Getting Away into Natural Bridge, Kentucky: The ultimate kind of Rebellion, Kindness, and Defiance

April is my birthday month and is always a positive benchmark for me. It’s always been my favorite month with all the life that returns from a long winter, and I always use the month as my own gauge into successes that need to be celebrated and things that need to be improved. But as a treat to myself, I wanted to go on a camping trip to Natural Bridge with as many of my family who could go and get off the grid for a few days in a place I grew up enjoying. My grandparents were from that region of Slade, Kentucky; during prohibition, my grandpa and his family ran moonshine, which I respect. I view moonshine differently than drug dealing for several reasons, even though I dislike intoxication of any kind all the time. I like to see independent and free people pushing back against a tyrannical government, and during prohibition, the government was out of control and deserved to have pushback, and that my grandfather and his father certainly did. Currently, we have a very dangerous government that is way beyond acceptable tyrannical tolerance, so for my birthday, I wanted to revisit a state park from my youth nicely nestled in the foothill mountains of the Appalachians and recharge. Over the last few years, my favorite mode of travel has been RV camping, so I wanted to take ours and live out of it for a few days, which is precisely what we did, and it was a wonderful experience. One of my sons-in-law brought their own camper, so we had a nice little family get-together down in the hills of Natural Bridge, Kentucky, and get away from the government for a bit.

Slade, Kentucky, where the Natural Bridge State Park and the world-famous Red River Gorge are located, is unusual because they have a particular hostility toward big government. Many census takers have found it impossible to do their job because the local residents simply don’t like government. So when you want to get away from big government and deal with people in a traditional Christian background setting in the Bible Belt, there aren’t many places in the world better. I’ve been to Natural Bridge a lot over my life, especially as a little kid. It’s been about ten years since my last visit. It’s not that it’s hard to get to; it’s very close to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I live. But my schedule has been busy; since my last visit, I have traveled around the world a few times, been to many countries, and experienced unique cultures. My opinion about the Slade, Kentucky region isn’t for lack of knowing anything else. But instead, it’s because I’ve seen a lot of other places that I appreciate that one of the best travel destinations there is, in my opinion, one that I knew well from my youth, was literally in my own backyard. It was a lucky experience to have, out of all the places in the world I could have gone, to have such a relationship with literally one of the best places there is. Our camping trip was wonderful, we had a nice campsite nestled in the hills, and we lived off the bare minimums and were able to let the world go for a bit, which was the present I wanted to give myself this year for a well-deserved birthday.

My wife and I started RV camping during Covid, and we will likely never do anything else again. I like hauling around my hotel room, bathroom, and refrigerator. It makes traveling so much better to step away from the grid as much as possible. I have a TV in my RV that we can stop and have a snack to take a break from driving and relax. Camper traveling with an RV has been a great experience, so doing that kind of camping at Natural Bridge brought together parts of the world that are favorites. It was all a gratifying experience. A lot of my family was able to come along, so it was nice to be around them and celebrate life while stepping away from the world of problems that traditionally come from government interference in our lives. Living out of a camper for a week in April of 2023 was enormously rewarding and recharged my spirit considerably. As a family, we had a good trip, and we were all grateful to have it. 

My wife and I had an interesting experience, a few actually, but one that reminded us just how good the world is without government in it. And people still live and get along without the stupid government imposing themselves into our lives. People left alone by government tend to do the right things without having a parental authoritarian in the form of government looming over our shoulders. For example, we went into town for some ingredients for smores and other snacks. And one of the items we needed was more firewood. So we were going to pick some up from a gas station down by the Mountain Parkway with a nice store. But the nice clerk there was a mountain woman from Appalachia, of course, and she told us that the wood that the gas station was selling was too expensive and you didn’t get very much. So she told us to go down the road around 400 yards to a tire mechanic with a little shed behind a Subway restaurant. He was selling a whole-wheel barrel of firewood for ten bucks. So we went down there to see him, and he loaded us up with firewood for our campsite. He had a rough mountain man accent; I would have needed subtitles to understand what he said. But we paid him the ten dollars, and he gave me a very large wheel barrel of wood to load into the back of our hatchback.

We couldn’t understand each other, but we quickly became good friends. That region is famous for many campfires, so he has many customers for his little enterprise due to the many campers who come to climb the world-famous Red River Gorge. It’s kind of a hippie culture, the rock climbers. More libertarian than anything. We probably wouldn’t agree on presidential picks or even drug usage. But we all do share a love of independence. Many of them come and camp with four people in a one-person dome tent with hundreds of others who can barely rub two dimes together in their pockets. And I find them refreshing, especially at Miguel’s Pizza, where they hang out. I’ve had pizza from everywhere, and the pizza they have at Miguel’s is a real treat. It was wonderful to pick some of it up and take it back to our campsite, where I had my reading chair set up next to the fire as all the kids played and enjoyed each other, and I had a stack of books to read well into the night as the sun set outlining the mountain tops and the dark sky stars made themselves obvious. It was a nice place to be, and it was certainly a great birthday present for me. No matter how much money you throw at recreation, it never gets better than that. 

Rich Hoffman

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