Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Exploring Kentucky, Hiking, National Park, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Treehouse Living

While we stayed at the Horse Cave KOA, we stayed our second night in a Treehouse! (It was really more like a cabin on pillars made to look like a tree trunk/branches.)

We really enjoyed our stay here. It had a nice firepit and seating underneath the cabin. Inside hosted a queen bedroom, a full kitchen (with plates, cups, utensils, and cooking pans/pots), couches, TV, fireplace, and a loft with two queen beds. The back porch had a nice table, views, and grill. The best part was the full bathroom!

It was definitely a nice space to relax in and we really enjoyed the back deck. The kitchen table was more like a folding table and chairs, so we ate on the porch most of the time. It was a good space to spread out and have our own areas.

(YouTube video link)

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Kentucky, Sightseeing

Big Mo

We stopped at Big Mike’s after exploring Mammoth Cave.

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The property hosts a really neat rock shop, gift shop, and a large statue of a mosasaur. They had a fossil of Big Mo, a mosasaur skull. It was located on the second floor of the gift shop. There was an information sign, as well as a pamphlet near the checkout counter.

If you are in the area, I would stop by! They had lots of unique things, both in the rock shop and the gift shop areas.

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There is also a Mystery House owned by Big Mike’s, but we did not stop in there.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Kentucky, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Parks, Sightseeing

Mammoth Cave

Ben and I had been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky when we were both kids. It is the world’s longest cave system (currently 420 miles mapped) and we thought the kids would enjoy seeing it.

The Mammoth Cave National Park has a nice Visitor Center with bathrooms, ticket booths, a gift shop, and a book shop (basically another version of a gift shop). There is another smaller gift shop in a trailer outside. There are spots to eat lunch outside as well.

MAMMOTH CAVE TOUR

We booked tickets for the extended historic tour ($92 for 4 tickets). Book your tickets early and online! When we went, there was only 1 tour that wasn’t completely sold out (over the course of two days).

Will is our history buff, so we thought he would enjoy the history tour. We got to see the old mining equipment that had been left there for saltpeter and a house that was part of an experimental tuberculosis hospital.

The tour is listed as moderate, but we found the 2-hour tour to be pretty easy. There was some stooping and bending with a tight squeeze in Fat Man’s Misery, but it was a relatively slow walk (Ben’s watch said it was a 42-minute/mile pace). There was some uneven ground, which could be tricky in the low light if you have bad ankles/knees or balance issues. There were also some stairs. Ben’s note: At 5’10” and 260 Fat Man’s Misery (narrowest part) was more fun than scary. I found this and Tall Man’s Misery the best part of the tour as you felt like you were actually caving.

The black writing on the ceilings is old-school graffiti, made from candle smoke. There was a bathroom down in the cave, but it is a while to get to it, so I would definitely recommend going before your tour (some tours do not go by the bathroom!).

It was pretty, but I found Carlsbad Cavern a much better experience overall. I felt rushed during Mammoth; the tour guide pretty much said this wasn’t a picture-taking tour and he would not be stopping for long. Without being able to use the flash (to preserve the cave and its creatures), taking pictures can take a little bit of time. I didn’t want to hold up the group, so I did not get very many. Carlsbad had an audio self-guided tour, so we could go more at our own pace and were able to take more pictures. The monochromatic interior of Mammoth Cave and the lack of copious Stalagmites and Stalagtites left me wanting more. The main plus is that Carlsbad is very desolate and tough to get to, whereas Mammoth Cave is fairly close for many visitors and has a more built-up infrastructure around it. We did see a cave cricket and a bat in Mammoth though, whereas we didn’t see any at Carlsbad (we were a month too late for the bats). Now, to be clear, we saw pictures of different cave features that are supposed to be in Mammoth Cave on postcards and posters, so it may have just been the tour we were on that lacked a lot of cave features.

SAND CAVE HIKE

Mammoth Cave Rating: 3 stars out of 5 (Will liked it the most.)

Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Kentucky, Food, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Oregon Trail, Here We Come!

After the Red River Gorge, we traveled over to the Mammoth Cave area. We stayed at the Horse Cave KOA. When Ben and I saw that they had a certain type of cabin, we knew we needed to stay at least one night in it. Growing up, we were part of the Oregon Trail generation so, of course, we decided to stay in the Covered Wagon cabin!

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It was definitely an experience. The wagon was temperature controlled and had an air conditioner unit. The space slept 4 people: one queen-sized bed and a set of bunk beds. As you climb the stairs and open the door, you have the bunkbeds to the left and a small table, and two chairs to the right. There were a couple of stairs to get to the queen bed area. There was a small nightstand area on either side of the bed with outlets to charge your phone.

In front of the bunk beds, there was a mini fridge and a microwave. The space also had an outdoor fire pit with chairs and a propane grill.

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There was a grocery store within a 20-30 minute drive, so we were able to go to the store and make dinner on the grill. It was nice to have the mini-fridge so we could have groceries to make our own food. For dessert, we of course had s’mores!

It was nice sitting out and enjoying the night. There was a farm in front of us, so we watched the cows for a while, and saw some bats flying around once it was night.

The downside to the covered wagon cabin was the lack of a bathroom. We weren’t too far away, but it is a downside when you get up during the night and have to leave the cabin to use the bathrooms.

(Covered Wagon Walkthrough: YouTube video link)

Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Kentucky, Sightseeing

Container Home Rental (Stanton, Kentucky)

For our vacation this year, we wanted to stay in some unique homes. Something that would really stand out in our memories. Our first stop was in a container home. Ben had played with this idea for a tiny home for a while now. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived; it actually had a nice layout and use of space. (YouTube video link)

The house was pretty private. You could hear some road noise and neighbor’s music, but couldn’t see them through the leaves. It was a pretty short drive to the park, a little under 20 minutes. The house was a comfortable space, seemed just like a cabin. It had a great fire pit area with wood holder and hatchet, bag chairs for fire pit, deck with chairs and a small table, a wooded lot with a few trees that worked for hammocking, propane grill, plates/cups/grill tools, AC, washer/dryer, a couple of games and a fun puzzle. The cabin also had WiFi and cable. There was a Kroger grocery store and a liquor store within about a 20-minute drive. There were several places nearby that sold firewood.

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The drive was pretty easy, but at the end, it is a narrow road that has a few hills. The driveway itself was off of a sharp right turn. The owners did a nice job explaining how to get there though and even had a fun alligator sign to mark the correct turn. The very last bit up to the parking area was a pretty short steep climb. The cabin only had one thin blanket per bed. We could have used more blankets, but luckily we still had our soccer game day blanket in the car. The owner did say to bring additional if you get cold easily, but we didn’t think there would only be two. There were only a couple of blinds in the bedrooms. The bedroom Ben and I stayed in only had blinds on one window, the one closest to the street (at the head of the bed) did not have any covering. If the trees were not as full of leaves, there may be a chance someone could see down into the room. Although the grill and firepit allowed for cooking, the kitchen itself only had a hotplate and a microwave for cooking. Bring bug spray! This is more for the entire area, but we all got bitten (even the one that is normally not bit). You may want to bring a flashlight, as it gets very dark at night around the cabin. This one is more specific to us, but there was poison ivy everywhere (cabin and general area). There was some right next to the cabin stairs, etc. The Red River Gorge area also has a plethora of poison ivy, so I would recommend long socks and/or pants if you are allergic.

Cost: $139/night (+taxes, cleaning fee, service fee). Listing on VRBO.

Rating: 3/5 hitches

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Kentucky, Food, Hiking, Parks, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Experiencing Red River Gorge

It seems crazy the number of things in a three-hour radius from our home that we have not gone to yet. One of these was the Red River Gorge. We know people who had gone, people who had loved it, but we had never been there. As part of our quick summer vacation, we decided to stay a couple of days and see the Gorge.

One of the nice things about Red River Gorge is that is free to enter. There are of course things to spend your money on: local stores, souvenirs, the Sky Bridge, and adventures like rock climbing or kayaking.

Our first day there we drove through the park. Our pathway from our cabin took us through Nada Tunnel. It was a really neat tunnel, rough-hewed, single lane, without any lights. You could see water dripping. We stopped at the Gladie Visitor Center to check out the souvenirs and to get a park map. The Visitor Center had a nice selection of souvenirs, clean restrooms, friendly staff, and fun interactive exhibits. They had different animal pelts that you could touch, as well as a video of the park.

(NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.)

Nada Tunnel

We ended up at the Sky Bridge. It was a nice little hike. It had a couple of different sets of stairs, but a clearly defined path. It was a very hot and muggy day, but there was plenty of shade along the trails. We walked across Sky Bridge and then took the path that led us underneath the bridge. It was very neat to see it from a different perspective, as when you are up top, you don’t really notice the arch shape. There were several spots that had dripping water, which made a very cool and unique sound.

Day two of our Gorge adventure led us to the Sky Lift. It was $17 per adult for a round-trip ticket. Tickets could be bought in the gift shop. They had an interesting video and a pressed penny machine (Nick was very happy) in the outside booth. The ride up was enjoyable and we had a nice breeze. The steep uphill (or downhill for the return) can give you a jolt when you first see it). There is a nice trail nearby as well that gives you a nice overlook of the area. TIP: Secure your items! If they fall you will not get them back. Nick’s new pocket knife was lost to the wilderness as it fell out of his pocket halfway up to the top. (YouTube: link to video.)

From the top of the Sky Lift, we went to see the Natural Bridge. This was also a neat bridge that you couldn’t really see well unless you were underneath it. Nick and I decided to adventure through Fat Man’s Misery, a narrow gorge in the rock that leads you to the bottom of the Natural Bridge. Ben and Will stayed behind.

We stopped for some pizza at Miguel’s before driving up to Chimney Top for a picnic. The pizza was really good and they had so many different topping options! (Thank you for the recommendation, Mindy!) I froze when presented with so many options and went with a really boring pizza, but it all looked delicious as it came out. After lunch, we took another short hike and really enjoyed the views. There were several caution signs about not getting close to the edges. We watched the river and a hawk floating on the breeze.

The main attractions at Red River Gorge seem to be rock climbing, kayaking, and primitive camping. Due to Will’s restrictions from surgery this summer, we kept to the easier trails. It was pretty empty, as we were late in the summer vacation season. Compared to some other places we have been to, it was tough to tell it was a gorge due to the abundance of trees and other plants. It must be gorgeous in the fall. I’m glad we went, but as we are not rock climbers or really even kayakers, I don’t know that we would go back.

Red River Gorge Rating: 2/5 hitches (For us. If you love rock climbing and kayaking, I’m sure it would be amazing!)

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