“What time is it?” grammi asked. “It’s almost midnight,” I said without hesitation. “Do you see anything? “ No, not yet,” I replied. Although gathered on a small platform below, I could see the silhouettes of dozens of people. From the overlooks above, was an occasional flash of light from a camera or cell phone briefly illuminating the rocks below. But that wasn’t what grammi was wondering I saw. From behind us more people were pushing in on the platform that we were on squeezing us up against the railing. Grammi and I arrived early to find a spot upfront along the railing but are now troubled by this uncomfortable feeling. Hundreds of people staring into the darkness toward the sound of crashing, turbulent water.
“Where is the moon?” I heard from someone standing behind me. “It’s behind the trees, I replied. “It doesn’t seem very bright,” said another person. “No, I think it might be behind a cloud”, I said while turning to look up over my shoulder at the sky. The moon is paramount for this rare phenomena of nature. Conditions must be perfect. Last night we didn’t even try coming here because of the cloud cover, but we are hoping for clearer skies tonight.
There is a window beginning two nights prior to a full moon and ending two nights after. That’s it, five nights every lunar cycle when the light is bright enough for a moonbow. Tonight is the last chance for us to see this elusive event. Moonbows differ from rainbows because the light source is from the moon rather than the sun. There are only a few places on earth where this rare event can be seen. One of those locations is here in Kentucky at Cumberland Falls. People come from all over with the hope of seeing this event.
According to the tables published by the park, tonight’s prime viewing is between 11:30PM – 1:30AM. This is when the moon would be at the desired angle. As the evening moved to morning, people began to leave. First it was parents who brought their small children out at this late hour. Then it was those that tired from standing for so long. Finally it was those more sensible than us. Eventually grammi and I were the only ones left on the overlook platform. Maybe it was our foolish determination that kept us there until nearly 2:00AM or maybe it’s an inherent dislike of failure. Either way, we held out hope for a small glimpse. Our resolve was futile, though. A thin layer of upper level clouds was enough to spoil our chances. There would be no moonbow tonight.
Cumberland Falls, known as Little Niagara, is within a state park of the same name. We are at site 14 at the Ridgeline campground. The sites are short with most sites only accommodating campers less than a twenty-two foot. We had one of the longer sites for our twenty-five foot travel trailer. It was close but we managed to get in, though the back of the trailer was hanging over the ridge. Having just left a campground this morning filled with fifth-wheels and class A RV’s, I chuckled as I was reminded of the story of “Gulliver’s Travels”. We are now the biggest in the campground.
Even though we missed out on seeing a moonbow there is still plenty of reason to be in the area. Cumberland Falls was roaring and was just a spectacular site. We explored the different overlooks changing our perspective taking a picture at each one. We had booked a boat tour to get up close to the falls but unfortunately it was canceled due to the unusually high water.
There are many hiking trails in the park. We went on a challenging hike down a steep, thickly wooded ridge climbing over rocks and crossing over a log bridge, hewed flat on one side, spanning a fast moving creek. We made our way down to the Cumberland River where we continued along the bluff enjoying the views and sounds of the whitewater below. The trail turned and went back up the ridge, passing under rock ledges, where we finish the two and a half mile loop.
One evening we went to the DuPont Lodge for a quiet dinner. We got a table next to the window of a glass enclosed terrace overlooking the Cumberland River. The food was a bit of a disappointment but the views from the terrace were scenic and worthwhile.
On another day we traveled about thirty minutes to see Yahoo Falls. It was yet another beautiful hike to a 113 foot water falls. There are a few metal stairs to climb or maybe descend depending on which way you travel around the loop. The water flowing over the falls comes from a small stream that you will walked over. Though it isn’t a lot of water flowing over the falls, it is still one of my favorite waterfall hikes. The trail leads around the backside of the falls into a large cave-like rock shelter. It was an awesome sight and I felt small inside it. Grammi and I were all alone here and took our time climbing around the rocks. There was a trail leading to the pool at the bottom of the falls where you can stand under the falling water. I gave it serious consideration on this hot summer day but regretfully passed up the opportunity.
After leaving Yahoo Falls we went to Natural Arch Scenic Area. A mostly paved one mile trail leads to the fifty foot high by one hundred foot long natural sandstone arch. Along the trail is an overlook for viewing the arch. There is a trail passing under the arch and continuing around the outer perimeter. Part of the area is considered sacred ground by the Cherokee Indians and is fence off. It is a pretty cool natural wonder and shouldn’t be missed if in the area. I enjoyed spending a little time there exploring and taking in the sites.
Not far from Cumberland Falls is Corbin, Kentucky where the famous Colonel Sanders first started his fried chicken restaurant and my not so famous aunt and uncle live. We were grateful to spend a day visiting Tom and Wanda. We talked and reminisced for a while before Wanda made us lunch. Then they took us for a drive to show us the nearby area of Laurel River Lake with it’s many camping and boating facilities. Tom, an avid hunter, wanted to show us his favorite hunting area. Deep, deep in the backwoods of Kentucky we slowly bounce through the washouts and potholes of a dirt road. It was not a road I would go down alone, but I was now glad to be experiencing this adventure. It is here where Tom would bring his hunting dogs to do what he has done his whole life and at the age of ninety-one still does. It is good to see there are still places left in this world where people can find solitude and enjoy being outdoors.
A lot of the locals we have talked to this week kept recommending Bubby’s BBQ so when Wanda suggested it for dinner we were all in. It is a huge buffet with a ton of different choices. Why is there a tendency to over eat at buffets? I certainly did. The food was good and hard to resist wanting to try everything. I recommend the cobbler for dessert.
Tom and Wanda are always kind a gracious host. They go all out to make sure you have an enjoyable visit. My daughters still talk about a visit when they were younger where they picked berries while riding a four wheeler and went shooting targets with a .22 rifle. As we said good-bye, Tom’s says, “ Come back and visit again. You’re welcome anytime and if I only have a biscuit, I’ll give you half”. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all so kind.
One thought on “Moonbow”
I have to confess I have never heard of a moon bow. But the effort to see one sounds worthwhile. You are getting a good workout with your hiking and walking. The pictures of the park and waterfalls were great and I made a mental note to someday make the trip. Looks like I will need to print-off your writings and keep them for a future trip.