Thursday, May 6, 2021

Sparky and Eldo are in Indiana!

Batesville, IN.    High: 62     Low: 39.     Site: 4532

After a fairly short, uneventful four hour drive from Park City, KY to Batesville, IN, Sparky and Eldo settled in at the Indian Lakes KOA/Thousand Trails RV park in Batesville, IN. Sparky remembered from her Indiana college days that the Batesville Casket Company is based in Batesville, IN. They are one of the two largest casket manufacturing companies in the US. Sparky is wondering if they have company tours....really! She will let you know. (OMG, count me out if they do, says E.)  Ummmm...Darn, no tour.

Batesville Indian Lakes RV Park is a combination Thousand Trails Park and KOA. The KOA part is smaller, the Thousand Trails part is lots bigger. It's a HUGE, sprawling campground of over 800 sites all around a lake and river system. There are phases to the campground, some much newer than others. The sites vary from very uneven and narrow to extremely wide and level. 

One of the better sites

Phase 1 is personal sites people have purchased. Phase 2 is 30/50 amp area for Thousand Trails members and other campers, Phase 3 is 30 amp water and electric, Phase 4A is for seasonal/annuals ONLY, Phase 4B is for Thousand Trails members if there are any spaces (it's peppered with annuals and seasonals) and phase 5 is personal sites. The KOA part is clearly marked on the map when you receive one, but where you get to go if you are NOT wanting KOA is another story, depending upon how full they are in the different phase sections. Got it? It's very confusing. See the legend of the map?

Sparky might not even have the phase designations right except she's sure about the phase 2 where we first started and got flooded out almost immediately with all the rain that had been hitting the area. Don't know WHY we picked this first site, except that rigs were coming in, and we had to decide quickly a site that was LEVEL and the one we picked was.

uh, nope!

Phase 2 section has quite a few uneven sites and we tried two sites and couldn't get level before we noticed the traffic was coming into the park. It was like wagons were circling the campfire, or playing musical chairs. We had to hurry up and pick one! Only problem was, it was severely flooded on the door step side which we didn't notice till we parked and put the stairs down and the water didn't recede after one night. So we ended up moving to phase 4B after getting that cleared through the wonderful campground manager, Brenda, who so kindly reworked some scheduling to squeeze us into a great big gravel site. Much better!

Phase 4B--sites are HUGE!

The management is upgrading the electrical in the park and the interior roads are great for the most part, much better than in many Thousand Trails parks. You can easily ride a bike all around the park and get over seven miles in. You can walk the park every day and get LOTS of miles in, without covering the same route each day. There's supposed to be a nature trail, but Sparky never found it. Instead, she met a wonderful couple across the street one day when she investigated the source of some wonderful piano music and got a lovely walking partner, Donna, for her daily walks in return. The couple we met, Ken and Donna Grenier were just so friendly, wonderful, and with a great sense of humor  we enjoyed getting together more than once to chat all things travel and RV. AND, Ken is a piano player-he carries his Yamaha keyboard on board with him and plays outside when the weather is nice. It's like having a free mini concert in your backyard....Safe travels, you two! Hope we see you again!
There are some wonderful things to do nearby while in Batesville, IN, but you have to travel a bit to see them. Cincinnati is 42 miles from the RV park. You HAVE to go see the American Sign Museum while you are in the area. What a cool place! Yes, they are doing limited self-guided tours. It's a small parking lot for the museum. You purchase your tickets/time in advance, and seniors are 10.00 each. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and artwork of commercial signs and sign making.

Remember "Speedee", the little icon on the McDonald's sign?

More than 100 years of history of sign making and signs are in this 20,000 square foot building. You can take an audio tour on your phone, or take photos of the signage beneath the signs. Sparky got tired of juggling two phones (one for the tour and one for taking photos), she finally just took a bazillion photos of the place and all the information below the signs. A LOT of history is covered into the making of signs from the 1800's to today. It's all about the lettering processes, the plastics, the evolution of sign making from hand lettering showcards to modern day lit signs. It was fascinating!

Did you know that the Big Boy icon  used to have red hair? It was thought back in the day that red haired kids were mischievous and so they wanted the franchise to appeal to every fun loving kid and grownup. He also used to have a slingshot in his pocket, but once that became thought of as a weapon, they did away with it--and the red hair, to be more politically correct. They also changed his shoes to black, too...No more saddle shoes!

The Kona Lanes lettered sign was from a bowling alley with a Tiki Hut look. This style of signage plus the Pacific Island look of the bowling alley catered to returning soldiers from World War II who longed for the Pacific Island experience--the good parts.

There's also a full time neon workshop in the museum called NeonWorks of Cincinnati. Sparky talked to a worker in the shop. Sparky asked if there were any health hazards to working with neon? No, she answered, any chemicals that are used in the process are fully contained--mercury, argon gas, etc. She said that her grandfather was a neon bender (one who forms the tubes for signs).. Sparky wanted to know if neon still was in demand, and the answer was yes, but it has decreased a bit since LED lights are now getting to be the norm, but there are drawbacks to that form of sign making she stated. Sparky said it sounded like a really cool job and she nodded an enthusiastic yes, it really was a dream job for her!

You can watch the neon tube benders making the lettered signs right in front of you! They mark where the bends are to be in the tube, then they heat the tube to about 1500 degrees to bend them, then blow through one end of the tubing to cool them and keep the dimension of the tube open, then they go back to the workbench and calculate and mark the next bend. You can watch a video as to the process as well right there in the museum next to the workshop. 

There is a mural tour in Cincinnati. Sparky SO wanted to do that tour, but with the oil leak in the truck, and repeated trips to the dealership to try and get the issue fixed, our time was curtailed while we were here in Batesville. Check out that mural tour, AND the Cincinnati Union Station, an Art Deco station with three museums inside. Those two are on our bucket list for next time. A big thank you to Donna Grenier for giving us tips on where to visit!

Places to eat that we liked: Hobo Hut Restaurant in Batesville, another recommendation from our friends--Lil Charlie's Restaurant and Brewery in Batesville, and Four Corners Cafe-Batesville. Nearest Walmart is 22 miles away, nearest grocery (great Kroger's!) is on the other side of town in Batesville.

The latest on the truck oil leak....sigh...The oil started leaking after an oil change way back in Texas. It wasn't bad, just a few drips under the truck, but we thought we should get it checked out. The first dealership in Texas jacked us around for three weeks. They said we had TWO leaks. Wouldn't return our calls, wouldn't keep us informed, said they had to order parts, part of the parts came in, but not the special tool needed to perform the maintenance, blah, blah, blah. We had to leave for our next destination, so we gave up trying to chase down somebody who cared at that dealership. Second dealership in Kentucky--they fixed the leak. They didn't. It leaked worse. We went back and they ordered a special oil filter gasket that required an adhesive 'set'  and put it in. We thought we were ok. Then we lost or "threw" oil from Kentucky to Indiana, about two quarts while towing. We went to the third dealership here in Lawrenceburg, IN. They said they couldn't find ANY leak. They found a shop rag stuffed way up into the area where there is some kind of oil reservoir. When they pulled the shop rag out, it was totally saturated and a quart and a half of oil came out with it. They wiped everything clean and decided to  insert a dye to try and trace the leak. The truck goes back to the dealership tomorrow to see if the dye shows anything. The truck is still leaking oil, but it's the smallest amount we've seen so far. 

Well, that's it for now...we have about four days left here in southern Indiana...then we head towards Howe, IN for two weeks near Eldy's family. We'll get getting ourselves ready to go to Alaska in two weeks after that! See you later....

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

This and That About the Mammoth Cave Area

Park City KY.     Site A-2    High: 77    Low: 66

We have two more days here at Diamond Caverns RV Park. We had to extend our stay one more day by paying the daily fee for the first time since we got here for this park--44.00 in order to wait for parts for our truck to come in. Darn truck is still leaking oil--something about a gasket or seal that was not replaced two weeks ago because the part wasn't available and they used the existing part or something like that! It's not a bad leak, but when you pull a behemoth RV that's loaded at about 16,000 pounds, you better have your tow vehicle in tip top shape!

It's raining all day here in Park City. We will run errands, finish up laundry (usually 2.50 to wash for each load, and 2.50 to dry), clean house, the normal household stuff you do when it rains. But Sparky, clean house? What's there to clean in an RV? PLENTY! You wouldn't believe how much dust there is that circulates from outside air and through the vents. Even though we have mats outside and a wipe your feet mat inside the door, there is an amazing amount of dust that accumulates on the surfaces in just a day or two. With all the hard water that is at the campgrounds, there is buildup on the fixtures and in the shower and sinks, too. Some people have big honkin' water filtration systems attached to their camper or campground water supply but we don't. So today is also cleaning day....

Our rig has a built in vac system which is kinda cool. Just hook up the hose at the kick plate vent, and it turns on. Sparky doesn't like it much because the plastic hose is so long even though it's stretchy, (in order to reach from one end of the coach to the other), it is unwieldy and it's like trying to wrestle a slippery boa constrictor, to work her way to the back of the rig and around corners. The hose is always trying to shrink and jump back while using. Most of the time, she just gets a little dustpan and broom and uses that.

OK, here's the odds and ends...Places to eat--it's not the hot area for local eateries, this is cave country! BUT--There's a good Mexican restaurant called El Mazatlan at the Glasgow exit, one exit north of the park. Good street tacos--steak, cilantro, onions with pico de gallo.

There is also a Walmart and a Cracker Barrel, a Long John Silver's/A &W--they are all at the Glasgow exit--about 15 miles driving distance. People like the Amish bakery, Farmwald's Dutch Bakery and Deli, but we experienced a bad breakfast there. However, the mini donuts were wonderful! You'll have to form your own opinion on that one, as people do for all restaurants. There is an R & S Salvage Groceries in Horse Cave city which has Amish deli meats, donuts, and sandwiches on homemade breads and a bunch of salvage stuff. We didn't try that one but it gets very good reviews. There are very good Dollar General stores in the area that stock groceries for your basics. The one in Park City is very good. We found one pizza place called Turtellinis which had decent pizza. We didn't try the Cave Pizza place in Cave City. They had limited hours but good reviews. Yelp is our go-to app for places to check out, so we recommend that.  Other than that, we didn't check out any other restaurants. Bowling Green is 22 miles from Park City, and ALL the chains and major shopping stores are there if you want a nice dinner out or need to go to Best Buy, or Hobby Lobby (haha), or Michaels. (Sparky hasn't been to Hobby Lobby in WEEKS, will miracles never cease!? exclaims Eldo.) Sparky is trying to downsize, haha.

Main entrance to Mammoth Cave
Sparky FINALLY did the one and only offered cave tour at Mammoth Cave. It's self-guided at this time. You attend a briefing at the shelter area first before heading down to the main entrance. Mask wearing is mandatory at all federal facilities and Mammoth Cave is  mask on, mask up time as well. Neighbors said a lady went on a cave tour at Diamond Caverns yesterday and ended up having an asthma attack IN THE CAVE. She passed out, and they had to initiate a "rescue" from inside the cave. She was ok, we later found out. 

At any rate, what was the self-guided tour like? It was's 23.00 WITHOUT the senior pass,  and half price if you DO have your senior pass. You basically are walking a very shortened version of one of their several use-to-be-offered tours. There is no ranger leading the tour, but they do have several rangers stationed at a couple of places in the cave for questions and answers. The only tour offered right now (April 2021) is called the "Extended Historical Tour". As soon as you get into the main part of the cave, the Rotunda, you are directed to go right or left as they try to disperse the touring group more evenly. The right fork is a short trip on slightly worn down uneven ground, and it's very disconcerting to not be able to see your feet, if you have aging eyes with beginning cataracts like Sparky does. The blue paper mask kept fogging up Sparky's glasses BIG time as the cave was so cool and damp, so that was an additional hazard.
the pathway to the left as you enter
You can't tell if you are going up or down until you "feel " it with your feet, and it's bumpy. You are not allowed to use flashlights unless your source light is pointed at your feet at all times. So you need to be careful and carry a small light source for your feet if dimness might be a problem. Sparky saw a little girl with a mini flashlight on a lanyard pointing down, and it was perfect! You are not allowed to use flash photography, either. There are a couple of lit up exhibits of cave formations with can spotlights, but nothing spectacular, so the walkway is dimly lit. The fork to the left is far more interesting and about four times as long. 

Sparky saw discarded mining equipment, an area that was used for church services at the time, some great rock formations, and the tuberculosis huts. The walkway for this part was mostly stone pavers and level. The TB huts were very interesting. There were about 14 of them constructed down below, and only two stone ones remain today. Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the 19th and early 20th century and was called the "white plague".

TB "cabin"
Back in the early 1900's, doctors thought cave therapy might be a good place for a sanitarium for people suffering from TB.  After all, miners and visitors reported feeling remarkably better after visiting the cave. It was thought that "cave air" was better than ground level air. So an experimental "hospital"/sanitarium was established in the cave, by Doctor Croghan, a man suffering from TB himself. He invited 16 people to take up residence in the cave in 1842. If you had a lot of money, you "rented" out a stone hut and stayed down in the cave for weeks. Four people stayed in one of these little stone buildings. Those of lesser fortunes stayed in wooden "huts". Some of your meals were brought down to you by enslaved attendants from a bustling hotel up on the earth's surface. The attendants emptied the chamber pots and tended to the needs of the patients, who usually ended up dying because the moist, damp cool air was NOT beneficial to a TB patient. The experiment lasted five months. Five patients died and their bodies laid out on what's now known as "Corpse Rock". Dr. Croghan returned to the surface with the remaining patients. He died later from his TB, his experiment a failure. 

Sparky liked the "Methodist Church" section of the cave. Church services were held in this portion. The minister would climb higher up in the caverns and with lit torches above him, preach the sermon from a rock cliff. 

There was also an interesting geological feature called the "Giant's Coffin". There is some authentic graffiti on the "coffin" and then some that is not....As is always the case with features in the national parks. Wish people didn't feel like they had to deface federal property just to leave something of themselves behind!

If you like caves and don't get claustrophobic, this is an amazing cave to explore, especially when they get back to offering more tours. Mammoth Cave National Park has great trails, great caves and offers a great learning experience for families. The one take away Sparky got from this tour was the immensity of the cave system. "Cavers" are still exploring it, mapping it, but it's getting harder and harder the farther they get away from the existing entrances and pathways, to find new passageways and to continue to map the cave system. It's difficult to get financing for exploration as well, as this kind of exploration is not as popular as it used to be. 

coming out of the cave

There is one more tour here that you can do and it's called "Beneath Your Feet". It's an ABOVE walking/hiking tour (free!) that tells you the various parts of the cave that are far below your feet. There are little signs along the trails that explain the cave's geological features underground as you hike above on the trails. Very cool!
Very interesting history here, that's for sure! We highly recommend a visit....And that's it for Kentucky for Sparky and Eldo....Hope you enjoyed visiting the area with us...

We are off to southern Indiana tomorrow....two weeks at a Thousand Trails park, then a little more north to the Shipshewanna, IN area for two weeks, then Alaska here we come! Bye for now....

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cedar Sink Trail and Turnhole Bend Trail, And Sparky Gets Bit by Ticks

 Sparky LOVES hiking the trails at Mammoth Cave National Park. Don't worry, the Mammoth Cave Tour is on the agenda for the next day or so. There's only one cave tour available right now, and it's self-guided. So Sparky is exploring all the trails but one on the ranger map sheet guide, there are 11 trails listed.

The Turnhole Bend Trail- 0.5 mile loop trail. Listed as moderate because of a few stairs. Sparky would say this trail is more towards the easy side than moderate. Two sinkhole views and a pretty overlook of one of the largest springs of the Green River. You access this trail along Brownsville Road, before you get to the visitors center at the park. 
Turnhold Bend Trail
It's a quick little trail, with a little bit of elevation and a packed gravel path all the way. The sinkholes are interesting but not spectacular. On a spring day is a wonderful time to see Kentucky wildflowers. Sparky learned about some new ones--Fire Pinks (the red ones) and Jacob's Ladder (the purply blue ones).
Fire Pink wildflowers

Jacob's Ladder
The other trail that Sparky went to in the same day was the Cedar Sink Trail. The Cedar Sink Trail is far more interesting! It's a one mile trail with a massive sinkhole at the bottom of the trail. There are several sets of stairs that take you down to the sinkhole and then back out and up again. Talk about a major heart and leg workout! Sparky counted 107 steps in the one stair metal step section, and about 65 wood beamed stair steps in the other section, but there are actually more steps than that! The scenery is wonderful! You walk a flat level trail for awhile, then take the .5 mile loop around for additional elevation change and stairs, follow the steps down and you are in a different world from the forest you just came from!
The trail takes you into a deep rock shelf section overlook, where the immense cliff rock is immediately over your head and you look out over the beautiful forest floor down below.

There are beautiful wildflowers Sparky has never seen before, like these Dutchman's breeches. You have to look carefully as you traverse the trail to find these little gems. They are only in one little spot on the side of a cliff down near the bottom! These were nestled in a rock cranny just before the cliff overhang. 

You reverse your steps and come back onto the trail to continue down to the immense sinkhole. It's a mess of log jams and mud slides, but it's still cool to see nature at work all around you. Sparky loves geological features and loves to learn how they are formed. There is great signage on the trail that explains sinkhole formation with photos and explanations. Very cool!

Back to some beautiful wildflowers....trillium everywhere down at the bottom of the ravine and sinkhole....The leaves for these beautiful flowers are HUGE.
Here's what they look like close up.

The forest floor is currently (April 21, 2021) carpeted with lots of different wildflowers-purple phlox, purple phacelia, daisies, fire pinks, Larkspur (deep purple) and lots of Jacob's Ladder. 

Sparky's favorite is the Pussytoes! Don't they look like little kitten paws?
Well, enough of the wildflowers for now...Sparky will say, if you are out and about and want to learn the names of the plants and flowers, check out the app "Seek". It's really cool. You just open the app, hold your camera phone in front of your screen, and the Seek app tells you immediately what you are looking at, then takes a photo of it with the plant name. You can build your own little species library of what you are looking at in the area you are in. There are built in challenges of finding a certain number of species of plants/flowers/trees and little motivating badges. That's how Sparky found out that this plant (below) is another type of trillium, the toadshade--or a trillium sessile. Sparky even learned a new vocabulary word--endemic--a species that pertains only to a certain area. The toadshade is specific to this area in Kentucky. (Sparky has a pretty big vocabulary, explains E. but she is still learning!) 

The Cedar Sink Trail hike
Sparky has learned these wildflowers are in and on the Kentucky Mammoth Cave trails thanks to SEEK--perfoliate bellwort, star chickweed, Virginia Spring Beauty, American Jumpseed, wild geranium, and more. Sparky also learned on her hike today from talking to a park ranger that garlic mustard is an invasive species and all the debris on the trails where plants have been pulled up and thrown on the side of the trail is not from deer foraging for roots or food, but the rangers pulling out the invasive plants and then letting them naturally decay at the side of the trail. That's to prevent the garlic mustard seeds from developing and spreading the invasive plant! Well, how about that? So much to learn, so little time! 

Uh, Sparky, what's that green stuff hanging out of your coat pocket? wonders Eldo. Ummmm...oh, THAT?
It's wild chives! They are growing all over the place at the campground and all around the grasses and picnic areas at Mammoth Cave National Park. (Hmmmm...maybe that's where she got bit by the tick, thinks E.) Sparky LOVES chives on a baked potato....and sour cream....and butter.....and cheese.....

We have less than a week to go, so Sparky better hurry up and get that cave tour in soon! We'll see you later.....

WAIT A SEC! SPARKY GOT BIT BY A TICK(S)? WE WANT TO HEAR ALL THE DETAILS! Nah, Sparky is sure you don't, but just in's a fast rehash. Sparky has been bit by a two different was a month ago in Texas, after a hiking a certain park regularly. She has been watching the spot very carefully. No reactions so far. Then two days ago, she got bit AGAIN. Both times, wearing long pants but short sox, untucked tee shirt...Somehow the first tick made it to the belly button area, the second time the tick only got as far as the calf of her leg. The first tick went bye-bye in the trash, Sparky was so grossed out. The second tick met his demise, death by freezer/tweezers. He is currently in the freezer morgue. Sparky is going to have a Lyme disease test soon to be sure nothing is going on. She has since bought a special tick specific spray to spray on her ankles and clothing, is now wearing long socks when hiking plus long sleeves, tucking in her shirt, and is thinking about duct taping her ankles, pants to the sox. Sparky never goes off trail not even to take photos but occasionally steps to the side of the trail for a photo. She really isn't sure how she picked up the tick, except that at the park in Texas where she used to walk every day, there were long grasses at the sides of the trail. Here in Kentucky, she thinks it was because she waited at the side of the road for a few minutes and it was in long grass. So-o-o-o-o...That's the latest about ticks. They are out there and it's tick season. A ranger said it depends on how long the tick was on you, the sooner you get it off, the better! He said if it's within a three to four hour window, I should be ok. The DOCTOR seems to think how long the tick is on you does NOT make a difference....They start sucking your blood right away. Sigh. Yuck. So check yourself regularly when hiking or even just walking the local trails, and CHECK YOUR PETS as well. Use some kind of prevention bug/tick spray/repellent.

And that's all the news for today....Really! Bye for now.....

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Hiking Trails at Mammoth Cave National Park

Diamond Caverns RV Park and Golf    High: 62  Low: 37. Site-A-2

Sparky has been lovin' the trails at Mammoth Cave National Park. There are a couple in particular, that she has frequented several times now because they are so pretty and are considered "moderate" instead of "easy". Easy is nice when you are out for a stroll, moderate is great when you are hoping to get the heart rate up and use a few more muscles!

When you get a trails map at the information center at the Mammoth Cave Visitors Center, you get a variety of ELEVEN looped trails that if you start one, feed into another one, then pick up another one, you can EASILY get 5 miles and more. The map is called the Front Country Area Trails, and has the most commonly used ones at the park that are all close to the visitors center. The front side has the map, the back side has the name of the trails, how long they are, and how they are rated. You can backpack and day hike more serious trails further into the park, but the front trails are plenty challenging for Sparky for now. The back country trails have a lot of horse trails, horse poop, ticks and litter according to some reviews on the All Trails app. Well, that's not good. Having had one tick bite already in Texas, Sparky is not up for dealing with more ticks, so she's going to stick to the recommended front trails. Besides, the front trails are blooming with wildflowers, at their peak right now.

Virginia Spring Beauty wildflower

The Green River Bluffs Trail is one of the longest trails close to the center of the heart of the park, it is 1.3 miles long. If you hike it from the start at one end, then double back, you get 2.6 miles of lots of elevation changes, rugged terrain (rocks and tree roots) in spots, and beautiful views, albeit occasionally, of the Green River alongside of you as you hike. And if you are REALLY lucky, you might see some wildlife, as Sparky did today. Wildlife can be anything from deer to snakes--copperheads and rattlesnakes are in the park. You are not allowed to kill snakes in the park. Well, that's not good! The only good copperhead snake or rattlesnake is a dead one, Sparky thinks. So far, Sparky has only seen a black racer, a BIG long one cross her path. Ugh!

Sparky is starting to make some videos of the hikes and going to put them on Youtube in a couple of weeks or less. Right now, cellular signal is terrible at Diamond Caves RV park, so she can't upload for awhile yet. So she was out walking the Green River Bluff trail today, recording the hike, and lamenting that she hadn't see but one deer in the several long bike and hike rides she's done so far all this week. She just got done talking about only seeing one deer yesterday that came running by her by the visitors center, when she rounded a bluff, and SIX deer were grazing at the top of the bluff, Sparky downwind on the trail a couple of feet below, but the deer were 15 feet or less away from her. (It wasn't much of a bluff.) They continued to munch and chomp on the plantings on the hillside and then meandered one by one in front of her and behind her, crossing the trail and heading downhill!  You can HEAR them eating on the video! Sparky was really really excited to be so close.  And although deer are commonplace in Indiana where Sparky and Eldo used to live, it's still cool to see them in the wild, up close and personal when you are NOT in your car! Sparky captured ONE shot of the last one headed down the hillside.

Sparky was so excited, she called Eldo. "Eldy---Guess what I just saw?" He pauses and says, "A bobcat?" That's what Sparky encountered on a hike back at the Estero Llano Grande State Park near Harlingen, SE Texas, a couple of weeks ago and she called Eldo then...Hard to top that! "Nah, just a bunch of deer right on the trail, eating in front of me! But THEY ARE SO CLOSE!" They just couldn't smell Sparky because she was downwind (and used deodorant this morning?) No, she didn't, haha. It was just a special experience to be that close and see their fur and some detailed spot coloring. So stay tuned, and when Sparky manages to get a couple of hikes uploaded to Youtube, she will let you know.

Another trail that is a heart beater is the River Styx Spring Trail. It's a .4 mile trail, but that four tenths is a doozy! Lots of elevation if you are at the bottom, and a knee killer if you are headed down. After a relatively easy ascent at the beginning, then the steps begin, and there are a LOT of steps on this switchback trail to get back up to the top of the ridge. The steps are not your usual stair steps. They are big lumber pieces to keep the gravel from washing away downhill when it rains. So you are "highstepping" it and lifting those legs high and far in front to climb them. It's rated as "moderate" and it is a heart pumper upper and a knee workout going up for sure! This trail goes to the River Styx Spring, which is where an underground river is exiting the cave to go into the Green River.

Stairs leading away from Dixon Cave
The third trail Sparky has enjoyed is the Dixon Cave Trail. Again, it is only 0.5 miles long, but it is also rated "moderate". You get to see a scenic pretty view of the entrance, the cave is closed to the public. It's closed because hibernating bats use it and Kentucky is worried about the spread of white-nose syndrome, which is killing bats. Dixon Cave is a winter haven for Indiana bats, an endangered species. More and more caves are becoming unsuitable for bat habitation due to human interaction. People can harm hibernating bats by entering caves and waking them up. That causes them to use up their fat reserves before winter is up. This cave has a bat friendly gate that keeps people out and bats can come and go. It's not much to look at, but the history is interesting.

By picking up connecting trails, you can add to your hike and walk all day long if you wanted to! By the way, "moderate", in Sparky's humble opinion, means elevation changes, some rough terrain such as rocks and tree routes, having to carefully pick your spots to place your feet, (usually while ascending or descending), and sometimes very narrow trail to navigate. No big boulders to clamber over nor tight fits to squeeze through nor extreme elevation climbs-- that would be Sparky's definition of "hard". Sparky recommends a hiking pole or two for seniors. (Sparky wished she would remember to take her hiking poles, next time for sure!)
part of the Green River Bluffs Trail

For the most part, the trails are marked well, but some of the signs are so aged that you can't see the directional arrows, and many of the trail connector roads are not matched to the direction that the arrow might be pointing. Got that? Sometimes there won't be a sign telling you the name of the third trail between two other trails, and so you just get on it and hope it eventually connects to another better marked trail or back to the VC (visitors center). It does.  If Sparky can't get lost, then NOBODY can get lost on the front country trails. (Now, wait a sec, cautions Eldy. She COULD have gotten lost in the past three days and just not told me). True, true, very true. (AHA!!!! I knew it! Eldo gloats.) Well, not for very long. Sparky took one of those unmarked middle trail paths and it took awhile to get back to the main loops again. 

Wild Iris blooming everywhere!

SO-o-o-o...that's it for now...peak  wildflower season is here this week, and there are a couple more hikes in the works to see more wildflowers, shorter hikes....We'll keep you posted and we've got lots more time (2 more weeks) to take advantage of a cave tour or two. Although we have already done those, and COVID is making it harder to explore and tour, we will do what we can do and are allowed to do to enjoy our stay here at the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and share that with you. Thanks for stopping by....See you next time!
Virginia bluebells

Friday, April 9, 2021

Hike and Bike Trail at Mammoth Cave, KY

Mammoth Cave National Park, Park City, KY     High: 81.  Low: 58

We are settled in at Diamond Caverns RV and Golf Resort after pushing hard the first traveling day leaving Spring, TX, and then two shorter journeys on the way thru Louisiana and Tennessee, a hop, skip, and a jump to get here. The golf course is down the street a little ways...Eldo will be checking that out for you later in the week.

This is a nice Thousand Trails park. The driveway into the RV park is within the boundaries of Mammoth Cave National Park,  but the campground itself is on the outskirts of the park boundaries. 

Site A-2
 We have a nice back in site with full hookups   for three weeks, FREE, with our Thousand Trails membership. (We do pay a monthly fee but we have more than recouped that monthly fee with all the TT parks we have stayed in since we left Florida. We sure have gotten good use out of that, we feel!

There is some shade with a big ole tree at the back of the lot. The pool is empty, there are no amenities open here right now because Kentucky is a little more stringent on COVID precautions.  The playground is closed off and kids are not allowed in it yet. They are at 60% occupancy in restaurants as of March 1.

Sites in the "A" section are not too close together, and long enough for our big rig and the truck to fit easily. There is a huge concrete pad behind us--use to be a site, maybe for a park model or seasonal, but now it's just a big slab. We could have a party back here, haha!

The weather is beautiful spring weather....70's to low 80's during the day, 50's to 60's at night. All the spring trees are flowering, especially the redbuds. 

Sparky has ridden the Hike and Bike Trail three times, three days in a row, 8.5 miles one way from the Diamond Caverns Gift shop just across the street from the campground, to the Mammoth Caves National Park Visitor Center and back, 16 miles each day. The trail actually extends a little further down from the campground to Park City, the other direction, about three miles further.

The trail is a railbed trail from the old Mammoth Cave railroad company, but it it NOT a rails to trails. It's a rough gravel trail with embankments on both sides. The gravel pieces are very large in some places, and you really have to watch your speed and the size of the gravel, along with spring rain ruts. 

There are worn smooth places in the trail, but they are few and far between. Sparky rides Eldo's Trek Dual Sport bike for this type of trail because of the puncture resistant Bontrager tires and suspension fork. 

There are a LOT of hilly sections, and places with steep grades where you are supposed to get off and walk your bike or risk losing control of the bike and the brakes not holding your speed back. A lot of RVers are going to electric bikes, but Sparky is holding out. Those kind of bikes are SUPER heavy, and Sparky thinks she's not there yet as far as age and being stubborn. (HAHAHAHAHA.....Eldo is cracking up. And that's all he's going to say, because he's a smart one, that Eldo.)

Great spots for stopping and taking a break on the trail....Signage that explains the history of the area, overlooks...

Pretty little bridges and boardwalks...Sloan Pond is a little walk along the way that has a boardwalk all the way around the pond, about .4 of a mile.

And that's about it for the Hike and Bike Trail. It's a rough trail and not for the faint of heart or someone who's expecting a nice paved trail. Nope. But Sparky likes the challenge and the elevation changes, about 950 ft. elevation change, according to her watch. We hope to do a cave tour next week, and take some short hikes leading into bigger hikes around the Mammoth Cave park area. We'll see you on the trails later! Thanks for stopping by....