Why had I never heard of this place? I’d lived in Virginia and North Carolina for the past 40 years. So I started asking around and only one of my friends had heard of it. He had been born and raised in southwestern Virginia. Earlier this year when we were staying in central Virginia (see post on Along the Crooked Road) I’d picked up my usual armload of brochures. Tucked in the back of one were pictures and short descriptions of other parks in the general area. There was a photo of Breaks Canyon in all its Fall beauty. I decided that was where I wanted to go this Fall.
Breaks Canyon lies on the Virginia/Kentucky border near Haysi, VA and Elkmont, KY. The surrounding Breaks Interstate Park is jointly operated by both states. It offers a choice of housing options with RV and tent sites, cabins and a lodge. Breaks Interstate Park and Palisades Interstate Park (NY/NJ) are the only two interstate parks in the USA.
Our drive up from North Carolina per the GPS should have been 3 1/2 hours but took us 5 hours due to the very windy roads. Now I understand why my friend had said “have fun getting up there” Twice we had to stop and choose a detour when we hit signs saying NO Trucks Allowed Next XX Miles On Route Such and Such. At that time I was still following Steve in the Subaru so we communicated via walkie talkies. Once when we pulled over Steve found a twenty dollar bill on the ground as he came over to discuss our alternate route. NO! I won’t believe you if you say that’s where you lost it.
We had chosen an RV site with electric, water and sewer for our 8 day stay. As with other Virginia parks your reservation guarantees a space suitable for your RV size and requested services but not a specific site. We’d found out the hard way in 2011 that arriving on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday was preferable to Friday. Even with this large campground many of the best sites were already taken by Wednesday afternoon. We picked what we thought would be a good site, backed in and set up. Then we found that the sewer connection was higher than the exit from the trailer. As they say S— doesn’t flow up hill! With only 8 days here that was no problem. When we were ready to leave, Steve would move the trailer back to dump. Even that didn’t work very well. So we’ve learned one more thing to check before choosing a camping spot.
The 5 mile long Breaks Canyon is formed by the Russell Fork River and plunges from 830 feet to 1,600 feet deep thus forming the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. Was Daniel Boone the first white man to see this wonder? So legend has it that he first laid eyes on it in 1767. We arrived to find the Fall color just beginning and thought we probably would miss the peak. Then almost overnight the color popped. This has to be one of the prettiest places for Fall color I’ve ever seen.
Most of our hiking was done on the Overlook Trail along the rim or on the Prospectors Trail about 150 feet down into the canyon. Including distances to the trailhead and detours for photos we’d usually hike about 4 miles. Although rated moderate these trails are rocky and often on an incline so sturdy boots and a walking stick are highly recommended. The Prospectors Trail has rocky scrambles for about a half mile at either end that are a challenge to the short legged amongst us! We also took shorter walks to an overlook named Grassy Creek for sunset shots. We have no idea why it was so named as there is no grass anywhere around.
Knowing that the road up to Breaks Interstate Park was very windy and that the GPS on other occasions had directed us onto roads not suitable for an RV, we took an exploratory drive following the GPS toward our next destination. We drove through the eastern Kentucky countryside enjoying the fall foliage near Elkmont. There is a Railroad Museum there but we didn’t stop. We also learned that this area is the official end of the Crooked Road. There were no scheduled events for the time we were here. We missed a festival that had been held the previous weekend. Wouldn’t you know, the one time I didn’t do a lot of research. Oh well, when we come back! We did find a good candidate for our Roadside Humor category so it will be posted immediately following this post. We also came across an old family cemetery. It was open so we walked through looking at dates. There was a woman who was born in 1774 (two years before the American Revolution) and died in 1870 (seven years after the Civil War). We wish we could talk to her. Can you imagine the stories she could tell having lived through the birth of our nation and having seen it almost torn apart?
All too soon our time was gone and we packed up to move. This would be the last time I was driving the Subaru and following the RV so I took the opportunity to snap an iPhone picture through the windshield.