Into the Gorge…


Howdy folks! I meant to post sooner, but as there’s no internet access at my housing, I have to walk or cycle into town to get wifi. I guess this is a good thing, in that I am spared much of the chaos and political flame-wars of the internet, but it also means that my ability to keep up my posts will be rather limited.

I am very excited to be working in the beautiful Red River Gorge, with 3 other backcountry ranger interns to share the workload. On our first field work day, our supervisor took us to Indian Staircase, which is an unofficial, user-created trail. The views made the precarious climb well worth it:


The next day, we trekked Auxiere Ridge, which is a very popular designated trail route, with a spur trail to Double Arch.



We made good distance that day, hiking approximately 11 miles. Auxiere Ridge is one of the trails that receives a lot of use, and was the site of a fairly recent wildfire caused by negligent visitors. Part of our job as backcountry rangers is to provide navigational assistance to visitors, educate them about Leave No Trace principles using the Authority of the Resource, and to naturalise illegal campsites.

Bordering the Red River Gorge is the adjacent Clifty Wilderness, of some 13,000 acres. It is the home of rich conifer woodlands dominated by Canada Hemlock and Eastern White Pine.



Many of these trees are gigantic, reaching over 100 ft in height and probably over 200 years old.

Fortunately for me, I have made solid friendship with Charlie, who is a crosscut and chainsaw evaluator in the Cumberland Ranger District, and I will be receiving my crosscut certification in time. Right now I am looking forward to going out with his wilderness trail crew on April 8th.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” ~ John Muir


3 thoughts on “Into the Gorge…

  1. Hello Jay, A google image search turn up your photo of Sensitive fern fiddleheads. I would like to try some as they should be up soon in my area. You are the only one on the net I could find with eating experience. Will you share with me how you cook them and if you consider them safe to consume regularly over a few weeks and possibly freeze for later?


    1. Mr. Samuel Thayer at Forager’s Harvest also tried them…in fact, it was he I turned to because I couldn’t find any info on Sensitive Fern either. It is edible and certainly more palatable than Cinnamon fern fiddleheads. I cooked it in soups (light simmering for 15 minutes). Over a few weeks, they should be completely fine, I don’t remember Thayer telling me about any potential toxins in them. Indeed, I had many of them raw (4 a day) without any ill effects. They’re quite crispy raw :). You could try steaming them or lightly boiling them until tender and then freezing, or you could just freeze them as they are and then cook them later. Hope this helps 🙂


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