Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moving Right Along

Took our first extended trip this past week. We headed east instead of the expected west or north. Our destination was Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. If I was more technically savvy I would post a map of our route (but our route was fairly complicated anyways with the constant avoidance of well traveled roads). Anyways, heading out east from St. Louis we made it to the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana and camped at the Springs Valley Recreation Area campground, which was a free campground to boot. The drive to Indiana took a little longer than Google Maps head estimated, but Gifford did great, never even came close to overheating. The campsite wasn't much to brag about, and maybe it was because it was a free campground, but we now realize why Indiana is the Hoosier State.

Gifford at our campsite by the lake in Indiana

Heading south from Indiana head for Mammoth we drove along the Ohio River for a while on the curviest road we have ever been on, really tested Gifford's brakes. We made it into Mammoth in the early afternoon and just wandered around some trails until dark.

Gifford at our Mammoth Cave campsite

Our campsite in the park was nice, a pull through site with plenty of shade and we never had neighbors (some people pulled in to one of the neighboring sites, walked around for a while, saw our hammock and rusty ole Gifford and got back in their car and moved). On our second day in the park we went on a cave tour, 4 hours and 4.5 miles long, saw some really neat stuff. When they say Mammoth Cave, they mean Mammoth Cave. After our tour we lounged around the campsite until the heat of the day had passed, then went on some short hikes down to some springs.

Lounging in the hammock at our campsite.

The next day we rented a tandem bicycle (sorry no picture) and road the 9 mile trail down to Park City in search of beer (there was none in the park), but much to our chagrin there was none (apparently its a dry county). So we trudged back up to the park. One thing we learned: Never ride a tandem bike on gravel trails intended for mountain bikes. On our bike ride we stopped by a really neat old cemetery, that was sadly to say unkempt by the park service. We also stopped by a pond and saw the biggest snapping turtle I have ever seen.

After the hike we headed to Bowling Green, where it was rumored we could find some beer, possibly even a brewery. It was a nice town, not too big, not too small. We ate at Micki's on Main that was having a special bottomless wine tasting (which appealed to Diane), and I had some delicious crab cakes. Then we wandered around looking for the brewery but with no luck so instead found a liquor store, stocked up on some beer and headed back to camp.

The third night in the park gave Gifford's waterproofness a test. A multi-hour deluge and intense lightning storm came through the camp, causing us to have to move from the upper bunk (which is much more spacious and cool) to the lower bunk. We had a few minor leaks, but all in all stayed a whole lot more dry than the tent campers.

The next morning was filled with rain as well, so we took another cave tour, this one in a completely separate part of the cave, 2.5 hours and 2 miles long. Also a very neat tour, it was the historical route that has been toured since the early 1800's. After our tour we headed over to the other side of the park (across the river on a ferry) to do some backcountry hiking. We did very little planning for this hike and came to regret it about half-way through. We were headed on a 10 mile loop to see another old cemetery and didn't leave until about 4 o'clock, so had to really move and weren't able to fully enjoy the hike. At about the half-way point it started to rain, and rain it did. After jogging out the last 6 or so miles in a torrential downpour, where the trail had turned to a fairly significant river, and making it back to the ferry, the ferry driver informed us that some tornadoes had moved through. Later that night we also found out that it had rained 2.5 inches in one hour, so needless to say we are taking our weather radio on trips from now on.

View from Gifford on the ferry

After getting dried out we headed down to Cave City to spend our last night in Kentucky, and what better way to do that than in a WigWam. These were really neat, although small, but clean and luxurious in our exhaustion. We highly reccomend them for anyone passing through that area.

Gifford, us, and the WigWam

The next day we started our journey back to Missouri, with a stop in the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois to give Gifford a rest. Not a free campsite but a tidy one none the less.

Gifford at our last campsite

All in all it was a good trip, no problems from Gifford.