It’s the final Sunday of 2021 & it’s time for another Year in Review! I wanted to bring the blog back to life this year and post at least once a week. I missed a few weeks throughout the year, but overall I’m pleased with how I was able to keep things active. Along the way, I kept a list of ideas to discuss, so I should always have some content as I attempt to keep this up in 2022.
The weekly format seems to work well as it allows me to summarize the previous 7-days and add some additional content that appears relevant (or fun). As I did last year, this post will be a summary of the past year. It’s been another wild year with Covid and all the VAX/Boost discussions but we’re in the home stretch. Next Sunday will be the first post of 2022!
I shared our family favorite Scalloped Potato Gratin
Started visiting A2Z Cafe again for lunch (Closed on Monday)
The Bon Appetite Test Kitchen falls apart
Clancy’s opens in the garage Food Hall
We visited Indy Tacos
Discovered a Vegan Cheeseball that fooled everyone I served it to (AmazeBall)
Dropped Lass Pass for BitWarden (and never looked back)
Hoagies and Hops opens a new location in Fletcher Place (now closing on 12/31)
Life in Indy launches
I start playing Disk Golf (Like Ball Golf only better)
We discover J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (although I mentioned him on the Blog in 2010)
My First COVID Vaccination at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Saraga plans to open a store in Castleton (still not open)
Baseball returns and I actually watch it (Go Reds!)
I order a TidByt (it was delivered the day before Christmas, review coming soon)
I finally ate at Loughmiller’s Pub & Eatery (free cookie Monday)
More Disk Golf (I’m hooked)
I visit the Gus Grissom Monument In Mitchel, Indiana
Hiking at Hemlock Cliffs
More Disk Golf at a Monastery in Southern Indiana
I finally try Chris’s Ice Cream And fall in love with their Chorizo Burrito
First camping trip of the year at Indian-Celina Lake Campground
Bought a WOOL T-Shirt (and LOVE it)
Who could forget the 17-Year Cicada Brood
Built a Pi Weather Station (use this daily)
More Disk Golf
Travel to Cincy and visit the War Birds Museum, and Jungle Jims, for fathers Day
Road Trip to the Allegheny National Forest (So much rain)
Found a proper Beef on Weck at the Bar-Bill Tavern (I have dreams about this sando)
Visited Niagara Falls (nicer than I remember)
Visited the Zippo/Case Museum
FINALLY saw Rock City (only to find out it’s not the one I saw signs for growing up)
Walked the Kinzua Bridge State Park in Kane, PA
Reviewed Upland Brewing (Jalapeno Blue Cheese Sauce)
Bought an iPad Pro (FINALLY)
Reviewed the 99% Invisible Podcast
MORE Disk Golf
Looked at the WP Recipe Maker plugin (too much work)
20 years since 9/11
677,737 American deaths attributed to COVID so far
Visited San Diego
Bought a new Apple Watch
Updated my Kindle Paperwhite
Watched the Donut King Documentary
Visited Findlay Market
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden (READ this)
No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald (then READ THIS)
So that’s it for 2021. We covered a lot of ground this year and started some new things. The Keto “diet” has turned into more of a “watch those carbs” lifestyle and I’m happy to report I’ve had some moderate success. Disk Golf was something new this year and I really enjoyed playing various courses around the area. San Diego was a nice escape, even though I was there for work, and the Allegheny National Forest was one of the nicest camping trips I’ve had in a while, despite all the rain.
Here’s to another year, and thanks for reading!
The last 4 posts were a recap of my week-long trip to OH, PA & NY to visit the Allegheny National Forest. With the daily rain, and summer temps, the mosquitos were out and looking for blood but I brought a solution to that…
After seeing ads and reviews over the past year I decided to pickup a Termacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller prior to the trip. This device comes in many different models and is powered by battery or Butane/Propane canister. I chose the latter as I use that fuel for cooking while camping.
The Thermacell uses heat from a tiny gas powered flame to heat a small pad containing a repellant solution. They claim a 15′ “zone of protection” and I think that’s pretty accurate. I noticed an immediate improvement as soon as I fired up the repeller and set it on the table next to where I was hanging out. It was especially useful under the tarp where I was spending a lot of time during the rain showers. It’s not going to work as well of there’s a lot of wind, but the bugs are usually not a problem when it’s windy.
The pads last for approximately 4-hours and cost around $2 each (cheaper in bulk). There is a very slight sweet smell but it’s not off-putting and a lot better than some of the other scented candles that don’t work very well. This being the backpacking model it’s quite small and portable. If you have a larger space to cover they make bigger units for that.
If you’re looking for something to help keep the bugs at bay while enjoying the outdoors check out the Thermacell line of products and see if they’ll work for you.
Picking up where we left off last week. After I finished checking out Spring Mill state park I headed to another item on my travel list, Hemlock Cliffs.
Located on National Forest Rd, in English Indiana, Hemlock Cliffs is a little out of the way and on this Friday afternoon the parking lot was pretty empty. I could see this place getting really busy on a weekend. The trail loop out the the cliffs is about 2 miles long and easy to moderate in spots. It’s NOT accessible buy wheel chair or stroller as it has some narrow parts and several sets of steps.
Here are some short videos I made of the various waterfalls in the area.
While heading to the next destination I saw a sign for the Winzerwald Winery in Bristow Indiana and decided to check it out. They had a nice tasting room where you could get 4 samples for $4. I chose the flight of their “dry” wines which consisted of the following:
- Black Riesling (Red)
- Blaufränkisch Rosé (DEEP Red)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (Red)
- Grüner Veltliner (White)
All were quite good but I settled on the Grüner Veltliner to purchase and enjoy at home. Winzerwald Winery also sells a Pumpkin Spiced wine that I was too scared to try this time around.
I was surprised to see the number of wineries in the area. On Google maps I counted at least 12 within an hours drive of this one.
Next we’re headed to one of the reasons for the trip. The 18-hole Disc Golf (DG) course at the Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana.
Unfortunately this is where the trip goes south. After 9-holes of DG the skies opened up and there was no end in sight. Between the rain and lightning I decided to cut the trip short and head back to Indy. I’m glad I did as the rain continued into the evening and setting up all your camping gear for a single night is just not worth the effort (or the cleanup afterwards). I already have a return trip planned and hope to finish out my round of DG and get a night of camping in the books.
That’s it for now, enjoy the warmer temps this week. I think summer is finally making an appearance!
I took the day off last Friday & headed down to Southern Indiana for some sightseeing, Disc Golf, and camping. With the knowledge that State Rt 37 was closed in Martinsville I decided to take State Rt 39 that runs parallel to the west. I also wanted to check out the Goethe Link Observatory along the way. Unfortunately it was closed.
My next stop was Spring Mill Park, which I have not been to in years. When I got down to Mitchell Indiana I realized it was lunch time so I stopped at my road trip favorite McDonalds.
Being lunch time in a small town the drive-thru was backed up to the street so I decided to go in. There was a clear division of masks and no masks. The older the person was the more likely they were masked up. The younger crowd not so much. It was an otherwise uneventful visit until I got back to my car. This was the BEST quarter pounder I had EVER had! It was seasoned a little more aggressively than normal and was LOADED with onions and pickles (like, double the amount). I never thought I’d ever enjoy a fast food sandwich this much. The fries were as good as always and someone was a little heavy handed with the salt on those as well. No complaints here!
East of this location I noticed a sign for the Gus Grissom Monument and I decided to check it out. I drove right by it the first time as I ws expecting it to be further up the road. It’s actually right behind the Mitchell police department and it’s quite the monument!
What an amazing monument to an American Hero. Little did I know there was ANOTHER tribute to Grissom at Spring Mill!
Spring Mill was a lot bigger than I remembered and was pretty empty that day (benefits of visiting on a weekday). I remembered to purchase my annual park pass at the gate. HIGHLY recommended if you are going to visit any of the state parks throughout the year. It pays for itself after a few visits. The Spring Mill Inn is in the process of remodeling on the outside but was very nice on the inside. I could see spending a new nights here while exploring the area trails and activities.
There’s more to this trip than I’ve listed here but I’m going to save that for the next post. It was great to get out of the house and get back outside after a miserable 2020 and a longer than usual winter. The Allegheny National Forest trip I canceled last fall (because everything was closed) is being re-scheduled and there should be some good travel posts coming up this summer.
Finally, I came across this video on YouTube last week. I never knew this job was available in the Military!
I’ve been planning an overnight getaway to the Hoosier National Forrest (HNF) for a while now. I prefer weeknight trips to avoid the rush of weekend warriors that fill the campsites throughout the US.
It was funny (and totally coincidental) to see a writeup in the latest Indianapolis Monthly this month. Even more so that they featured one of the areas I was going to visit. Kind of made me feel better that I’d picked a good spot to visit!
I started southeast of Bloomington in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness area. Specifically at the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. This is one seriously tall tower! My plan was to make the trip to the top after some exploring.
After checking my map one more time I headed down the Out-and-Back Terrill Ridge Trail. I had been told from a co-worker that there were some good camping areas at the end of the trail as well as a pioneer cemetery.
As you van see it’s a pretty flat twin track trail that is used to access the cemetery. There was a sign indicating you could drive back there with permission. At the end I found the cemetery but there were N0 Camping signs everywhere so I continued to scout around.
About a 1/4 mile back there was a bend in the trail and I totally missed the sign that showed the spur trail that take you back to a Lilly pad covered pond and several disbursed sites.
Having marked a few GPS waypoints for future reference I headed back to the car. Unfortunately my IT Band started to act up half way back to climbing the tower was out of the question. I just wanted to get off my feet! It’s kind of funny an IT Guy ends up with IT Band issues…
I decided to head down to the Saddle Lake Recreation area and scope things out. They have 2 camping areas. One that’s primitive (North Face) and one that has electricity (South Slope). I decided to drive through the first one and see if there were any spots available. Sure enough the weekday excursion paid off. Plenty of sites! Since I didn’t have a reservation I stopped by the Camp Host site to see what I should do.
That’s where I met Wendy & Jerry. The had been hosting at the North Face campground since April and the had a pretty nice little setup going. This was Jerry’s first year as a host and he said he was really enjoying it. Wendy had been hosting for several years prior.
They bickered a little about which campsite to assign me, each thinking the one they had in mind was better than the other. In the end we ended up in North Face Site 18 in the and it could not have been more perfect. It was a big site with plenty of room for my 3-man tent. You could have setup a 10-man tent and still had room.
I purchased a couple of bundles of firewood and Jerry offered to bring them by once I got settled. He came by about 20-minutes later to deliver the firewood and see how I was getting along.
After a filling meal of Mountian House Chili Mac, a few IPA’s I brought back from San Antonio, and a nice campfire I retired for the night to rest up for Day-2. The tacos dipped into the 50’s and it was a very comfortable night.
As usual when camping nature is usually your best alarm clock. I was awakened by numerous song birds each singing their identifiable melody. The air was cool and, as usual, a little damp. The tree cover helped minimize the dew and kept things a lot drier than I was expecting.
I packed up camp and made sure the fire was completely out by stirring up the ashes with a stick and feeling for any warmth. We were all good!
I was heading back to Indy today but I wasn’t in any hurry. I remembered seeing an interesting rock slide the last time I was in the Marengo, Indiana area and decided to check it out before taking a tour of the Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark.
The rock slide was right next to the road (Highway 64 near Milltown, IN) and it looked like a huge hole deep into the rock. There was a mining operation in the area as well so that might have caused the cave-in.
Marengo Cave is a nicely run operation. The whole property is clean and very well taken care of. They have camping sites available as well as places to hike and have a picnic. There are 2 tours available and you can buy a discounted package to tour both. Since I want to visit again I choose to take the shorter of the 2 tours that lasted about 40-minutes.
The Cave was discovered by 2 kids in the late 1800’s when the took a candle down into a sink hole and eventually found the first of dozens of rooms in the cave system. It’s an interesting story and the caves are worth a visit if you’re in the area.
I was passing through a little town when I saw the sign above. I had to turn around to come back and get this shot. I thought it was pretty funny.
So all in all I’ve only scratched the surface of the Hoosier National Forrest and I have several trips in the planning stages for next year (maybe one more this year if the weather cooperates). There are so many trails and places to camp it could take years to see them all. I feel fortunate we have such a well run National forrest in Indiana and I plan to visit again soon!
This trip came about from a casual conversation with a co-worker and the tips and suggestions he provided made this a very enjoyable few days! Do you have a favorite place in the HNF? I’d love to hear form you.
This is the 3rd and final part of the Red River Gorget Trip Report. Lot’s of pictures and a few videos in this one. Enjoy!
Waking up early
In order to beat the heat of the day I was up at the crack of dawn and out the door by 7:30. I had packed everything but water and food the night before so it was pretty easy to hit the road early. Temps were in the low 70’s and the humidity was at least 80%.
Props to the new Subaru for handling the Kentucky roads, paved and unpaved, like a champ. This car is a MUCH better fit for my lifestyle than the Mercedes Sedan I previously owned, but not nearly as much fun to drive…
Driving to the Trailhead
I’m still amazed how un-congested the whole Red River Gorge was during the 4th of July holiday. I expected a lot more people to be out and about in the area. I was pleasantly surprised at how few people I saw on the trails.
The Nada Tunnel separated be from the trailhead. As mentioned in Part-2 this is an old rail tunnel that’s been converted into a one-lane road.
Auxier Ridge to Courthouse Rock Trail
After driving for about 30-minutes I was finally at the trailhead. It was a very well groomed gravel lot with a pit toilet in case you needed it before/after your hike. There were 2 other cars parked here when I started about a dozen when I left.
I changed into my Hiking Shoes, threw on the day-pack, and headed out. Almost immediately I was greeted by a Rhododendron grove still in bloom.
The trail was in great shape and had a layer of sand that was soft to walk on but not so thick to get into your shoes or be a problem. I’ll take this over a gravel or muddy trail any time!
The views along this trail were amazing. You would have a little stretch of a green tunnel that would open up into view after view of the nearby ridges and valleys.
It’s pretty amazing to think about what it took to carve out the Gorge and create the arches that are hundreds of feet in the air. This place was created over thousands/millions of years and, in a way, feels ancient and new at the same time.
As the trail continued I had my head on a swivel as there were things to see on both sides of the ridge. It was nice to see a little wildlife in the form of a baby bunny along the trail. He was pretty calm and allowed be to get closer than I thought I could to get a picture. As soon as I passed he took off into the brush.
There were many outcrops along the trail and you could see where people had been camping. You’re supposed ot be a minimum of 300-feet from a trail when you camp, but that’s pretty difficult to do on a 200-400-foot wide ridge with a trail running down the middle.
In the distance I could see “Double Arch”, one of many arches in the area and a place I want to check out when I return.
I found a great area to get close to the edge of the ridge and take a peak at Courthouse Rock which is off in the distance in the picture below.
As I worked my way closer to the end of the trail it was time for a snack and water break. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my package of “Dietz Nuts” but now was the time to find out…
Other than the some greasiness on the surface (from the warm temps) these meat bites were really good! I think they could use some work on their naming/marketing but I’d pick these over traditional beef jerky every time.
Finally at the end of the ridge it’s time to descend into the Gorge and get out of the sun and into the humidity!
Descending into the Gorge
I took the steep stairs down to the bottom of the gorge and was met with cooler temps. Everything was wet from the humidity and I quickly learned that being the first one on the trail isn’t always a good thing. Someone has to break through all of the spider webs for the day and it was my turn today! I ended up with several spider bites form this experience, not very fun…
It was very interesting to see the dynamic change of my surroundings. There were mushrooms everywhere and the trail was a lot less obvious than what I had been hiking on 150 feet above on the ridge. I walked along the contour of the ridge bottom and headed back towards the starting point.
Climbing to the Top
Once I reached the end of the lower ridge trail I was expecting to see another set of stairs but instead I was greeted with what looked like a steep washout. That was the way back to the top of the trail and it was a pretty tough climb to get to the top. Time for another snack and water break!
I’m a fan of the RX Bars but I’ve found from others it’s something you either love or hate. They’re very dense and sticky chewy. The flavors are pretty tru to the description and this Peanut Butter & Berry flavor was no exception. You definitely need something to wash these down with but I really enjoy them and they keep for a long time.
After completing the hike I took some time to explore the area some more and identified several places I’d like to camp when I return next. Disbursed camping is pretty much everywhere. I wasn’t expecting to see so many places along the roads. There are NO amenities when you camp like this so if you want a bathroom and running water your best bet is to stick with some of the established campgrounds in the area.
I was expecting to do some fishing when visiting the RRG but quickly found out that it’s not really possible. The Red River is VERY muddy and the other streams in the area too shallow. I’ll leave the fishing gear home next time and just focus on hiking and camping.
I packed the car up the next day and headed north towards Morehead and Maysville, Kentucky. I wanted to stop by a family gravesite to pay my respects as well as visit the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.
I really enjoyed driving on the back roads of Kentucky and twisted my way up and over the hills along my journey. I finally made it to Cincinnati after lunch and checked out the Museum.
The American Sign Museum is a really cool place. They’re preserving a piece of American history. It’s been so popular they’re expanding into another space with will double the existing square footage and allow them to continue to add to the already amazing collection. If you’re in the area and have an hour to kill I recommend checking it out!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting the RRG area. I was VERY impressed with the number and quality of trails in the area. I wasn’t so impressed with my cabin rental but it could have been worse. The crowds were way less then I expected, especially for a holiday weekend. I want to return in the fall when the leaves are changing, the temps are cooler, and the humidity lower.
If you’re looking for a very low key get away and want to spend some time enjoying nature RRG is a nice, inexpensive place to visit. It’s 4-hours south of Indianapolis and an easy morning/afternoon drive. There are lots of places to stop along the way to make the trip even more interesting.
That’s it for this trip report. I have a few more trips in the planning stages as well as more gear reviews in the works. If you have any feedback about the review or questions about the RRG area please leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!
Driving to Red River Gorge
After an awesome lunch at the Stave I continued my journey Southeast towards Red River Gorge (RRG). It was an uneventful trip with the usual Kentucky countryside of rolling hills and horse farms. Everything was green this time of year and the roads were light with traffic.
One of the many attractions in the RRG area is the Nada Tunnel. It’s a 900-foot long 13-foot high one-lane tunnel that used to be a railroad. It’s now considered the “Gateway” to the Gorge and has been paved for vehicular traffic.
I was kind of surprised there wasn’t any kind of signaling device to help with traffic. Instead you must creep up to the enterance and look for approaching headlights. If you don’t see any you’re good to go. I always followed the car in front of me thinking they would have cleared the way. It worked every time I used the tunnel.
Look for a short video in the next part.
Once I arrived to the rental cabin I found that it was still being cleaned so I set out to explore the town of Slade, Ky. There’s not a lot in the area. Food wise you have 4 options. Miguels Pizza, a Mexican place, a BBQ shack, and a Coffee Shop/mini grocery. That’s about it unless you want Subway at the gas station out near the highway.
I received a text saying the cabin was ready so I headed back. The cabin was located deep in the woods at the end of a long gravel road. I’m glad I have All Wheel Drive ad some parts of the road were steep and others had deep gravel that limited traction. This was a fun little road both in and out of the property.
The website said the cabin had been renovated a year ago and I learned very quickly the website hadn’t been updated in a few years. While the cabin wasn’t terrible it was a little rougher that I expected. At only $129 a night I certainly didn’t expect to be stating at the Ritz. Overall it was clean and the AC worked so I made the best of it.
I had DSL service a long time ago and it was adequate for the Internet of that time. The place I was staying in had DSL and I can assure you it’s NOT adequate for the Internet of today. First think I did was reset the modem and it helped a little bit but it was clear I wasn’t going to be online much in this place which was fine by me. I just needed to check on a few messages and map out some areas to explore. I had offline maps saved in Google Maps as well as Gaia GPS so I was in pretty good shape.
I was expecting the area to be a lot more crowded with tourists because of the July 4th holiday. I was presently surprised that it wasn’t. There was a small campground that I passed on the way to the cabin and it had a lot of climbers camped out. The area offers whats called Dispersed Camping which pretty much allows you to setup camp off the side of the road in designated areas. All that’s required is a parking pass you purchase from area retailers. It’s a lot different that what I was expecting and, when I visit next time, I’ll be sure to check it out.
As I stated earlier the Slake Ky area isn’t fancy by any means. There are a few cabins a motels scattered around the area. Other than the local Pizza place it’s definitely not a hot spot. In a way I kind of liked it that way. I have a feeling it might be a little more trafficked when the temps are cooler and the trees are coloring out in the fall. I hope to revisit at that time either this year or next.
Dinner at La Cabana
Since the Pizza place appeared to have a line out the door every time I passed I opted for dinner at the La Cabana Mexican Restaurant down the road. I wasn’t sure what to expect but, hey, even sub-par Mexican food is usually pretty decent. I can make a meal out of Chips and Salsa and a beer or two.
La Cabana had inside seating and an outdoor bar. It was pretty typical of any other Mexican place with the standard menu items. They were featuring a Tacos El Pastor that night and after seeing several orders come out of the kitchen I settled on that. It didn’t disappoint and I was very happy with my choice. The sauce they had on the side was like FIRE. A little bit went a long way and it was quite tasty. The side plate of beans, while looking pretty plain, were very flavorful and complemented the tacos nicely. I left with a full, happy, belly.
Evening with offline shows
After arriving at the cabin, unpacking all my gear, and filling up on Mexican food, it was time to get settled. I finalized the plan for the next day and settled back with a few offline shows I had downloaded to the iPad. This is a great way to carry some entertainment for yourself or others and not have to rely on Internet service, which I practically had none of.
Next up, hiking in Red River Gorge and a recap of the trip!
This is going to be a multi-part post over the next few weeks. I took a ton of photos and want to share some of them here as well as detail the trip as best as I can. I hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.
I decided to take advantage of the July 4th holiday being on a Wednesday this year and plan a Hiking/Camping/Fishing getaway. Initially I was looking at the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to do some camping and cycling. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do up there but then I stumbled upon a YouTube video that featured the Red River Gorge (RRG) in Kentucky. It looked to have a lot of the things I was looking for and was a lot closer to Indy than the U.P.
I watched several more videos and was convinced this is were I needed to go on this trip. I was a little concerned about the holiday crowds and found the camping situation a little confusing. I opted to rent an inexpensive cabin so I’d have a place to stay and explore the area. I really wanted to camp too so I booked one the last available spots at a Kentucky State Park called Big Bone Lick that’s on the way to RRG.
Packing & Prep
Since I was going to travel solo and base out of a cabin I pretty much packed everything I though I’d need from camping supplies, to fishing gear, as well as an assortment of food and entertainment options. Of course I packed entirely too much but I had the room and figured this would be a good test to see what I’d actually use vs what I think I needed.
I store the gear for each of my hobbies in large, stackable, plastic bins that are easy to just grab and go. I ended up with the following assortment (some bins had more than one category):
- Food and Cooking (cook pot, stove, fuel, dehydrated food, snacks)
- Sleep System (tent, footprint, hammock, tarp, sleeping bag)
- Fishing Gear (waders, boots, tackle)
- Hiking Gear (packs, boots, trekking poles, maps, compass)
- Clothing (hiking, fishing, sleeping)
- Misc (electronics, lights, batteries)
- Cooler (food, drinks, snacks)
- Water (7-gallon plastic Jerry can)
This gave me the option to go with the flow and hike a little, fish a little, and relax. I’ll admit this is a lot of gear to bring but like I said, this is a shakedown to see what I would really use.
I was about 500 miles away from scheduled maintenance on the car so I thought I might as well stop at the dealer and get it knocked out. Boy was that a mistake… Long story short, the oil filter (that sits on top of the engine in this car) didn’t get seated correctly and proceeded to leak oil all over the engine as I drove to work. By the time I got there the car was smoking like it was on fire. After a tow back to the dealer I got home with a freshly cleaned engine at 8pm. It was still smoking a little as what was left burned off. By the time I got to my first stop the next day all was well again.
Day 1 – Leaving Home
I got things organized starting a few days before departure and loaded it all up the morning of the trip. Since everything was already grouped and in a bin it was easy to just slide things in and hit the road.
I use a medium sized snowboard roof rack (I think it’s designed to old 2-3 boards) to transport the fishing poles. It’s a lot easier than trying to have them in the car and the racks lock so things stay pretty secure and out of the way. I can carry about 10 rods and reels with this setup but I usually only have 3-4 up there.
My first stop of the day was REI in Cincinnati. I was hoping they would have some maps and info on RRG. I was able to find a book dedicated the the trail system in the area & it’s been a great purchase. I found some areas I didn’t know about and more detail on the areas I was focusing on this trip.
If you haven’t been to Findlay Market you should stop and check it out next time you’re in the area. I usually go on the weekend and it’s a lot different during the week (not nearly as many vendors). The market has a lot of specialty vendors and you can find some great food and produce.
Newport on the Levee
I haven’t visited this place for a while and WOW, it’s changed a lot. I almost got lost because of all the new construction. I mainly just stopped buy to do a quick walk through and get some pictures of the Cincy skyline (annnddd I left my phone in the car, oops!).
USA Soccer & Thunder Storms
The day was ticking along and I was killing a little time before heading to the campground. I happened to find a Drakes sports bar in the city of Florence and it was just in time to watch the Team USA beat England in the Women’s World Cup. A pop up thunderstorm happened to hit while I was watching the game. It also blew through the campsite I was driving to too, so taking a break to watch the game turned out to be a good idea.
Big Bone Lick State Park
This park has a lot of fosses in the area because it had an abundance of salt licks in the prehistoric days that attracted animals to the site. Today they have a herd of buffalo roaming the grasslands.
I arrived at camp a little after the front office closed so I cruised back to the spot I had reserved. Interestingly the 3 spots next to me were marked off and not being used. The other side of me had an RV from New York and their porch was on the other side, so I had a pretty private site at the back of the camp with very little traffic.
The neighbors turned in about the time it got dark and I sat out under the stars and enjoyed some wine and cheese before climbing in the tent and listened to the crickets and frogs until I fell asleep.
Day 2 – Waking up to Nature
The birds in the trees had me awake at sunrise and the Daddy Long Legs spider that ran across my face was better than any alarm clock I’ve ever used. As I exited the tent I could not believe how many of these spiders were on my tent. Took a while to brush them all off and pack up the tent.
I’m not a big breakfast eater and since I had a lot of things to do that day I packed camp up and hit the road about 8am. About 9am I got a craving for a Sausage McMuffin and had to stop. I also wanted a sweet tea which, I think, gets better the further south you travel in the US.
Buffalo Trace Distillery
The first stop of the day was the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort Kentucky. Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. The tour was pretty basic compared to other producers like Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark but it was very interesting to learn more about the history of the facility.
After the tour and tasking (it was 11 am so not too early for a nip) the gift shop had a nice selection for purchase. Sadly there was no Blanton’s or Pappy Van Winkle for sale.
I had a few ideas for places to eat lunch in the Frankfort area but one was closed and the other one looked a little sketchy. I fired up Yelp and found a place about 20-minutes away called The Stave.
The Stave is in the middle of nowhere and is inside an old farm house. Once I got cellular coverage again I realized I was just down the road from the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The lunch menu had a nice variety of dishes. I settled on the Pig & Pickles sandwich with fries (as well as another sweet tea). The sandwich was amazing, and the fries were double cooked and perfectly crunchy.
My server asked me if I was one of the “Lookie-loos” and I had to ask her for some clarification. Evidently there was a big warehouse fire at a Jack Daniels warehouse the night before and the place was crawling with Media and people trying to see the damage.
Up next, driving to Red River Gorge. Lots more to come over the next few weeks. I have some more gear reviews in the works as well. Stay Tuned!
I took an opportunity towards the end of May to take a day off work and go exploring at Turkey Run State Park. It had been years since I last visited and I really didn’t remember it very well.
The weather was just about perfect and I was surprised how close the park actually was to Indianapolis. When I arrived I was one of the only cars in the lot and the Nature Center was just opening. I settled on what’s called the “5-Mile Challenge” which in reality is 5.9 miles of combined trails around the park with photo ops along the way to complete the challenge (and get a sticker).
I was excited to try my new trail shoes and Merino Wool Socks that I reviewed in a previous post and set off towards the suspension bridge that takes you across Sugar Creek. There are a LOT of stairs at Turkey Run and you encounter them almost immediately when you leave the parking area.
As I started off on the first trail it was obvious that this was going to be a wet day. The trails were pretty sloppy but overall well groomed and marked. Some sections required some creative use of the trekking poles to navigate between trees and over rocks.
As I climbed in elevation the trail started to dry out and I was able to relax and enjoy the sounds of the woods. After 3 miles things started to get interesting when the trail descended into the various ravines and sandstone cliffs. At times the trail was part of the stream bed and it was nice to clean the shoes off in the cold water and have the socks instantly warm up my feet as the water worked its way out.
The final stretch of the loop was the most technical as well as the most beautiful. The sandstone walls towered above and the water continued to etch its way through the canyons towards Sugar Creek. It’s really hard to believe this park is only an hour outside Indianapolis. The crowds were starting to increase and I was starting to feel the effort to get up, down, in, and around the trail.
Overall I’d say Turkey Run is a great place for a day hike and has enough variety that it would take several trips to see it all. Camping is available and was completely sold out when I drove over to check out the sites.
I have some more gear to review in the upcoming months as well as a multi-day trip to the south that I’ll be blogging about soon! Thanks for reading and be sure to leave any comments or questions you might have.
I’m back! I kind of lost interest in the blog over the winter and made the (mistake?) of purchasing Red Dead Redemption 2. That game is a HUGE time suck but amazing and I don’t regret it.
I also got hooked on some new YouTube channels* over the winter and it’s rekindled my desire to be outdoor more often. I already enjoy cycling and kayaking but haven’t really been camping/backpacking/hiking since I was in Scouts.
After a long winter of watching these channels I could not help but be ready for better weather and a chance to get outside again. Several of the YouTubers are through hikers and have either hiked the Appalachian trail or are in the process. While I think that would be an amazing accomplishment It’s not something I see myself doing in the near future. I’m just fine with shorter adventures.
A piece of gear that’s critical when hiking is footwear. I’ve always worn traditional hiking boots. They provide great ankle stability but they’re heavy and, if waterproof, make your feet hot and sweaty. They also really suck if you happen to get water IN them.
A new category of footwear called the “Trail Runner” was introduced to me over the winter. These are a hybrid between a boot and a running shoe. The most popular appear to be from a company called Altra and the model mentioned more than anything else was the Lone Peak 4.
After a few hikes around Indy in my traditional hikers and a pair of low rise boots I realized my feet were going to be an issue. I already have a pair of custom orthotics that I wear in some of my shoes but they’re not very comfortable to walk in for miles at a time.
A review in Outside Magazine help me decide to purchase these shoes and then it happened… REI had one of their big sales & I was able to pick up a pair of Lone Peak 4’s for 30% off! I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the sale. REI was selling these things like deep fried Oreos at the State Fair.
In the store the Lone Peak’s felt a little weird at first because the front (toe box) of the shoe is very wide and they have what’s called a “Zero Drop” which puts your foot level with the ground vs raised in the back. They also fit different and I ended up going 1.5 sizes larger than I typically wear. I was a little concerned this was going to be an issue and worried about blisters which I got a lot in Scouts with traditional hiking boots.
Following the advice in the Outside review I ordered a couple of pairs of Merino Wool Socks for breathability and the ability to keep your feet warm and dry. I’ll detail it more in an upcoming trip report but let’s just say the combo worked better than anything I have ever tried.
I decided to try the Altra’s out on a 6-mile rugged loop at Turkey Run State Park (I’m planning on a trip report soon). As soon as I started walking I could feel an immediate difference. The Merino Socks were a little slippery and the shoes were “Squishy” (technical term).
After the 2nd mile on the trail I was a fan. My feet felt amazing and the rock guard build into the sole kept the bottoms of my feet protected and comfortable. I usually have issues with rocks (gravel especially) bothering the balls of my feet when trail walking.
Then came the ultimate test. Time to get my feet wet as the trail went up, through, and along a stream (several in fact). The Outdoor review was totally right. As soon as you leave the water the shoes pump the water out and the wool socks help you feet dry out and stay warm. I’ve NEVER had so much FUN getting my feet wet! Normally this is something you want to avoid when hiking but I was stomping through the water like a little kid and enjoying every minute of it.
Traction was excellent and after finishing the loop my only complaint was some knee pain which I later found was a result of descending the numerous hills, and something I can help with some more conditioning and maybe some better insoles.
I’m pretty much sold on the Trail Runner concept and I look forward to putting a few more miles on these shoes this weekend. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional hiking boots you should give these a try. They make different versions for different situations but I’ve found the Loan Peak 4’s to be a great all around shoe for my needs.