Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park KY

After a failed attempt work camping at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY in August 2016. (I hurt my foot and decided to leave – longish story but not that interesting)  We moved to the closest Thousand Trails campground and that happened to be this one to regroup and decide where our RVing adventures would lead us next.

The thousand trails campground is located right inside of Mammoth Cave National Park.  So after my foot was mostly healed, I could not leave the area without some exploration of Mammoth Cave.  The area is full of rolling hills and known for their underground passageways that have been explored and mined for hundreds if not thousands of years.

This was a really really hot and humid August summer day in central Kentucky.  The kind of day that is really meant for sitting in a pool or drinking some ice tea on a front porch somewhere.  What was the most remarkable thing I remember about the tour?  Standing outside on that hot day and having a cold breeze taking over the air. It was a dose of mother nature’s air conditioning.  It seemed to just pour out of the entrance.

The tours vary in length and activity level.  I chose a moderate cave tour with stooping and and a ton of steps (at the end over 155 steps to reach back to the outside trail)  I was able to complete the hike within the cave even with a swollen foot from my short stint at my work camping job.  They give you plenty of warnings at the pre – hike lecture and if you need to change your choice at that point you definitely can.  Just be honest with yourself on your level of comfort in the dark and what you can handle physically.  It is a long way up and a crew to come down and get you out of the cave can take hours!

Here is the link for more information:  Mammoth Cave National Park Tours

Take a look at the video I attached.  Please subscribe on YouTube Subscribe here! for more updates and companion to the blog here at firesidetraveler.com!

-Mara

Artisans and Adventures – Williamsburg, VA

My last post was all about the settlement of Jamestown, VA in 1607. The City of Williamsburg was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699. At the time Colonial leaders requested to relocate the capital from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, five miles inland between the James and the York Rivers. The new city was renamed Williamsburg in honor of England’s reigning monarch, King William III.

Why did they move the capital?  There are three main reasons for the move: 1. the drinking water was contaminated by seepage of saltwater, 2. the living conditions became dirty caused diseases, and 3. Williamsburg  was situated at a higher elevation than Jamestown.

will and james

Some kids go to Disney as a kid…I got to go to Colonial Williamsburg.  It was one of the most memorable trips for me.  I was a really shy kid so I told myself one day that I would be able to make stuff like the artists at Williamsburg.

Slowly over the last forty years or so,  I have kept that silent promise to myself.  I make yarn out of fiber on my spinning wheel. I have a loom and can weave.  I have successfully created all kinds of wearable art and sell my own jewelry. I sell silver jewelry and know how to be a silversmith.  We have sold more wood turned items than I can count. We have even had our own wood shop. I even have a letterpress machine so I can make prints or business cards. However, I can’t leather work or blacksmith…yet!

Williamsburg is  was one of those places for me that made an lasting impression throughout my life.  So, this was my second time coming here to Williamsburg. I come to it from a much different perspective.

There are two ways to see Colonial Williamsburg…the first way is totally free.  You can park on the outskirts of the area like Merchants Square and walk in. You experience what it felt like to be in Colonial Williamsburg in the 1600s. Walk the street, see the architecture, and talk to towns people.  Parking for two hours is free or you can park in a garage for about $1 per hour.

The second way is all inclusive.  Make your way to the visitor center where you park for free. The visitor center has two gift shops: one British themed and one Colonial themed.  Buy a ticket which is about $41 per ticket(adults) for one day or a multi day ticket for $51 (adults).  Check the Colonial Williamsburg, VA website for more ticket prices and specials. With the ticket you get to see the tours of places like the governors palace etc. and seeing the artisans at work.

Spinning at Colonial Williamsburg VA
Spinning at Colonial Williamsburg VA
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Silversmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop Williamsburg, VA
Blacksmith Shop Williamsburg, VA

I was a little afraid Williamsburg would not live up to my expectation.  It held a really high regard in my mind. I can say it was equally inspirational the second time around.

You can check them out on their Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/ColonialWilliamsburg

-Mara

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Countless Canyons – Canyonlands National Park Utah

Canyonlans NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

I really thought Arches National Park was going to be the highlight of the trip.  Then, I saw Canyonlands!  We stayed in Moab about three miles south of town with our Motorhome Thor and our little Smart car. I had some preconceived ideas that Arches National Park was going to be the one to beat for views and color and photography and well overall experience.  Canyonlands NP Utah

Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

We drove into the Park (paid our $10 entry fee) and drove to the very end of the road when in the area known as “Island of the Sky”.  There are a few different entrances but this was the closest (about 17 miles out of town).  Island in the Sky is very well named.  You are about 1000 feet up from the canyon floor and as you drive at about 7200 feet you don’t see much from the road.  Then you reach the end, hop out of the car, and look over the edge.  The Colorado river has carved much of the area into vast canyons with views that let you see forever.  I noticed it was remarkably quiet even with people around!  It feels like you need to whisper.

It had rained every night all week long.  I guess it is monsoon time in the desert southwest.  So little puddles had formed where the rocks were worn away by erosion. We were able to catch a few reflections of the puffy white clouds in those puddles!

Reflections in the rain Canyonlands NP Utah
Reflections in the rain Canyonlands NP Utah

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on any of the unpaved trails. Since we had the little pal, Kuma, with us no hiking for us.  There was plenty to see and photographic opportunities at every corner!

Depth of the Canyons! Canyonlands NP Utah
Depth of the Canyons! Canyonlands NP Utah

This is one of those places you feel really small because the landscape is incredibly large and is almost overwhelmingly beautiful.  It was hard to pick yourself up to move on to see the next part of the park because it could not be more beautiful than what you were seeing right now!  That is the thing…each place was more breathtaking!

Smart Car Canyonlands NP
Smart Car Canyonlands NP

“Night skies at Canyonlands are so pristine that the International Dark-Sky Association designated Canyonlands as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park in 2015. Canyonlands joins three other national parks in southern Utah with the International Dark Sky Park designation.” ( NPS night sky)

Colorado River Canyonlands NP Utah
Colorado River Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah
Canyonlands NP Utah

This is a place of magnificent beauty and gave me the feeling of tranquility even amongst the large number of visitors!  Canyonlands National Park is a must see and I plan to see the other parts of this park! I am sure you see see more posts as that opportunity arises!

-Mara

Arches National Park – Moab, Utah

Double Arch Arches NP Utah
Double Arch Arches NP Utah

We are on the last leg of this great adventure! One week in Moab, Utah to take in the unbelievable sights and sounds of two magnificent national parks.  Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  Arches National Park Utah   Canyonlands National Park

Delicate Arch Arches NP Utah
Delicate Arch Arches NP Utah

While the two are nearly touching and only about 30 miles apart and both near Moab, they are wildly different. Today is all about Arches….the next post will go into more detail about Canyonlands.  Where to start?  The entry fee is $10 per park for a seven day pass. If you plan to use any other parks within the year, it may be more cost effective to get a national park pass for $80 or you may qualify for other passes if you are disabled or a senior.  Water bottles can be refilled at the visitor center or near the campground.

OK, on to the park…Arches National Park in Utah is a wonderland of red rock formations.  The colors and textures are abundant! Everything from petrified dunes to balanced rocks to arch formations that become more delicate with erosion and time.  It is truly breathtaking at every turn! This area was once a large body of water that has been filled and drained twenty-nine times!  There is evidence of salt deposits and the rock layers speak to tell their history.

Balanced Rock Arches NP Utah
Balanced Rock Arches NP Utah

This  landscape is inspiring and massive!  The first overlook as you drive into the park is of the Lasal Mountain Range. You can see forever! It is refreshing that there nothing in sight.

Arches NP Open Vista
Arches NP Open Vista
Arches NP Utah
Arches NP Utah

After a long day at the park, we stopped in for a local favorite… the Moab Brewery! We decided to have a few samples (two per person Utah law) and a small plate of nachos. Great way to relax after time on the trails. Moab brewery

Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah
Moab Brewery Utah

We stayed in our motorhome about three miles south of Moab at the Spanish Trail campground.  Here is what I can say positive about the experience: the campground was easy to access, the restrooms and showers were very clean and the campground was well maintained. Most of the time was spent in the parks so the campground was not as important! Now this area is extremely popular (as are most national park areas). So booking reservations early is key and the campgrounds in the parks were full every night we were there. We will have to plan better for next time to stay within the parks.

-Mara