Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Indiana Cave Trail

 The rolling hills of southern Indiana, known as the land of limestone, are a spelunker's dream.  Water has turned the soluble rock into a complex system of underground passageways, attracting cave aficionados from all over.

 More than 2,600 caves are  thought to exist beneath these heavily wooded lands, all within a small wedge-shaped area of the state. But many caves are accessible only to serious cavers, those ready to crawl on their stomachs through dark, wet and narrow passages.

 Fortunately for those who want to tour the underground without much  fuss, the Indiana Cave Trail offers the state’s major caves which are easy to explore while remaining upright or even sitting in a boat.

Bluespring Caverns
1459 Bluespring Caverns Road, Bedford, IN.
 812-279-9471 or www.bluespringcaverns.com

Beneath the rolling green hills of Southern Indiana, the sinewy 21 mile Myst’ry River courses through the subterranean passages of Bluespring Caverns near Bedford, Indiana.  Serious spelunkers could crawl through the caverns, most of them still unexplored in an area known as Limestone Country because of the porous rock beneath the surface that’s perfect for forming caves.  But for those of who like soft adventure the best way to travel the longest subterranean river in the United States is on a specially designed 17 person flat-bottomed boat.  

Climb aboard for the hour long, 1.7 mile trip as the boat navigates the river’s twists and turns, moving through passageways whose walls are coated with a fine film of mud.  The tour is memorable with the boat maneuvering tight corners that take it from high vaulted chambers into narrow passages on a river abundant with rare albino blindfish and crayfish.  Overhead, water occasionally drips from stalactites.  When the drops hit boaters, the clammy experience is affectionately known as cave kisses.  These  dripping ceilings along with the few moments when the guide switches off all illumination, plunging the caverns into a dense, impenetrable darkness that hides everything behind a black velvet curtain, remind visitors what the early explorers of these caverns, known to locals since the early 1800s, must have experienced.   

Return to the land above to grab food at the snack bar at the Hospitality Center and picnic under the sun in the wooded cove outside by the parking lot, pan for gold, learn the geological history of the cave through the storyboard exhibits and buy treasures such as native Indiana rocks and arrowheads at the caverns’ gift shop.

Marengo Cave U.S. National Landmark
400 E State Road 64  Marengo, IN  
812-365-2705 or http://marengocave.com/

There are all sorts of caving options at Marengo Cave. Soft adventure spelunkers can opt for several walking tours (no slithering on your stomach required) through vast rooms of stone formations dripping stalactites and erupting stalagmites.  There’s the 40-minute Crystal Palace tour which runs about a third  of a mile and passes by Mirror Lake. The Dripstone Trail Tour is a 70-minute, one mile walk that passes by both Mirror Lake and Looking Glass Lake. Another stopping point is the Crystal Palace Room, where a flashing light show accompanies music, in a grand underground theater with stone seats and a stage.  The colored lights illuminated the various stalactites and other geological wonders in what is the ultimate light show.  There is also a combo tour that takes visitors on both tours.

Those wanting to slither will be happy to hear that there are also some deeper explorations in the raw, undeveloped portions of the cave.  The two-hour plus clean-up time Underground Adventure explores the stream level of Marengo Cave which involves crawling, stooping, sloshing through water and a lot of mud. Then there’s the Waterfall Crawl where spelunkers enter and exit through a vertical shaft into a remote area of the cave that’s home to the state’s 10th largest spring though this one is underground.   

Located near the town of Marengo, the cave has a been a tourist attraction since 1883 when teenagers Orris and Blanche Hiestand slid down a narrow opening at the bottom of sinkhole holding candles to illuminate their way.  What they found was a cave described as being so grand that within days hundreds of locals were visiting the site.  Samuel Stewart, who owned the land where the cave was found, reacted by making the cave available to tourists on a commercial basis. Since then, this cave system has been opened to the public continuously. The Stewart family owned the cave until 1955 and since then it has had just a few owners. To get the feel of what it must have been like for Blanche and Orris, on the walking tours, the cave’s illumination is turned off and candles are lit. Darkness in a cave is complete to such an extent that one literarily can’t see their hands in front of their face. For those doing the more serious caving trips, helmets and headlamps are used.

Though the caverns are the main event here, there are a myriad of other activities too.

The Blue River winds its way through this part of the state. And Cave Country Canoes offers a series of trips including a seven mile trip which takes two to four hours, a full day trip and a two day trip. Sights along the Blue River, Indiana’s first designated Scenic and Natural River, includes blue herons, ducks, turtles and the giant salamanders called hellbenders. 

For more information, call 888-702-2837 and visit www.canoecountry.com

And, of course, be sure to stop at the 3000-foot gift shop for trinkets and t-shirts to take home and the Cave Café for casual dining.

Squire Boone Caverns & Village
100 Squire Boone Rd. S.W.
Mauckport, IN
812-732-4381or  www.squireboonecaverns.com/

 Located down a winding dirt road near the small river village of Mauckport, Squire Boone Village and Caverns is named after an explorer and woodsman, famed in his day for his exploits in opening Indiana and Kentucky to settlers.  In this rural area near the Kentucky border, he established a small village with a gristmill and stores. But while Squire's older brother, Daniel, achieved a lasting fame (and his own TV show), after his death, Squire passed into the mists of history. Or he would have, if two spelunkers hadn't discovered his bones in a vast underground cave that Squire considered to be almost mystical.
Though Indiana and Kentucky seem like peaceful lands, full of undulating countryside and endless vistas, back in the late 1700s when the Boone boys first came here, they were treacherous areas, full of hostile inhabitants resentful of the invading frontiersmen. Of the first eight explorers to enter Kentucky, Squire and Daniel were the only two to come out alive and it was Squire who rescued Daniel.

During one of his forays into southern Indiana in 1790, Squire, being chased by enemies, discovered the cave and hid there.  Years later, he returned, started the mill and built a house. Squire asked his children to bury him in the cave and so they did when he died in 1815. After his bones were discovered more than 160 years later, a coffin was shaped out of walnut to hold his bones in one of the cave's vaults.

Because over a million gallons of water flow through the caverns every day, the walls of the cave are damp and there is always the sound of rushing water.  Narrow winding passageways connect the caves that comprise the Squire Boone Caverns (note that caves are a natural cavity in the earth, caverns are a system of caves which are connected by passageways), stone steps are cut into the sides of the walls leading deeper underground, through a warren of large and small caves.  The way is lit by softly glowing electric torches mounted to the stone walls which cast large shadows and give an almost Medieval feel to this deep, dark tangle of rocks and empty spaces.
 Above ground, watch the mill grind grain into flour, visit the gift shop and enjoy the feel of a Southern Indiana mill town 200 years ago.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Southern Indiana Wine Country Events

Beyond corn and soybeans, Indiana’s vast agricultural bounty also boasts an ever growing wine industry as well as a long tradition of being a vintner’s dream. The first commercial winery in the U.S. was established on the banks of the Ohio River in what is now Vevay, Indiana in the late 1700s by Swiss immigrants who thought the surrounding countryside similar to the vineyards in their homeland. And now, the passion for wine making has extended throughout the state. But it’s in Southern Indiana with its landscape dotted with historic hamlets, winding rivers and rolling hills where three wonderful wineries – Blue Heron Vineyards Winery,  French Lick Winery and Winzerwald Winery offer tasting rooms as well as great wine events.
Blue Heron Vineyards
5330 Blue Heron Lane
Cannelton, IN  

Known for their hand carved Celtic Cross, the Blue Heron Winery, specializes in American and French-American grapes. Located near Cannelton, home of the Cannelton Cotton Mill built in 1849 and once the largest manufacturing plant west of the Allegheny Mountains and now on the National Register of Historic Places., the winery also has a bed and breakfast at the winery and for those with a lot of energy, pedal all or part of the 100 mile Blue Heron Bikeride through the beautiful countryside.  

 Blue Heron Vineyards Events include their annual “Wine Over Water" WOW Concert Series at Blue Heron Farm, 7757 Hwy. 66 E (five miles east of Cannelton, IN near Rocky Point).

Cover charge of $15/ couple (discounts are often possible)
Food and Blue Heron wines available for purchase; Picnics welcome

Concerts begin at 6:00 PM CDT (doors open at 5:00) and end around 8:00 PM
Art Exhibits featuring regional artists at each concert
Bring a lawn chair or enjoy picnic tables in the concert area
Catering by Rudy's with delicious foods paired with Blue Heron wines
If inclement weather, the concerts will be in the barn

July 27-  “Monte Skelton“

How does Monte get all that music out of one person? Come see Skelton, a well-known virtuoso and band leader this summer to find out as you enjoy a beautiful evening of smooth jazz from this Evansville phenom. www.montejazz.110mb.com
August 31-  “Beth Reasoner & Friends” *

Join Beth Reasoner, a musician with ties to our local music history as she reunites “old” friends to bring us great sounds and a great evening reminiscent of Tell City’s once favorite “Franklin School Coffee House.”
*This is a Free Concert - No admission-
Tips for the musicians accepted
Art exhibits by “Greywolf Studio” Hawesville, KY

French Lick Winery & Coffee Company
8145 W Sinclair St
West Baden Springs, IN

Since it was established in 1995, the French Lick Winery, located in historic West Baden, has become one of Indiana's premier wineries receiving over 250 medals in state, national and international competitions.  Besides tastings, visitors can also observe the production via observation windows in the tasting room.   Owner and vintner, John Doty, takes great pride in the wines made with the expert assistance of Kim Doty, owner and cellarmaster.  The winery’s Heaven's View Vineyard planted in the spring of 1998 is located approximately 20 miles west of the winery on Kim's family Hoosier Homestead Farm in Martin County overlooking the White River valley.  The Vintage Café   menu features Italian cuisine fresh-made in our kitchen.  

French Lick Winery will be participating in the following festivals and events.

Sat. July 21st  Uncork the Uplands Huber’s Winery, Starlight, IN      4:00 – 10:00 pm Eastern
Uncork the Uplands will celebrate the award winning wines and exquisite food along the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail all in one place. This event was created to elevate your senses by featuring a culinary experience with our guest chef Daniel Orr. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a novice, the Uncork the Uplands event will be sure to satisfy your palate. Join the 9 Indiana Uplands Wine Trail wineries and Chef Daniel Orr of FARMBloomington for food demonstrations, wine pairings, and lots of food and wine adventures

Swiss Wine Festival
Held August 24th thru 26th, 2012 along the Ohio River in town of Vevay , Indiana.
Hours & admission charge vary depending upon events. Click on www.swisswinefestival.org for more information.

Patoka Lake Sunset Cruise
French Lick Winery will be  on the Patoka Sunset Cruise on September 29th at 2:00 p.m. Come join us on the lake for some great food and wine and fabulous cruise of the beautiful Patoka Lake. Contact Patoka Lake Marina for more information at 
(812) 685-2512 or www.patokalakemarina.com.

Held November 17th & 18th , 2012 are Saturday 9 am to 5:00 p.m. & Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pomp No Admission charge. This German themed Christmas festival is held at several locations throughout the town of Ferdinand , Indiana.

Visit us at the Ferdinand Christkindlmarkt
Saturday and Sunday November 15th and 16th

Winzerwald Winery
26300 N. Indian Lake Road / (CR 39)
Bristow, Indiana

Winzerwald Winery (German for vintners of the forest) celebrates the owners' German heritage and the German and Swiss heritage of the area by specializing in unique German and Swiss style wines, gifts, festivals, educational tours and fun. Early German settlers believed the Hoosier National Forest reminded them of the Black Forest and the Ohio River was as beautiful as the Rhine River.  

Owners Dan and Donna Adams won the Best Indiana and Best National Amateur wine awards in 1998  at the Indy International Wine Competition, the first time and only time anyone in Indiana won the National honors. It was a blush wine made from grapes that family lore has it were brought to America from Germany by Dan’s ancestors. Enjoy a tasting either indoors or on the deck overlooking the rolling hills of Southern Indiana.

Sat. July 14th  Carmel Art of Wine Festival   Downtown Carmel, IN      5:00 – 10:00 pm Eastern
Enjoy tastes of great wines and listen to wonderful music while you enjoy downtown shopping and eating, too.

Sat. July 21st  Uncork the Uplands Huber’s Winery, Starlight, IN      4:00 – 10:00 pm Eastern
Uncork the Uplands will celebrate the award winning wines and exquisite food along the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail all in one place. This event was created to elevate your senses by featuring a culinary experience with our guest chef Daniel Orr. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a novice, the Uncork the Uplands event will be sure to satisfy your palate. Join the 9 Indiana Uplands Wine Trail wineries and Chef Daniel Orr of FARMBloomington for food demonstrations, wine pairings, and lots of food and wine adventures

Sat./Sun. July 28 & 29  Christmas in July   At Winzerwald Winery
Join us as we celebrate our big list of holiday wines early with a special release of our wines in the Christmas Tree Bottles
made in Germany!   Stroll the grounds and find a special piece of art at the Winzerwald Weihnachtsm

October 27, Saturday 2pm-4pm: Winzerwald Winery on the Patoka Sunset Cruise. Join us on the lake for some great food and wine and fabulous cruise of the beautiful Patoka Lake. Contact Patoka Lake Marina for more information at 
(812) 685-2512 or www.patokalakemarina.com.

Join us at the winery, or visit us at Christkindlmarkt in the Monastery Gym in Ferdinand for wine tasting & holiday wine & gift sales – wine sale prices apply. We’ll also be serving wines at the new Christkindlmarkt Bier Stube, Saturday evening Nov. 15th. Join us in the heated tent at the Community Center for the Rhein Valley Brass Band, Schnitzelbank Restaurant, Winzerwald Winery & two regional breweries for a fun night!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Fun at Patoka Lake

Patoka Lake Lodging

The 8800-acre Patoka Lake, the second largest reservoir lake in the state, is located in the beautiful rolling hills of Southern Indiana. Strewn with small islands, Patoka Lake is known for its big birds – osprey, herons and bald eagles and, along the 26,000-acres of park that edges the water (the only developments on this lake are the two marinas -- Patoka Lake Marina and Hoosier Hills Marina and a small interpretative center), extensive hiking and biking trails, it’s the perfect place for summer time fun.

Spend some time exploring the lake and the surrounding area. Great places to stay to enjoy this beautiful spot of the state are  Patoka 4 Seasons Resort; White Oaks Cabins; French Lick Cabins at Patoka Lake; Hoosier Hills Marina; Patoka Lake Marina and Lodging; Blue Prairie Bed & Breakfast; A Little Log Cabin in the Woods and Out on A Limb Retreat.

A Big Log Cabin in the Clouds
A Little Log Cabin in the Woods
Blue Prairie Bed & Breakfast
6538 W. CR 875 S., French Lick, IN 47432

Enjoy rusticity among the natural setting of Orange County with its woodlands rolling hills, small streams and Patoka Lake, the second largest manmade lake in the state. Terri and Carl Pryor, owners of two historic, hand-hewn log cabins, A Little Log Cabin and A Big Log Cabin and Blue Prairie Bed and Breakfast, a luxurious bed and breakfast offer total privacy, rustic luxury and modern amenities.

A Little Log Cabin is a cozy 150-year old cabin with a great stone fireplace set in the center of a 40-acre private, nature preserve, adjacent to Hoosier National Forest and close to Patoka Lake, French Lick and Paoli Peaks Ski Resort as well as being on the Uplands Wine Trail. A Big Log Cabin in the Clouds is often described as an experience akin to being on a mountaintop with awesome views set upon a private 120-acre preserve. The two story cabin, built in 1863, boasts a chef’s kitchen, designer bathrooms, state of the art entertainment center and charcoal grill, is also on the Upland Wine Trail and conveniently located to the French Lick Resort Casino and Patoka Lake.  

Both cabins, big and little, have private hot tubs as does the large guest suite at the Blue Prairie Bed and Breakfast with its own private outside entrance, great scenic overlooks and breakfast delivery in the morning. Boater friendly, there are three ramps at Patoka Lake within five minutes.

Strictly non-smoking, the Pryors have preserved their acreage to enhance wildlife habitat, planting wildlife food plots, wildflowers and other plants attracting birds and animals giving guests an opportunity to view nature on every visit.     

Wildlife lovers will want to book one of the places their fall during the Sandhill Crane Migrations. The cranes are visible and audible in their southern migrations that pass over here as their flights begin in October or November and continue until Christmas time. Witness the migrations of these magnificent prehistoric birds!  Sandhill Crane Migrations: Southbound flights daily! Sandhill cranes are visible and audible in their southern migrations that pass over here. Their flights begin in October or November and continue until Christmas time. Witness the migrations of these magnificent prehistoric birds! Best viewing is from Blue Prairie Bed & Breakfast and A Big Log Cabin in the Clouds. Northbound, Spring flights will begin in late February and continue all through March. Now that whooping cranes are mixed into the sandhill flocks, sightings of the extremely rare whooping crane  here are not impossible.

Patoka 4 Seasons Resort
7886 West State Road 164
Eckerty, IN 47116 
1 812.685.2488

We know that vacation lodging is not a “one size fits all” item. That’s why Patoka 4 Seasons Resort has a number of different cabin and vacation home sizes and styles to suit your varying needs. Located on Patoka lake in Southern Indaina, Patoka 4 Seasons has one and two bedrom cabins and three and four bedroom homes featuring hot tubs, Jacuzzis, Wi-Fi, fully equipped kitchens, game areas, screened porches  and fireplaces.
Resort amenities include in-ground pool, sports field, hiking trails to Patoka Lake as well as  a fish cleaning station with everything fishing enthusiasts need to prepare the day’s catch for a memorable dinner. Open all year with winter discounts and ski packages available.

French Lick Cabins at Patoka Lake Village
Lake Village Drive
7900 W Co. Rd 1025 S.
French Lick, IN 47432
(812) 936-9854,1-888-324-5350

A great place for both the sports-minded people and those wanting a peaceful spot to "get away from it all." Located 10 miles south of French Lick, in the heart of the Patoka Lake recreational area, these modern log cabins, some pet friendly, provide a perfect opportunity to experience the wonders of nature without giving up the comforts of home.

Located on Patoka Lake's Osborn Boat Ramp with a158 foot wheelchair accessible fishing pier, our cabins are the perfect location for those who are experiencing the many activities the lake has to offer. Also on the property are many hiking trails that show off the scenic beauty of Southern Indiana and Patoka Lake. Swimming and boat rentals are available at Newton Stewart State Recreation Area just a short drive away, along with other area attractions which include Lincoln's Boyhood Home, scenic canoe trips on Blue River, and the always fun filled Holiday World and Splashin' Safari.

Great in the summer, revisit for fabulous fall foliage, or explore the Indiana wineries along the wine trail. Even in the winter there are still plenty of things to do, like take a guided tour of Marengo Cave ("Indiana's Finest Natural Attraction"), or enjoy downhill excitement of nearby Paoli Peaks, which offers skiing, snowboarding or tubing for the entire family.

Hoosier Hills Marina
P.O. Box 44
10306 E. Lick Fork Marina Rd.
Celestine, IN 4752
(866) 678-3313

Tucked away in the hills of Southern Indiana on the western edge of the Hoosier National Forest, Patoka Lake is known for it’s exciting fishing and clean and quiet waters for recreation. The 8,800-acre lake features ten launch ramps, a state park with modern camping, a public beach and nature trails. Nestled on a quiet cove on the west end of Patoka lake, Hoosier Hills Marina is a full-service marina offering slips and mooring for 200 boats ranging from 20’ pontoons and cruisers to 80’ houseboats. 

Available to rent are fishing boats and houseboats up to 72’ in length. The marina store offers everything you will need for one day or a weeklong stay at the lake including groceries, bait and tackle and gasoline.

Jeff and Shellie Dukes, owners of Hoosier Hills Marina, originally bought a private houseboat on Patoka Lake. After five years of enjoying Patoka’s clean and quiet waters, the couple decided to buy the marina and make a living helping others discover and enjoy this great lake. Now they and their family, along with the help of a dedicated staff, strive to make your visit to Patoka Lake as enjoyable as possible.  

Out on A Limb Retreat
8107 County Road 172
Eckerty, IN 47116
502.641.3276, limbseekers@yahoo.com

Nestled in the hills of southern Indiana, Out on a Limb Retreat offers a cozy, rustic, relaxing getaway for your vacation or small group event. Come enjoy the quiet and commune with nature as you sit on the large walk-around front porch. The retreat is the ultimate natural getaway. Enjoy nature, the woods, birds, deer and watching the sunset. 
Stay a weekend or a week in this fully furnished spacious cabin in the woods surrounded by green lawn -- it's an unforgettable country experience. Accommodations include two bedrooms upstairs able to sleep 5-7 adults and a fully equipped kitchen.  allowing you to prepare meals to your heart’s desire. 

Patoka Lake Marina and Lodging
2991 North Dillard Road
Birdseye, IN 47513

Patoka Lake Marina and Lodging has everything you need to have fun on and off the lake -- houseboats, boat rentals, floating cabins, marina store, slips (double sided) & buoys, meeting room & party deck and during the summer wine cruises.  The spacious floating cabins and houseboats are perfect for family fun. Both feature air conditioning / heating, full kitchen, DVD player w/monitor, life jackets, rear slide, am-fm radio, marine radio and gas grill. And to make life even easier, wheelbarrows are available to let you carry you gear from the parking lot to the boat.
Enjoy a Patoka Lake cruise on Patoka Voyager tour boat. Fish off the dock or your boat. Houseboats have slides for easy lake access and lots of good times. Sit under the stars at night listening to the gentle lap of the waters and the clinking of halyards against the masts. Buy ice and bait and cast off to explore the 8800-acre lake’s many coves, find  a shallow spot to swim and visit  Hoosier Hills Marina for an ice cream or cold pop on the other side of the lake.  The shoreline is home to deer, rabbits and squirrels and eagle and osprey sightings are common.

Other amenities are available near the entrance to Patoka Lake such as gas station and convenience stores, casual dining, cabins, suites and rooms, bait & tackle, laundry facilities and vacation cabin lots.

White Oaks Cabins
2140 N. Morgan Rd.
Taswell, IN 47175
(812) 338-3120

Secluded on 45 acres of pristine woodland, White Oaks Cabins at Patoka Lake is a perfect haven for nature lovers, hopeless romantics, or anyone seeking peace and Fantastic accommodations nestled in the hills of southern Indiana located near Little Patoka Boat Ramp on Patoka Lake, these historic and new cabins, all fully furnished, with full kitchen and bath, some with hot tub or fireplace are an enchanting way to spend time in a lovely setting.

Facility features  and amenities include sheep petting zoo, children's fishing pond, hiking trails and walking paths, sports activity field and equipment and
creek fossil exploring. Catering is available. The cabins are pet-friendly.