Fun with Family

Last week I attended a family reunion for my paternal grandmother’s descendants. We do this every two years in a different location. This year we all met in Dayton, OH which was where Grandma Emma lived and raised her family. She had four boys  All the original sons have passed, so my generation of cousins and their families are the group.

We started the reunion with a dinner. We love to eat! The next day we took a bus tour of Dayton, seeing the houses, churches, and schools that we all heard so many stories about.

Then we journeyed to Ripley, OH, on the Ohio River, which our great-great-great? grandfather helped build. We toured the Rankin House where his family lived after the Civil War. But BEFORE the Civil War, John Rankin lived there. He was a minister, but the reason it’s a historical landmark is that he ran his house as a major station on the Underground Rail Road. Among other things, he left a lamp burning in the living room window for years. It was to let slaves trying to get to freedom know that the house up on the hill was a safe place.  This tour was fascinating. Howard, the guide, was a talented storyteller and he really made the history come to life.


After that we gathered for another dinner. The last day we spent at various venues. My daughters family and I played at an entertainment center that had games like Chuckie Cheese, as well as go-karts, bowling, mini golf, virtual reality games (my grandson spent a half hour on Fortnite), and my favorite – Skeeball! Other people went to a brewery, and an Air Force Museum. That night we attended a Dayton Dragons baseball game. They’re a minor league feeder team for the Cincinnati Reds. They lost, but we sure had a great time.

The final morning we all met for breakfast. In between all these events, we talked and talked and talked and talked……

After the reunion, I decided to return to one of my favorite places, Hoosier National Forest in southern Indiana.

I camped for a few days and relaxed. eing an introvert, the past two weeks have been a bit over stimulating.

*the first one was given up for adoption (long story, maybe a later post) and he found us later on.

Francis Marion National Forest

Do you remember the Swamp Fox? If you are around my age and watched The Wonderful World of Disney as a kid, you might. They made an 8 part miniseries about Francis Marion, AKA The Swamp Fox starring Leslie Neilson. Marion was a prominent figure in the Revolutionary War here in the USA. He was one of the first to use guerilla fighting against the British. And so, there is a National Forest named for him in South Carolina.

I’ve been staying here for a couple of days, soaking up the forest peacefulness and exploring the area. I camped at one of the primitive campgrounds called Half Creek. It’s a lovely site in the woods and there was only one other car here so I enjoyed the quiet.

The Palmetto Trail goes through the forest, stretching across the entire state from the ocean to the mountains. The section through here is called the Swamp Fox Trail. It begins at Buck Hall Recreation Area


which is on the Intercoastal Waterway that runs along the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida. Apparently, it was the first interstate “highway”, used by Natives and explorers for easy transportation.


Just north of my camp is the Hampton Plantation, which has been made an historic site. There is a walking trail around the property where you can see the locations of the rice fields, and an archeological dig of one of the slave houses. You can also tour the inside of the main house.


I was planning on going up the coast, but with the weatherman saying there’s going to be another winter storm in New England, I think I’ll go south instead.


Ohio Exploring

I often drive south down Highway 33 out of Fort Wayne to get to Interstate 75 to go visit family in Cincinnati. I always knew that 33 continued on past the exit onto the interstate, but I never knew where it went. This time I was going to find out.

It begins at Wapakoneta, OH where the Neil Armstrong museum is located. I didn’t see it this trip because I was there decades ago with a Girl Scout Troop of which I was a leader.

Eventually it goes through Wayne National Forest, the only National Forest in Ohio. Since I do love a good forest, I stopped for the night at a trailhead. It was great because it was the beginning of an OHV trail and had a restroom. I had to look up what OHV stood for. Turns out it’s Off Highway Vehicles, what I always called Off Road. ATV’s, Dune Buggies, Dirt Bikes, and the like. What I found annoying was that they ride at night. There I was trying to enjoy a movie on my DVD player at 1o:00 pm and in comes a trailer full of ATV’s. I finally fell asleep to the sound of racing motors. And they were gone in the morning, so I guess they got some sleep, too.

Stopped at Old Man’s Cave, which you can read about here.

Then I drove on to Athens, Ohio. It’s the home of Ohio University. Lovely little town. It has a bike trail that extends for miles along the Hocking River. And I visited the Kennedy Museum of Art on campus. That’s it at the top of this post. It was built in the mid 1800’s as an insane asylum and used as such until the early 1960’s. The history is that it is located on a farm and the residents were encouraged to do farm work as therapy. The doctors believed being outdoors in the sunshine was good medicine. I agree. Still is!

The main exhibit right now is Navajo blankets. There are about 50 dating from the 1800’s to the present. Some amazing images are woven into these blankets. I learned a lot, since I had no idea that landscapes and scenes of daily living can be hand- woven into a blanket.


Then I continued on down Hwy 33 til I got to the Ohio River. Apparently if goes on into West Virginia and ends up at Richmond, VA. I didn’t go that far. I wanted to travel the Scenic Byway roads again that I was on last spring. They follow the Ohio River across the entire state, and continue along the bottom border of Indiana.

I have an affinity for rivers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like lakes, I enjoy the ocean, but rivers are special. I think it’s because they “travel”, like me. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in cities where rivers played a big part. In Dayton we lived close to the Stillwater River and often went to a park that run along it. And in Michigan I lived in Three Rivers, which had…3 rivers…one of which was a block from our house. I would go back in the woods by the Rocky River when I needed some alone time. And in Fort Wayne, when I had the apartment, I was right next to the St Joseph River and spent many hours wandering the Rivergreenway.

During this journey I experienced the Great American Eclipse. I sat on top of a hill in a wildlife area in another section of Wayne National Forest. I was on the top of a hill in the parking lot of a small country church. Didn’t get dark but the light changed, sort of like everything was pastel. And the wind suddenly stopped right at the moment of totality.  It felt like the temperature changed;  cooler even thought the thermometer didn’t show it. Just different enough to be eerie.

So now I’m heading back to civilization to go mooch off some family for awhile.

Old Man’s Cave

Today I went exploring in Hocking Hills State Park. It’s located southeast of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a place my family visited about 55 years ago. I remember loving it, but strangely today I did not remember any of the scenery. Perhaps that’s because I think this is the place where I developed a fear of falling from a high place.

The family lore goes like this: I was with my dad when he climbed up a narrow trail that went along a cliff. It was very slippery because there was water on the rocky path. He had to pick me up and carry me when the trail got too narrow for two. And he must of been scared and transferred that fear to me, because I will not go near an edge of a cliff or a rooftop or any high place that I can fall off. I don’t like glass elevators either! And I swear this is why I hate driving in mountains.

Anyway, this time I was not scared because all the paths that go up the cliffs are now blocked off and inaccessible. However…the place is absolutely gorgeous! (Pun intended) (Cause it’s a gorge of a river) (get it?) (OK moving on)

The story of the Old Man’s Cave is that a hermit named Richard Rohm lived there in a the 1800’s. He had been a hunter and scout and decided this place was where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. So he did.

Here’s the actual cave where he lived. It’s a shelf in the cliff above the river, created by wind and water thousands of years ago.


The rest of the area is full of rock formations, waterfalls, and woods.


There are tunnels cut through the cliffs for hikers.

Lots of bridges across the stream.

There’s even a “Sphinx Head” rock formation.

I went early in the morning and the sunlight was beautiful.

My kind of place.


Great Lakes Memories

Today I made it over to Lake Michigan. I used to go there when I was young. We would swim at Warren Dunes and climb the sand hills. Occasionally ride a dune buggy.

Visited Little Sable Point at Silver Lake State Park. Went out to the light house.

It was great to feel the sand under my feet again.

Then I drove through the town of Silver Lake. There was an event going on called the “Jeep Invasion.” I bet I saw a thousand jeeps and four wheel drive vehicles. No kidding! I felt inadequate. LOL.

My roaming then  took me through the Manistee National Forest and on into Cadillac where I stayed at a Walmart. I bless Sam Walton for being an RV’er and giving his blessing to anyone who wants to park overnight in a Walmart parking lot. Most of the stores let you , but some don’t, so asking first is a good idea.

Heading North

I have come to Michigan for several reasons. To regain a bit of my youth – I lived in Three Rivers through High School and went to College in Kalamazoo. To experience the joy of the woods. To see something new.

My first destination was Huron National Forest. I love the National Forests because they are such a mixture of woods and small towns. And there are many little areas designated to scenic views and/or education.

One I found is the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary. It has a guided trail with many stops that describe the vegetation. You get a self-guided tour map at the head of the trail.


There is also a cultural trail that lets you wander through a homestead from the early 1900’s. The buildings are gone except for a few foundations. It was inhabited by a famer whose daughter fell in love with and married an artist, Albert Schmidt, in Europe. The wedding caused the family to miss their voyage back home – on the Titanic! – and the father was so grateful that he built a studio on his property for his son-on-law.

I’m at Brower Park Campground on the Muskegon River. It smells so good! There are pine trees all around my campsite. Some birch and oak, too. I do love a good forest.

Growing up in Michigan meant that if you didn’t live on a lake or river, you knew someone who did. Swimming was second nature to us. And fishing. ( I was not fond of fishing, but you just don’t broadcast that sentiment.) The wildlife is abundant. I saw these one morning.

I am camping here for a couple of days and then I’ll head further north. Maybe hit the dunes one afternoon.

The Hemlock Cliffs

Third day at Hoosier National Forest – I spent a while perusing maps to find some point of interest to explore. One in particular looked interesting. It was a thirty minute drive from my camp. After passing a lot of farms the route eventually turns off onto one lane gravel roads through the woods. The Department of Natural Resources, who control the forest, have done a good job of putting up signage to point the way.

One of the highest rated hiking trails in Indiana, Hemlock Cliffs is an area where streams have cut deep into the forest floor leaving majestic rock cliffs on either side.


These sandstone cliffs have overhangs called rock houses and some are actual caves, going deep into the ground.


This is one cave you can go into. The standing room is not very big, but I did sit there for a while, imaging being a native hunting game or perhaps a pioneer camping for the night during a long journey west..

Most of the deeper caves are high up the side of the cliffs, and rappelling is prohibited. There was a time years ago when you could camp out along the streams and in the caves, but so much plant life was being destroyed that the DNR stopped it. This whole area is now a wildlife sanctuary.

My hike lasted about 2 hours. Midway it became the first time I have hiked in the rain! Thanks to my Girl Scout days, I was prepared.

The last part of the walk was a bit slippery. There is one spot where you must climb up a rock stairway to the top of a waterfall. That was tricky (my dad would have loved it) I have a good pair of walking shoes, but crossing streams needs hiking boots, I think. That may be my next big purchase.


Hoosier National Forest

I think if I ever come into a lot of money (in other words win the lottery)I would like to live in a national forest. What a great backyard! Indiana has no National Parks, but it does have Hoosier National Forest. It includes several counties in the southern part of Indiana. French Lick is on the northern edge of the forest. There are lots of villages and towns throughout the area. And I don’t know if it’s naiveté, but I didn’t realize there were so many farms inside the forest boundaries.

The first night I stayed at Initial Point, which has a small area for tents. There’s a trail that leads down the hill to the Pivot Point, which is the place where all the measurements for Townships begins. Something I never knew. Yay Trivia!

The next night I decided I needed a shower so I rented a site at the Patoka Lake State Park campground. Since it’s early in the season there are not too many people here. I scored a delightful site right on the lake. Well, it’s above the lake on a ridge, but it looks out over the water. A trail leads down to it.

It was so good that I reserved the site for 3 days.

After I set up camp, I visited the Nature Center and did a short hike.  The trail had the most amazing rock formations.

The rocks form overhangs that were used by the Native Americans as shelters when hunting. And apparently there are 100’s of caves in this area.Here’s a small cave I passed.

The trail eventually goes to the lake, which is actually the second largest reservoir in the state. Unfortunately with such a warm winter, and not a lot of snow melt, the water level is very low.

Rain is in the forecast but I hope to do some more hiking.