This will be our 10th major RV trip and we decided to head south earlier than in the past to avoid the typical November snowfall we get at home. As usual we misjudged some of our last-minute preparation steps, so it meant we had to rush to get to our first stop (before they closed) which was a Harvest Host location named Viewpointe Estate Winery along Lake Erie. When we arrived, we just had enough time to sample 2 flights of their various red wines and then buy some bottles and a large charcuterie tray for our dinner. Our favourite wine was their 2010 Cabernet Franc and it’s quite rare in Ontario to find a wine that old. After we got parked in their Harvest Host spot, we took a walk along the shore and then took our dinner and a bottle of wine to their benches so we could eat dinner and watch the sunset.
The next morning, we had some low-lying fog around the wind turbines as we headed to Windsor to cross into the US at the Ambassador Bridge. There must have been some sort of fishing derby going on as there were tons of boats under the bridge. The border wasn’t too busy, so I guess that’s why the agent asked all kinds of questions and even wanted to come in the RV to see what we had in the fridge. We had noticed that he took 2 dozen eggs from the trailer in front of us so maybe he was looking for something more that he could take home to his family for dinner😉 Needless to say, we had nothing in our fridge for him to confiscate since we had followed all the rules about no fresh meat, vegetables, or fruit. When we stopped to get fuel on the way South, we got a great shot of a hawk that was right on the driveway into the gas station. For our first day of driving south we had selected another Harvest Host which was a farm in Kentucky called Steeple View Farm. The host was extremely particular about his directions, and he asked us to call him when we were 1 hour away and then call again when exited from the Interstate so he could give us detailed directions to find his place. We had no problem finding the place where we were to park but we thought he would contact us that night to buy some of his farm products, but he didn’t call us. The following morning, we called him and eventually we connected so we could buy some products (the Bourbon Peach Jalapeno Pepper Jelly was excellent).
With all the Bourbon they used in their products we thought we should go find some bourbon. We took a very scenic drive to the capital of Kentucky, Frankfort where we went to the Buffalo Trace Distillery. We had no idea it was such a popular spot, maybe because they do free tastings? We were told the tours book a month ahead, so we just did a tasting instead of doing one of the tours. Buffalo Trace is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest continually operating Distillery in America. We wandered around the exhibits area until our tasting time slot. There were just 4 of us at the tasting and the host. We tried a vodka, 3 bourbons, a bourbon cream, and a root beer (Sharon managed to get my bourbon chocolate and an extra one from the host). My favourite was the Eagle Rare 10-Year-old Bourbon but unfortunately, they had sold out in the gift store, so I wasn’t able to buy a bottle. The distillery is coming to close to their 8,000,000th barrel filled since prohibition. They were also one of only 2 distilleries authorized to make “Medicinal” whiskey during prohibition!
We decided to make a quick stop to My Old Kentucky State Park to have lunch and to see the mansion that was built between 1795 and 1818. The home was also the inspiration for the state song of Kentucky “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Collins Foster in 1853. Due to timing, we didn’t take the guided tour inside the home, but we did walk around the grounds, see the eaves troughs that filled the cistern and saw the old spring pump house. Judge John Rowan owned the home, and he was a senator who led amendments to the US judicial system and the ending of imprisonment for debt!
As we travelled further down the Interstate at 70 mph our Tire Pressure Monitor system said the inner back right tire had too high a pressure. It measures if the tire pressure has risen too high from its base point. I slowed down significantly and that allowed the tire to drop back into a normal range. This was the first time we got this error message.
We continued on to Mammoth Cave National Park (NP) and when we arrived we were able to get a non service campsite for 3 nights. However, when we went to site 59 someone was already in it. We returned to the kiosk, and she instead changed us to site 82 which was fine since it was a pull through site, and it was closer to the visitor centre. Our night time temperatures were in the 50’s and the daytime were in the 70’s so we really didn’t need hook-ups. After we were setup, we walked over to see what tours we could book. Unfortunately, the 4 hour Grand Tour was already booked for the next 4 days so we opted for the 2 hour Historical tour in the morning and the Wondering Woods tour in the afternoon. We did a quick pass through the exhibits before they closed. Mammoth Caves is the worlds longest cave with currently 426 miles of passageways mapped and they believe they will find even more connections. It’s very different than what you imagine as a cave because the sandstone layer on the top stops the water from dripping through the limestone to form stalagmites and stalactites. Instead, the underground water carves out long passageways of various shapes. After the exhibits we headed back to our campsite and on the way saw one of the last trains that used to bring people to the caves starting in 1886 (it ran for 50 years). We also saw some deer looking for food as we went to have our BBQ salmon dinner.
Our 2-hour historic tour began at 9:45 the next morning and it was listed as moderate difficulty as you had to climb 540 stairs (the ranger said it was equivalent to climbing a 31-story building). When we booked, we didn’t know that they had sold out the tour so there were close to 140 people!!! It was truly a ridiculous number to try to keep together. If you stopped to take photos, you would get shuffled to the back and we were literally running to catch up with the group in the next area that the ranger did his historic talks. Here are some of the facts we learned about the cave:
- In the Rotunda area there were saltpeter production hoppers used from 1798 through 1815. Saltpeter was a key ingredient for making gun powder.
- We saw the huge boulder named Giant’s Coffin which is 175’ below the surface.
- We learned about the Native Americans 4500 years ago who used river cane torches to explore the cave.
- Fat Man’s Misery (264’ below the surface) was described by a visitor in 1866 as “a tortuous rift, a snake in convolution and an avenue of torture in ruggedness, narrowness, and lowness. It would perplex a groundhog.”
- We climbed the spiral staircase up through the Mammoth Dome.
- In 1842 Dr. John Croghan setup a sanitorium in the cave thinking the environment could cure Tuberculosis but it failed so it was closed in 1843.
- There are 8 species of bats in the caves, and we believe the ones we saw were Little Brown Bats. The population has dramatically dropped due to white nose syndrome.
- Visitors started coming to the cave in 1812, the CCC started building park infrastructure in 1933 and the National Park was established in 1941, in 1972 Sharon and family toured the caves, in 1981 it was named a World Heritage site, and in 1990 it was named a World Biosphere Reserve.
The cave was definitely interesting to see but the size of the group detracted from the tour. We filmed a 3D walk through of the Historic tour that we saw in the exhibit area, so I have included that video after the slides for this section. After the tour we headed back to the campsite for lunch before returning for our afternoon tour.
In the afternoon we did the Wondering Woods tour and we only had 7 people plus the guide so a much better sized group. We took a 25-minute bus ride where the guide gave the history of the area including the cave wars. In the earlier days there was competition to have people tour your specific cave. Later the park service started buying up properties and farms from the locals and a lot of animosity was created towards the park due to the tactics that were used to obtain the 53,000 acres of land. We turned off onto a closed side road that lead to the Wondering Woods Cave. This tour has not been offered very long and was just run now due to the closure of one of the other tours. In the cave we saw another little brown bat and several cave crickets, but the amazing part was all the formations in the cave. We saw, flows, stalactites (c for close to the ceiling), stalagmites (g for grow from the ground), crystal formations, soda straws, and shawls! The other cool thing was that you could see from one end of the cave to the other. On the way back in the bus the guide told us the story of Floyd Collins who was a local cave guide that got stuck in Sand Cave for two weeks but unfortunately perished. It was a national news story at the time.
We wanted to bike the old railway line but it was a rainy morning. We decided to stay another night so we could have a sunny day for our ride. While working on the blog we had a four-legged visitor come by our campsite. There were a lot of deer in the area. We must have had something good around our site because they liked digging around in the leaves day and night! There was a break in the rain in the afternoon, so we went for a “short walk” as Sharon called it. Our “short walk” ended up being about 9km. From the campground we took the trail to Echo River Springs and the Green River Ferry crossing. Unfortunately, the water levels were too low so the ferry wasn’t operational. Due to the geology of the area, there are a few springs that are fed by underground water sources. Our “short walk” ended at Dixon Cave, a protected bat cave!
We were glad we added an extra day as it was perfect weather for our bike ride along the old Mammoth Cave Railroad trail. It was a nice trail but did have a few very steep hills. That’s when you take the opportunity to enjoy nature and hike your bike up the hill 😊One of the first overlooks was Doyle Valley which was just on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, so it created quite a challenge for the railway. They built a trestle in 1886 and it was finally demolished in 1961. This valley was mainly farmland prior to the park reverting it to forest. Our next stop was Sloan’s Crossing Pond which was a depression in the sandstone layer above Mammoth Cave where the water could pool creating a wetland. We passed by the Dripping Springs escarpment where you could see the layers of sandstone and limestone and then proceeded down a really long hill (down is fun, up not so much) until we went by Diamond Caverns. We finally made it to the entrance sign and carried on into Park City so we could see the ruins of Bell’s Tavern, where we had lunch. Then we retraced our route all the way back to the campground for a total of 28 kms.
The following day we left Mammoth Cave NP but before leaving we stopped to do a short hike on the Turnhole Bend Nature Trail. There were 2 excellent examples of sinkholes that had formed, creating a path for water to get into the caves and an overlook for the Turnhole Bend Spring that takes the water into the Green River.
Our next destination was Land Between Two Lakes but on the way we stopped in Central City Kentucky to get some groceries and we found out the town had an Everly Brothers monument. Since Sharon’s dad really liked the Everly Brothers we decided to get some photos at the monument but then it had a really good small museum with musical artifacts about the Everly Brothers, Merle Travis, Jim Walker, and John Prine, all who were from the area. The museum was in an old car dealership. The music museum in the front/sales area and some historical cars in the garage bays. It was definitely worth the stop, especially since the host was extremely friendly and gave us all kinds of stories about the area.
Our primary reason to go to Land Between Two Lakes was that they had some mountain bike trails for us to check out. When we arrived at the North Visitor Centre, we found out they were closed on Monday’s, so we back tracked to the Nickell Branch Campground and found a spectacular campsite by the lake and it was only $10 per night! Since the time fell back on the weekend it was dark when I was BBQ’ing our Salmon for dinner. I was confused because I could see this really bright light that seemed to be coming along the shore from the south of us. It turned out it was large tugboat pushing a 3 by 5 grouping of barges in front of it. They had a big spot light shining toward the front so the captain could see the front of the first set of barges. In the total dark he actually manoeuvred everything through the canal to the north of us. I’ve included a night time shot which wasn’t too great but also a daytime one as we saw many other barges over our 2 nights stay here.
The main MTB trail in the park was the full Canal Loop so we started off the next morning on the 21 km route. The trail is a single-track trail listed as moderate to difficult. We found the sections on the east side of the main road moderate and the sections on the west side difficult. We started off with lots of switch backs and the rocks and roots were a little tricky to see due to most of the leaves having fallen. We found some strange, rusted metal wreckage that almost seemed like part of an aircraft engine? We went along the canal and under the bridge and then on the west side we started to encounter lots of up and downhill sections. Of course, the downhill I found fun but the hike a bike up hills not so much. We also went by a fire lookout tower with some transmitters on it. We had our lunch looking over Kentucky Lake and even saw another barge go by. The trail eventually circled back by the North Visitor Centre and then crossed the road and went back to moderate difficulty. We saw young eagles, turkey vultures, rabbits, armadillo’s, deer, and lots of grey squirrels. Overall, an excellent MTB loop.
Before leaving Kentucky, we decided to drive the entire distance of Land Between Two Lakes. We did the drive around the Elk and Bison Prairie enclosure but only saw 3 bison and a bunch of wild turkeys. We did a quick visit to the main visitor centre and then stopped to see the Great Western Furnace (there were a lot of them in the LBL) that was used to make Iron Ore. We also saw some bison in the distance, so we went down a side road and got to see a whole bunch of them really close up.
We love to hear your comments on our travels so feel free to leave them on the blog. Next stop Memphis Tennessee and Graceland.
I love caves, it’s like travelling to another world! Good post, lots of variety 👍🏻😁🖖
LikeLiked by 1 person
Glad you enjoyed it Dwight👍
Great, Quality Content for The Ultimate Guide, A lot of thanks for sharing, kindly keep with continue !!
So enjoying reading about your trip. Having morning coffee, Martha here while Jim is still sleeping. We went to the Mammoth Caves after 1990 in late November. We had hardly any people on the tour. When we got to the “auditorium” he turned the lights out and that was quite the experience of darkness. We saw the stagmites so not sure what entrance we went in. We loved the peace of off tourist season. Thanks for sharing.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s great that you enjoyed it Martha, say hi to Jim when he wakes up😉
Happy to read your new adventures.
You are right to go south to enjoy more warmth. The price of energy has increased in Europe and some people are reluctant to heat their homes. At the moment, we are following elections in the US and the war in Ukraine which brings a lot of uncertainty.
Hope to see you again sometime.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your comments Patrick. The last week has been really warm but now our night time temperatures will be close to freezing every night for the next week so I guess we need to go even further south 😉 We’re in Louisiana right now which is sort of where our last big trip stopped due to COVID in 2020. Take care and say hi from us to all your family 😎
LikeLiked by 1 person
Up until today we have been having summer weather without a drop of rain. Almost wore out my snow tires which were installed 10:days ago. Sound like your having a great trip so far. Say hello to Elvis for me.
LikeLiked by 2 people
We’ve had that same warm weather but now we’re in Louisiana and it will be close to freezing every night for the next week 🙃
Same here and the snow has started falling.
Well we don’t have snow but it’s cold camping 🤔🙃
Thanks as usual for the blog which I enjoyed reading seeing the pictures. I’ve been to some of the places on this blog so it is fun to compare experiences. We went for a tasting (or two) at Viewpointe Estate Winery in July 2019. We also recently crossed the Ambassador Bridge and it is always neat to see the views of the Detroit River and the Detroit waterfront from the bridge. I was also at Mammoth Caves National Park some time in the 1970s. I’ll have to see if I can find some pictures. Look forward to virtually following along on your travels. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
Glad you enjoyed it Janice, it would be cool to compare some photos if you can find similar matches 👍😎
Sounds like you are having another wonderful trip! David & I really enjoyed Land Between Two Lakes & Memphis.
Looking forward to your next installment! Safe travels.
LikeLiked by 1 person
We’re working on the Graceland post now so we’ll publish it later this week 👍
You saw a lot! Good that you had fair weather so far. Thanks for all the good pictures. Maybe you have to stop by Peerless distillery in Louisville on your way back, I’m down to the last few drams of my Peerless whisky…LOL
LikeLiked by 1 person
If the cold snap wasn’t coming down we might have visited a lot more Bourbon distilleries 🥃 I did buy a Mississippi Bourbon called Old Soul, it’s alright but not as good as the Eagle Rare 10 year old that I wanted to buy.
Peerless makes rye whisky, not bourbon, so it’s worth trying.
The Bourbon I liked actually had over 50% rye so not the typical corn bourbon. The one from Mississippi is also listed as a rye whiskey even though they use the name bourbon on it. You might like it but not sure I’ll have any left to bring home😉
By definition (U.S. congress passed something in 1964), whisky must have at least 51% corn to be called bourbon. So they were really making rye whisky (aka Canadian Whisky as it was traditionally called). I guess it’s easier for them to market it as the “better tasting bourbon” from USA. LOL