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.
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.)
We ended up going on one of the hottest days so far this summer, complete with a heat warning. We paid for our admission and decided to do the outdoor area first before it got even warmer. Our first stop was the oldest house in Dayton. There were information signs throughout the downstairs (upstairs closed off), as well as a docent. The docent had some great information to tell us and was enthusiastic about the history.
There are a few other houses on the park grounds (the houses have been moved from their original locations). The one had a neat summer kitchen and we saw how they would make lots of candles at once (Would use a dipper with multiple strings. The dipper would hang on a rack for the was to set and then they would dip again. Rack held multiple dippers.)
If you follow the trail from the museum to the right, it is like a journey through Dayton’s history. After exploring the historical houses, we made it to the electrical era and manufacturing. I had no idea that Dayton, Ohio made cars!
The NCR, National Cash Register Company, was huge in Dayton. It was amazing to see the different things this company did, as well as the different types of cash registers. There were some beautiful ones on display in the museum building.
Because the area has several rivers nearby, flooding happens every few years. There are also the floods that are called 100-year floods as well, where there is a huge amount of water deposited and the flooding is extreme. Dayton’s major flood was in 1913, when the water got to 20 feet deep in some areas!
I was beat by the time we got up and down the tower due to the heat, but the views were pretty nice. The modern buildings (not historical buildings) did have air conditioning, so that did help keep us cool as we walked around the park.
We learned a lot of new things and enjoyed the park. We found a few things in the gift shop, got a pressed penny, and enjoyed the air conditioning while exploring the interior museum. There is a carousel inside the museum building/visitor center; it costs $1 to ride.
HOURS: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
COSTS: $12/adult, $8 child (3-17), $10/seniors
TIME RECOMMENDED: 1.5 hours+
COVID RESTRICTIONS: N/A
Details correct at time of posting, please double-check before you go.
I double-checked the park’s hours before we left, but when we got there, we were told the house was closing in 10 minutes for a staff meeting and wouldn’t be open until later that morning/early afternoon. We rushed through the house and then spent time in the Visitor Center.
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Nick got his Junior Ranger Badge. They had a neat package for the kids: a bag with the Junior Ranger program booklet, a pencil, a Junior Ranger badge sticker, and a William Howard Taft sticker. Once the booklet was completed, he turned it in to be sworn in and receive the plastic Junior Ranger badge.
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It was neat to see, especially since there is no admission fee for this Historic Site. I think we will go back again when we can spend more time in the house though and really read through everything.
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WHERE: 2038 Auburn Ave, Cincinnati OH 45219
HOURS: Grounds open sunrise to sunset. House/Visitor Center open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. (Some limited hours/holiday closures)
PARKING: Yes (small sized lot)
TIME RECOMMENDED: 30 minutes+
COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks Optional (as of March 2022)
*Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Although we stayed in Bear Lake, we frequently went into Frankfort, Michigan. Frankfort was about 15 minutes away and was a cute town. There was a grocery store and gas stations near town. The main street had several restaurants, a bookstore, bakeries, and a neat beach area with a lighthouse. We found a Little Library and a Little Art Library.
There were several ice cream places in town as well, and the two we tried were both good. The bagels from L’Chayim were delicious, the ice cream cake from Kilwin’s was amazing (but expensive), and The Bookstore was fun to explore.
On Nick and Mom Day, we walked the jetty to the lighthouse. It was very foggy and you couldn’t see the lighthouse from the shore when we started. We spent some time on the beach at the swings. After telling Ben about the fun things at the beach, we all headed there the next clear day. The benches and swings all face the Lake! There were also a few sand volleyball nets. Restrooms were near the parking lot. It was a great place to relax. You could swim there, and some people were, but the water was too cold for us.
Frankfort was a nice walking town. If you are in the area, I would check it out!
We picked the Sleeping Bear Point Trail to hike in the park. It was listed as a moderate trail, but less strenuous than the Dune Hill Climb. It was a 2.8 mile trail loop. We did the trail clockwise, as the app stated that it was a little easier that way.
We started in a grassy forest type of area. I would wear long socks or stay in the middle of the trail, as there was poison ivy along most of that part of the trail.
We did see some great views of the water along the hike. One of the reasons we picked this trail was the “ghost forest”. The dunes shift and over time the trees that become covered in sand will die. There were a handful of trees, but not what I would think of a forest.
Hiking on sand is no joke! We were all pretty tired at the end, but the kids of course had a lot more energy. If you take this hike, bring water, a hat, and sunscreen. Once you leave the tree area, there is no shade.
This was the last National Park on our current route. The name of the park seems sweet, but it is a horribly sad tale. I read two different versions. A mother and her cubs are forced to flee from wildfire into the Lake and have to swim to the other side. The cubs do not make it. The mother bear lays down waiting for her cubs. The other version is that there was a food shortage, and to keep from starving they had to cross the lake. The cubs do not make it. The two small islands pop up as monuments for the cubs.
The main visitor center, Phillip A Hart Visitor Center, was located in Empire, Michigan. It was not in the park. The park boundaries are actually made of 3 sections of land with towns in between and 2 islands. We drove around the park in a few locations, but only saw a ticket/pass booth at the Dune Climb parking lot.
On our first visit, we drove the Pierce Stocking Scenic Dr. I’m sure it had wonderful views, but all we could see was fog! (It hadn’t been foggy at our campground, about 30 minutes away). There was a small covered bridge that was fun to see.
There were several hiking and bike trails in the park, along with beach areas.
The check-in area was not well laid out for larger RVs. It looks like you used to be able to pull straight forward, but now they have you turn into a parking lot. It has not been redesigned for larger RVs. The campground itself has a pond and a lake. There was a laundry room, a few planned activities, a basketball hoop, Snack Shack, putt-putt, playground, and a pool. Fishing was allowed in the pond and lake, but no swimming. The lake by the office had boats available for use. There were also horseshoes and a small baseball diamond.
The laundry room had a lot of machines. There was no change machine, but I was able to get change at the office. Washers were $1.75/load, dryers were $1.50.
The Snack Shack had some ice cream products, shaved ice, and some drinks. It was only open on the weekends when we were there.
Our hotspot and phones worked…kind of. If it was cloudy we lost a lot of reception on all 3 networks. Some spots were better than others in the park for getting a signal. We ended up buying the campground WiFi for the week ($19.95). Phone calls seemed ok for the most part, but internet was definitely spotty.
The campground did have a lot of nice amenities. The boys really enjoyed the putt putt and basketball hoop. It was a nice destination campground and there were grocery stores within a 20-30 minute drive. Cleveland was about an hour drive and Cuyahoga Valley National Park was also about an hour drive.
NOTE: The campground was included in our Thousand Trails membership, but charged us a 50 amp fee at check-in (not stated ahead of time).
Hey guys here’s another blog post with Will! Today I will be talking about the James A. Garfield National Historic Site! For those of you that don’t know who James A. Garfield was, don’t worry I didn’t either! Apparently he was the 20th president of the United States of America. We learned all about him from the park center that is actually located inside of the carriage house of Garfield’s farm.
Garfield was the last president known as a log cabin president which means that his family were settlers and built their house themselves. He grew up on the land his father had bought for two dollars and fifty cents an acre. His father was a farmer and a canal construction man, but sadly his father died when Garfield was just 2 years old. His mother tried to educate Garfield and his siblings, and convinced Garfield to go to the nearby school. Garfield learned of his love of education and earned money to go to college and high school through odd jobs, teaching, and working on the farm. He stayed at the school teaching and learning for 4-5 years and then went to college for 2 years. After that he became president of the school he went to originally, but soon grew bored. This was how he started his career with politics. He was in the House of Representatives for 17 years. He was then nominated as president by surprise. He was visiting to nominate a fellow senator when he found out he had become nominated. He immediately rushed home to tell his family and get started.
This is where I am going to pause in the story for a minute to tell you about his house as most of the story after this involves his house. James A. Garfield rented houses for his family, but soon realized that they needed a stable home where they could set up home base. He also wanted his children to learn the morals that he had when living on a farm, and so he bought 160 acres of land out in the countryside. The farm he had bought was run down, but with some hard work he and his family fixed up the house and grew it. He started growing orchards and plants to sell, and he also was very interested in making his farm a modern farm. He bought the latest equipment and pure bred cows to make his farm the most modern farm around. He expanded the old house that had originally been on the property and added new rooms for him, and his wife, and 5 children, and his mom. Once he was nominated for President, he went into the craziness of trying to win. He was told by a former president that to win you sit back, cross your legs, and look wise. This was how most presidents did it. They let the speakers of their party run their election campaign and sat there looking wise. Garfield felt this was not good enough because he was one of the best speakers in his party, so he started having campaign speeches on his porch. Many different people started coming to his house, and since he was near both the road and the railroad many people had access to his house. This caused the railroad company to make a new stop that was right on his property. Over 17,000 people came to see him talk and he won the election! The problem with having so many people come to see his speeches on a working farm, was that when people got hungry they would eat his crops. This left the farmer devastated and he had to re-sod all of the grass that had been trampled.
Now we come to sad part of the story. 120 days into his presidency on his way back home, the president was shot twice in the back. One only clipped his shoulder, but the other buried itself deep into the president’s back. 200 days into his presidency the President died. A memorial train carried his body to the graveyard and thousands of Americans lined up to grieve the death of the late President. Another late mourner of her husband sent her regards to his wife Lucretia. That person was Queen Victoria. Her husband had also died and the Queen had sent a letter of regards and a wreath for the late president’s coffin. Lucretia had the wreath laid on the coffin and then had it dipped in wax to preserve the wreath. Sadly, back then the president’s job was not as good as it is now. The President, when he was alive, couldn’t even afford a carriage for the White House horse shed. The White House was also in tatters. The Garfields had planned on fixing it up during the presidency, but he was not able to fix it up before his assassination. His wife’s friend realized that Garfield’s wife would not receive any payment, as there were no advantages or benefits the president received back then. He started a fund raiser for the wife and raised about 350 thousand dollars ,which today would be equal to about 10 million dollars. With that money his wife added extra renovations including gas powered lights and fireplaces, water running into the house powered by the windmill, and additions to the house. She also paid for her children to go to college, and bought a second house and rented it out to make easy income. She also added to the farm and kept it as modern as she could with the help of her children and brother who came to live in the house with her.
Whiling adding the extra house renovations, the team of carpenters and labor discovered natural gas which was then used to power the house by lighting the house and providing heat. This allowed the family to be entirely self reliant through having water brought to the house from the windmill, crops from the farm, milk, meat, and hide from the animals, and heating and lighting from the gas. She also finished all of the indoors of the house and later built playrooms and areas for her grandchildren to play at. Soon after her death, the house and the farm became a financial burden on the rest of the family and they eventually sold it.
Thank you guys for reading this blog post from me and please keep reading our blog for more cool stuff from around the country, and watch our YouTube channel for some cool places! Thank you guys and have a good day!
During our first stay back in Ohio in a year, we stayed up north near Cleveland. We visited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. After the scenic train ride, we drove around for a little bit and stopped at the Boston Mill Visitor Center. This was a nice Visitor Center and the boys picked up their Junior Ranger books.
Cuyahoga Valley is a little bit weird in its shape. It is a long, narrow park that exists around private property and state parks.
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We went to the Brandywine Falls and managed to find a parking spot in the lot. We walked the boardwalk to the Falls. It was a beautiful area and you could see the remains of a small power plant. It was mostly just the foundations, but still neat to read about.
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It started to rain on us, so we head back home.
TICKETS: Free. Some activities have a fee. COVID Restrictions: masks required if not vaccinated
HOURS: Open daily
TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
*Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.