surrounding lands.
My flight from DC flew into Lexington, KY which is the closest airport to Hazard. From there I had to rent a car and drive just over 2 hours to the town of Hazard. I searched the route prior to leaving and noticed that the route crosses directly through Daniel Boone National Forest and Natural Bridge State Park. A few google searches later and I knew I had to make some pit stops.
About 30 minutes into the drive East from Lexington I finally saw what my heart has constantly been missing: the view of a mountainous horizon. I practically giggled with excitement as I got closer and closer to the foothills and the mountains. It only took me about an hour to get to Natural Bridge State Park and even though my reception was low so GPS was spotty, I was able to find the park entrance rather easily due to the signage everywhere.
Upon entering there are two options: turning right will take you to the ski lift that can take you straight up to the bridge (unfortunately this was closed for maintenance) or a few trails that are longer (1.5-2 miles) to get up to the bridge. Turning left will take you to the lodging area, gift shops, and trailheads to the shorter trails (.75-1.25 miles) that get you to the bridge. Because this was a last minute decision on my part I took the 'Original Trail' which is just under a mile up due to improper footwear and shortage of time.
Although a short trail it was still a rather moderately-ranked trail as it was basically just straight up the entire time. There were a few series of manmade staircases followed by graveled hills which successfully had me short of breath a bit! Nonetheless I got to the top in about 20 minutes and took in the beauty of the bridge. I explored the base of it a bit and had the opportunity to see a few wood peckers and other interesting wildlife. From below the bridge seems absolutely massive; it's an amazing sight to see.
But, what's even more amazing is the view from the top! It's a bit tricky to get from the base to the top due to a very narrow staircase and path between two huge boulders, but if you're able to squeeze through you'll be absolutely blown away. The views were incredible as you can see from the photos. I took some time to just sit, reflect, and feel extremely blessed that I have opportunities like this.
After a quick descend I hopped back into my rental car and made the rest of the drive to Hazard, KY where I'll be for the next 2 days. Stay tuned for the people I meet and the things I learn in a town that is very new to me and different from what I'm used to!