CORBIN, Ky. November is traditionally my least favorite month of the year. It’s the time of year when the last brilliants leaves of autumn are blown away and the grayness of winter begins to set in. It’s a time to be on the lookout for hunters, a time when even the trees themselves take on an air of cautious stillness.
The month often affords a few warm, sunny days though and the hiking or paddling can be grand. The fallen leaves have left hillsides barren, affording a different view of geological features normally hidden beneath the dense greenery. Familiar landscapes can become new and unfamiliar, and the improvement in visibility can encourage bushwhacking, adding a bit of adventure to an otherwise well-known hike.
But November can be depressingly gray. That’s why, in recent years I’ve been drawn to Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Ky. in the late fall and early winter to view the spectacularly colorful phenomenon known as a moonbow.
Late fall is a good time to see the elusive night rainbow because of the lack of foliage, which allows the moons rays to shine brightly from a wider angle onto the mist created by the plummeting 65 foot waterfall along the Cumberland River. The thunderous water spilling over rocky ledge blots out all other sound, making the eyes more aware of the colors emerging through the mist. It’s a surreal and mesmerizing scene, a true wonder of Kentucky that is not to be missed.
The best chances of seeing a moonbow are the two nights before a full moon, during a full moon and two nights after the full moon. Other conditions must be met however, including river flow, wind speed and direction, water clarity, and above all, a clear night sky. The moonbow isn’t the only nighttime early winter treat at the park. The stars are simply incredible too, due to the lack of polluting light. (The full moon will block out some of the farthest away stars, but its still worth turning your eyes to the heavens for a while.)
The historic Dupont Lodge, with its stunning views of the Cumberland river, solid Hemlock beams and giant stone fireplaces is an excellent place to spend a night or two. The lodge offers dining at the Riverview Restaurant and some of its 51 rooms are pet-friendly. The park also has a selection of one and two bedroom cottages along with its Woodland rooms, which are located adjacent to the lodge, and offer the privacy of cottage with daily maid service. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is located at 7351 Hwy. 90,Corbin, KY 40701. Reservations can be made online at parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/cumberland-falls/or by calling: Phone: (606) 528-4121
The area abounds with options for day hikes and wayside views. Venture into the nearby Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area for arches and rock formations.
Take the Big South Fork Railway from Stearns through the gorge to the mining camp at Blue Heron. The train ride is approximately two hours and includes a 30-minute stop at Blue Heron. Tickets range from $63.50 to $25.25 for adults, depending on accommodations chosen. Options range from riding in the Caboose to sitting in the engine with the engineer! In December, the railway offers the South Fork Santa Express trip, which is a 90-minute ride with Santa. For more info and dates visit: http://www.bsfsry.com/train-excursions/run-to-the-gorge.