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Carter Caves State Resort Park

Photo credit : TA Visuals

Today we visited Carter Caves State Resort, like the Grahams did on August 4, 1975. You have to see this place to believe it! This is true. Carter Caves State Resort Park in Olive Hill, Kentucky was simply breathtaking and awe inspiring. Hence the lag time for today’s post (sorry Dad, we are ok). There was so much to see and do at the park we had to tear ourselves away. This left no real time to prepare this entry last night. I know a few times I told Thomas that “I was curious,” which really meant I am going to walk up this creek and go into this cave. Your curiosity will out rule you here. Soon you would find that you are chasing the sun home and all the time has slipped away.

First let’s talk about the day we arrived. We got to the park at night after a drive in the dark, drizzly rain. The Lewis Caveland Lodge where we picked up our keys for our accommodations, was very welcoming. Yes, a lodge. Carter Caves State Resort Park is indeed a resort park. Lewis Caveland Lodge has 28 rooms with full amenities available, Tierney’s Cavern restaurant, Wi-Fi and most importantly, friendly staff ready to greet you. Our accommodations for our stay were a two-bedroom cottage located only a little ways away. Upon our arrival to our cottage, I was amazed. I don’t think that people would know that these options for accommodations are available at state parks. The full amenities lodge and the cottages are in addition to the camping sites for RVs and tents, horse camping (it is Kentucky, home to beautiful horses) also available for ore traditional campers.

Nestled in the woods was an a-frame cottage, with a nice inviting walkway. The cottage is a perfect option for those that would like to have the experience of being in the park, but would still like the creature comforts of home as well as some additional room. The cottage had two bedrooms with two beds each. Two bathrooms, a full kitchen fully stocked with everything you would need, a nice covered porch with views of the tall green trees, a full living area with a working wood fireplace. I could go on and on about this place. Even as a traditional tent, sometimes rustic cabin camper, I can truly appreciate this place. Not only for it’s comfort but the accessibility to stay at a park for some people who may not otherwise consider an overnight stay.

After getting some much needed rest in our comfortable digs, we got up for the full day planned. After some gear checks, and plan download, we headed for food at Tierney’s Cavern to eat and debrief. Another pleasant surprise was the meal options; for those that are looking for lighter alternatives or don’t eat anything that had parents, there was something tasty and available. The treat for me was an order of the fried green tomatoes, which is always a must for me. Delicious!

We regrouped and headed out to the Cascade Cave tour. At the welcome center to get our tickets for the tour, we got a glimpse of the start of Pioneer Life Week, which was having its 23rd anniversary. There was a full roster of activities were re-enactors demonstrating everything from spinning and weaving to tomahawk throwing. Since Cascade Caves is a few miles away, we jumped in the car and headed out. There was a meeting area for the caves, where we were met our trained guide with the nicest smile, Zak McKinley (interpretive staff). Our group was made of about 15 people. I had a chest harness I was trying out for my iPhone for filming; Thomas was armed with a camera and a monopod. THE CAVES WERE UNREAL! The beauty of it all is not something even I can describe. Plus, I realized just at this moment, I have not even gotten through telling you about half of the day. There was so much that I had the chance to see that I wouldn’t even be able to put into words. One of the highlights was the 30 ft. waterfall and the chance to see how dark the cave was when Zak turned the lights out.

Each adventure was only more amazing than the next. We stopped at some caves off the road, which was where my curiosity was peeked and we explored some more into two more caves. One we climbed up to and the other we walked in the creek to get a closer view.

We returned to meet up with Coy Ainsley, the park’s naturalist. He was quite a wealth of information and I look forward to posting our interview with him. After 13 years as Naturalist, I think you may get a chance to meet him in person if you visit. He is not going anywhere for a while. He likes it there. He knows what his is doing and he is very good at it.

The next stop was to hike to the Smoky Bridge. I have never felt so small. At first glance, it would like a regular opening in a rock formation. On closer inspection and a few more walks down the pathway, you sink into this enormous basin at the bottom. Mouths opened. This natural bridge was enormous, gigantic and crazy big. How do these natural wonders occur in such spectacular proportions? This for sure is another thing you have to see with your own eyes. The pictures will speak better to Smoky Bridge’s wonder than my words.

To cap this “best day ever” off, Thomas and I both noticed the night sky in front of the cottage. Spectacular. There was still a slight bit of light pollution but you could still see as many stars as the eye could possibly see. A little off to the left, there was this vague white formation that looked like a cloud. That’s what we assumed anyways. After we unpack the car from the day, we return back outside so we can star gaze and possibly capture the starry night in a photo. To our surprise, that “cloud” was not a cloud. It had not moved at all. Thomas set up his Nikon D800 and captured the sky and our cloud, which upon closer inspection of the photo he had taken, was a nebula (a cloud of gas or dust in space that can sometimes be seen at night). “Best day ever!” The astronomers/space nerds in us couldn’t have been any more excited to have seen that with our own two eyes and a camera. *We also saw a skunk and were a little concerned.

Carter Caves State Resort Park is a treasure not only for the state of Kentucky but also for all of us. If you have ever thought about going to Kentucky, live in Kentucky or want an awesome experience you will not forget, please take a trip to and say hello to Coy. Last but not least, none of this would be possible without the generosity of the Park Manager, Chris Perry, who I also had the pleasure to meet. We were welcomed with open arms and were treated so well during our stay. Thank you all at Carter Caves State Resort Park. I hope to see you again soon.

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