My wife and I spent the weekend at Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

The Red River Gorge is a uniquely scenic area in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The area is known for its abundant natural stone arches, unusual rock formations, and spectacular sandstone cliffs. The Red River Gorge is designated as a national geological area by the U.S. Forest Service.

Natural Bridge. It rocks!

We went with our neighbor/friends (nends? friebors?) Whit and Barb, who have gone to Red River Gorge in January with a group of their friends for the past several years. This year, there were 10 couples (and one dog). We stayed in cabins in Natural Bridge State Park on Friday and Saturday night, and hiked the trails on Saturday and Sunday. I’m ashamed to say that this was my first trip to “The Gorge” as it’s known around here. As a self-proclaimed Nature Boy (move over, Ric Flair) who loves the great outdoors, I really have no legit excuse for not visiting sooner, as it’s only two hours away and the scenery is drop-dead gorgeous.

Mrs. Dubbatrubba is gorgeous too!

There’s a lot to be said for exploring new places. And there’s no virtual reality that can compare with the actual reality of the great outdoors. When you’re hiking up ridge (and then back down), the physical benefits are obvious. But check out this article that extols the mental benefits of exploring someplace new. Here’s my favorite quote:

But I believe that it’s possible to achieve similar growth by traveling closer to home — to new states, cities, and even households, from urban to rural, north to south, east to west. As long as you’re spending time in an unfamiliar environment, with people whose backgrounds and belief systems don’t entirely match yours, you’re succeeding at stretching yourself.

Sunday morning at Lookout Point.

Get outside. Get outside your comfort zone. And get a big boost in energy, empathy and creativity.