He is Risen!!!

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” ~Luke 24:1-7 ESV

Wishing you a blessed and happy Easter!

Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.

Rocky S2V Ambassador!

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The past couple of weeks have been quite eventful for me, to say the least. After the ambassadorship with UST Brands announced last week, this Thursday I was contacted by Rocky S2V (Smart, Strong, Versatile) about joining their team of ambassadors. Once again, little time was required for me to formulate my response, another quick and hearty, “Yes!”

Rocky has been well known for making top quality boots for the military and outdoorsmen since WWII, and in recent years they have adapted and expanded their line into an “integrated system of outdoor apparel, footwear, and outdoor essentials.” I have already had the opportunity to try out a couple of items from this product line the Agonic Mid-Layer Jacket and Dead Reckoning Trek Pants I am wearing in the photo. The Agonic has already become my every day spring jacket and go to for hiking on cooler days. Given the great performance of these items, I am really looking forward to putting the rest of their gear through the paces.

One other thing that makes this such an exciting opportunity for me, aside from Rocky’s well-known name and long-standing reputation for quality and ruggedness, is the fact that they are based in Nelsonville, right here in my home state of Ohio. They are just a couple hour’s drive from home, and also quite near one of Ohio’s scenic treasures, Hocking Hills State Park. Somehow I sense a visit to ROCKY BRANDS™, Inc. and a hike at Hocking Hills may soon be in the making; I can’t wait!

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Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.

Todd the Hiker

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.

UST Ambassador!

UST Ambassador Announcement

Back in late January I filled out an application for the Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) Ambassador program as part of a gear contest I entered online, which by the way I won (see photo below). In mid-February I learned I was a finalist, and this past Monday afternoon I received a direct message on Twitter asking me if I was still interested in becoming one of UST’s ambassadors. Needless to say my response was a quick and hearty, “Yes!”

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A plethora of pink survival products I won in UST’s Valentine’s Day contest. Let’s just say these are going in Leah the Hiker’s backpack, not mine!

I see this as a great opportunity to test and learn more about all the great survival gear UST has to offer, but it is also a way to reach out to a much broader audience, encouraging more people to get outdoors and enjoy God’s amazing creation, and at the same time sharing information about products and skills that will help get them home safely.

As the welcome packet reads, “UST Ambassadors are outdoor enthusiasts across the globe who are already living the ‘UST lifestyle.’” I am honored to be chosen as one of this amazing group of outdoor adventurers, and am excited to work with UST and this awesome team!

Todd the Hiker

Disclaimer:  Even though I have partnered with UST Brands to help promote their products and will be compensated for my time commitment, my opinions will remain entirely my own and I am not getting paid to publish positive comments.

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.

Kentucky’s Red River Gorge – Indian Staircase

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Featured Image: View of Indian Staircase from across the valley.

Located about 45 minutes southeast of Lexington, Kentucky, and an easy two to two-and-a-half hour drive from Cincinnati, Ohio, Red River Gorge is a popular hiking and rock climbing destination in the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Officially known as the Red River Gorge Geological Area, it is part of the much larger Daniel Boone National Forest.

Red River Gorge boasts some of the most unique and rugged scenery in the region and is also home to over 100 natural rock arches from the small but interesting, to large and magnificent. Spectacular views like the header photo of Indian Staircase taken from across the valley are common throughout the gorge.

Hiking in Red River Gorge

There are numerous official trails in the gorge and sticking to these marked trails is a good idea if you are new to the area, an inexperienced hiker, or are hiking with young children. Even the official trails can be rugged and difficult. There are numerous high cliffs with no guard rails throughout the area, so no matter how experienced you are or what trail you are on, exercise great caution. Steep drop-offs are often unseen until you are right on top of them; and if you are hiking with children keep them close by your side at all times! My blog’s “Kentucky’s Red River Gorge” page provides more information on the gorge and also highlights several of our favorite hikes ranging from easy to difficult.

For more experienced, knowledgeable, and confident hikers the gorge offers great opportunities to explore challenging, spectacular, unofficial trails like those around Indian Staircase. Many of these trails are not suitable for children, and climbing Indian Staircase is at the top of that list in my book. Some adults may also be intimidated trying to climb the staircase. Fortunately, those who do not feel adventurous can still explore the area above Indian Staircase, you just have to hike a little farther and double back on the return trip unless you somehow gain the confidence along the way to attempt the downward climb.

Hiking Indian Staircase

Red River Gorge - Indian Staircase (Trail Map)

Figure 1. Map of Indian Arch and vicinity.

Good topographic maps are a must if you are venturing off the official, marked trails in the gorge. I am a big fan of the map set offered by OutrageGIS, though the 2009 edition I use does not cover the trails around Indian Staircase. I do not know if the 2013 edition has been updated to include this area. For this hike I relied on the US Forest Service’s 2012 topographic map of the gorge (note: this is a 20 MB .pdf file and is a slow download). This is a good map, but it does not show any of the unofficial trails, though I have sketched in the relevant trails on the modified map section shown in Figure 1. The best source of information for this hike was Jerrell Goodpaster’s book, “Hinterlands,” which describes over 100 unofficial trails in the gorge.

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Bison Way Trailhead.

There are several ways to access Indian Staircase if you know the unofficial trails. We chose to park at the Bison Way trailhead along KY-715, near the Gladie Learning Center. We hiked the Bison Way Trail (#210) to the Sheltowee Trace (#100) and followed that west to the unofficial, unmarked approach trail to Indian Staircase. The approach trail is well traveled so it is not too difficult to find the cutoff or follow the trail itself.

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Start of the Indian Staircase Trail. On the day we were there someone had scratched out an arrow in the dirt indicating the way to Indian Staircase.

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Two views of the rock scramble approaching Indian Staircase.

The approach trail climbs rapidly, heading northwest off the main trail. After a bit of uphill hiking you reach a rugged dry wash area that requires a scramble up the rocks. After completing this scramble there are several short sections that require a bit of searching in order to find the best way up to the next level. In my opinion the most intimidating part of climbing the staircase for the first time is that your sight range is often limited and you cannot see what lies ahead.

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Carved footholds in the smooth sandstone face of Indian Staircase.

The final element of intimidation, though, is the fully exposed scramble up the smooth sandstone rock face with only the shallow carved footholds to assist you. This, of course, is the section of the trail that gives the rock formation its name. As legend has it these indentations were carved by the Adena people over a thousand years ago, though their true age and origin is likely lost to the annals of history. The slope is not as steep as it first seems, and the climb does not take ropes or climbing gear, but the completely exposed face adds a major intimidation factor. No matter how comfortable you might feel on exposed rock slopes, I would not recommend this climb if it is wet or icy!

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Council Chamber rock shelter.

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Frog’s Head Rock, sadly defaced by budding sculptors over the years.

Even if you do not climb the staircase itself, it is still worth taking the long way around to get to the top by following the Sheltowee Trace and coming in from the west. There are a number of great features to explore in the area above the staircase including a spectacular, large rock shelter known as the Council Chamber, and an interesting little rock formation called the Frog’s Head. Regardless of which route you follow, I also recommend taking the unofficial side trail (one mile round trip) out to Adena Arch which boasts some spectacular views of its own.

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Adena Arch.

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Indian Arch, on the return hike along the Sheltowee Trace.

There are more areas we did not have time to explore on this hike, including the area on top and to the east of the staircase, as well as some interesting sounding features a friend told me about that are beyond the point we turned back near the Council Chamber rock shelter. I look forward to another hike on this route, not only to venture into these unexplored areas, but also to give the staircase a better assessment without the first-time intimidation factor, and to take more photographs documenting the climb. For now, I hope this gives you enough information to find your way on this adventurous hike and that my photographs will inspire you to make the trip to explore this spectacular little corner of Red River Gorge!

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.