Over the weekend, I took the Beemer on a short excursion to the Red River Gorge Geological Area located to the southeast of Lexington, KY. I was hoping to catch the last of the fall foliage. Traffic through the area was minimal. The temperature may have had something to do with it. In the sunshine, the temps rarely crossed out of the upper 40's. At night, they dipped into the high 30's. While the leaves have passed their peak, enough of the fire of Autumn still clings to the branches to make the ride worthwhile.
The Nada Tunnel runs an east/west route into the heart of the Gorge. Originally cut through the rock with steam-powered drills, dynamite, and hand tools, the tunnel was completed in 1911 and was the only through way to the Gorge's interior. The tunnel was designed to accommodate 25 and 35 ton locomotives used to haul timber from the interior to the saw mill at Clay City. The Clay City mill, at one time, was the largest in the eastern United States.
According to local lore, only one man was killed during the construction of the railway tunnel. Apparently, he attempted to thaw several sticks of frozen dynamite by the heat of his campfire and well. . .
The tunnel is 900' long, around 20' in height, and 15' wide. The excavation crews began the project in 1910 and completed it in a little over a year in 1911. Given the tools of the times, the tunnel is a marvel of early 20th century engineering.
As a gateway into the Red River Gorge, the Nada Tunnel prepares the eye for the stunning vistas of the rock formations and blaze of Autumn color that lies beyond. The valley in which the Red River flows has been home to human beings for over 14,000 years; the earliest evidence of people living in the region can be found in the artifacts they left behind in cliff shelters. As I threaded my way along the narrow road under fading trees, listening to the river shush it's way through the valley, I wondered what I would leave behind for others to find. Perhaps only an echo of my passing, lone horse and it's rider.