Captured On A Pirate Ship

Well, now we’ve done it. The pirates have locked us below deck while they go ashore, no doubt for a healthy ration of rum. Mike, Dawn, Steve and I only have one option, we have to figure out how to get topside and sail out of the harbor before the pirates return. The clock is ticking. We only have an hour to figure where the keys to freedom can be found. If the pirates return, they will surely make us walk the plank.

Why don’t we call for help you ask? They confiscated our phones! As we look around we are overwhelmed about where to even start…

We each pick a part of the room to search, nervous laughter escapes from us as we struggle to find the clues…failure is not an option. Then we could hear it, a soft voice whispering a clue…”I’ve heard pirates like to hide things under the stairs?” We followed the clues, deciphered the ciphers and solved the mind-bending puzzles only to get stuck on the very last lock. We could hear the pirates coming across the bay in their rowboat. Singing, “Yo, ho ho and a bottle of rum. Arrrrgggh” With only moments to spare, that faint whisper said “Follow the clue exactly, hurry” In our race against the clock, we had been overlooking one step on the lock. With literally seconds to spare, we burst through the door and made our way to freedom.

Well, how did we get into such a pickle to begin with? We had booked an adventure with Northern Michigan Escape Rooms, LLC in Grayling, MI. None of us had ever experienced an escape room first hand but we had all heard stories of how much fun it could be.

The Forrester family opened their escape adventure rooms in 2016. On the night we were there, it was Stan’s wife, Mary Jo who was the faint whisperer of clues and encouragement. She never gave us any direct answers, but her hints would spark an idea. Without her helpful prodding the pirates would have made us into shark stew for sure.

Mary Jo showed us the other escape rooms they offer. They have a speakeasy…

And a very cool room for two , submarine. A perfect date night adventure…

Mary Jo even showed us the newest room in progress, Hetephere’s Tomb. (Since completed) We were amazed at how resourceful the Forrester family is, nearly everything was either repurposed, recycled or homemade, but the results were incredible.

It was a fantastic way to spend an hour with friends. When we arrived, our attitude was, “What the hell, we’ll try it”, by the time we finished our attitude was “Wow! I’d do that again!”

Have you ever done an escape room? Did you enjoy it?

Up next…

A visit to Elk Park

Pure Michigan!

We said goodbye to our new friend Eddie and headed north to meet up with some old friends, Mike and Dawn from Random Bits of Trial and Error. It had been a hot minute since we’d last had a chance to meet up and relaxing in northern Michigan sounded like just the ticket.

Mike and Dawn had been raving about Bambi Lake for years and we wanted to know what all the hoopla was about. Well, to start with, Bambi Lake is a privately owned lake, nestled in 240 acres of beautiful Michigan woodlands with direct access to several of the state’s ORV trails. After getting checked in, Mike guided us to our site. Since it was already mid-September, the campground was nearly deserted…

We spent lazy afternoons around the campfire and quiet evenings sharing meals with friends. Our original plan was to spend 2 weeks there, but somehow, it stretched into nearly 4 weeks.

Fall is a lovely time to be in Michigan. The changing leaves and crisp mornings leave you feeling alive…

And what could be better than an afternoon of fishing…

One of our day trips was a drive up to Mackinaw City. Our ultimate destination was St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula for a pasty. Get your mind out of the gutter! Pasty rhymes with nasty NOT tasty. We were told the pasty is the quintessential Upper Peninsula food. If you’d like to read about the fascinating history of the pasty, click here. As we drove into Mackinaw City, we chose to pass on this lunch option…

One of the big draws of Mackinaw City is the Mackinaw (or if you prefer Mackinac) Bridge. With Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Huron on the other side, it is an impressive suspension bridge. It is 28′ short of being 5 miles long and is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. While we had no fear of traversing the bridge, many do. At mid-span, the bridge deck is 199′ or 61 meters above the water. The Mackinac Bridge Authority used to offer an escort service for people who were afraid to drive across themselves, but it has been discontinued.

My blue dot locator button is on the bridge.

It was chilly when we started the day, so we definitely were dressed for the weather…

Here, we are on the Lake Huron side of the bridge

The city has several lovely parks along the shores. We saw lots of people taking advantage of them…

A short walk from this city park is Michilimackinac State Park where the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is…

The day had warmed up nicely and once we had our fill of parks and lighthouses we headed over the bridge to St. Ignace. Unfortunately, we only had enough time for a quick drive around town, but it certainly looked like a neat place to spend the day (or two). Upper Peninsula residents are called Yoopers. Yoopers refer to people who live in the Lower Peninsula as “trolls” since they live “under” the Mackinac Bridge. Apparently, Michiganders have a sense of humor. What they are VERY serious about is, you guessed it, pasties! Mike and Dawn have a favorite place satisfy their pasty cravings, Lehto’s.

We could smell the deliciousness as soon as we drove up! Mike was kind enough to take a shot of our first ever pasty experience…

All I can say if YUUUUMMMMMMY! It was so filling, we didn’t even have dinner that night.

With our bellies beyond full, we headed back to Bambi Lake in a bit of a food coma. But, dang, it was worth it! The setting sun provided us with a perfect ending to our day trip…

More Michigan Day Tripping

Back To Our Kentucky Adventures!

Before I got sidetracked, you may remember, we were having fun in Kentucky. I had written about mines and an abandon town, I had also written about a cave, a quarry and a new friend. What I hadn’t gotten around to sharing was the actual reason we went to Kentucky int he first place. A few years ago, I read a post from Justin and Stacy over at Opting Out of Normal. They have an entire series about finding “hidden gems” in their travels called “Off The Beaten Path“. When I read their post Off the Beaten Path in Kentucky. Our Top 5 Hidden Gems! I knew we’d have to go someday.

Well, someday finally rolled around. Their post says this hidden gem can be found at Grayson Lake. Hmmm, where? Grayson Lake is a 1500 acre lake with several boat launches. We drove to the Clifty Creek boat launch where we found a fairly busy launch and several friendly locals willing to share the mysterious location…

When I asked how “exactly” to get to the falls, no one could quite give me an answer but most peoples’ directions included things like “after you pass the big rock, you will see a cliff with a dead tree on top, go left there and you can’t miss it” or “paddle for about and hour and a half and take the waterway to your left, it’ll be right in front of you.” Ooooo-K. Easy-peasy. A few days later, we returned to the launch ready to find that waterfall!

It was a beautiful day and the paddling was easy and smooth. Clifty Creek is nestled in between wonderful sandstone cliffs which loom above you. Years of water and weather have carved them into some fascinating patterns…

Sometimes, we actively paddled, while other times, we just floated along and took in all the scenery…

There were several waterfalls along the way, but none of them were the one we came find…

One thing I began to realize is the fact that there are LOTS of “cliffs with a dead tree on top”! How would I know the right one when I saw it?

Is it this one?
Or maybe this one?

And, hey folks, they are ALL “big rocks”! I was beginning to think we would never find this hidden gem. Occasionally, we would pass another watercraft and every time I asked if we were heading the right direction, they would say yes. Ok, keep paddling. We rounded a small bend in the creek, we finally saw THE big rock…

A bit further and we came to an area where we could choose left or right. Everyone had said take the left, so we did. As I neared the what seemed to be a dead end, I began to hear what I was sure was a thundering waterfall, but where was it? When another kayaker seemed to appear out of nowhere, I knew what we had to do.

Watch what happens when you paddle into a “dead end”

I was astounded! This is what we came to find!! Grotto Falls! There wasn’t much room in the grotto. I doubt you could fit more than a couple kayaks in at a time. I paddled the kayak in a 360 to film the entire grotto…

Wow, just wow!

Not wanting to hog the grotto, we paddled back out to make room for others to enjoy the falls. I managed to get turned around quick enough to get a picture of Steve reappearing…

It had definitely been worth the paddle! Thank you to Opting Out of Normal for writing about this hidden gem! You were right on the money!

Up Next…

Heading to Michigan

Thanks for stopping by!

A Cave, A Quarry and A New Friend

While we enjoyed our week at Shady Valley, cell service was non-existent and wi-fi was iffy at best. We used one of our days there to scout out a new park. We decided on Carter Caves State Resort Park. There wasn’t any availability until the following Sunday so we booked a Sunday to Friday stay and finished out our week at Shady Valley.

In the mean time, we had a bit of maintenance to do on Waldo. One day we stopped at a local parts store. I waited in the Jeep while Steve did his shopping. A guy pulls up next to me in a home made street legal dune buggy, gets out looks at our license plate and asks if we “drove that thing all the way from Florida?” I laughed and said “No, we tow it behind our motorhome, we live in it full-time.” We were still chatting when Steve came out. The guy stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Eddie, my wife calls me Gabby.” Steve and I nodded our understanding and hung out in the parking lot for another half hour BS-ing. It was a completely comfortable conversation by some like minded adventurers. We told him we were going to be moving to Carter Caves at the end of the week. He informed us that is his “stomping grounds”, he drives through nearly every night (since he doesn’t live far away). We left him with an invitation to stop by if he sees the Jeep.

Sunday rolled around and we made our move, wondering if we would see him again. Sure enough, on Monday, Eddie stopped by. He was driving a different buggy this time…

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He turned down my offer of a beer, proclaiming it was against the beer rules. You ALWAYS bring your own beer. Only if you run out, is it ok to drink someone else’s. We sat around, each drinking our own beer and talking until late in the evening. He was a fountain of information about the area and gave us lots of ideas on places to visit. 

One of the days we were there, we toured Cascade Cave. It was a really cool series of caves, with lots of bats getting settled in for their winter hibernation. Unfortunately, none of my cute bat pictures came out, so you’ll have to settle for cave pictures…

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The last part of the cave we visited was a 30′ waterfall..

There were also several hiking trails to explore. We took the 3 Bridges Trail as far as the first bridge which was impressive in size…

The person gives a bit of perspective on the size
Looking back towards the entrance

One evening, Eddie stopped by and asked if we had found the quarry he had told us about. We admitted we had looked, but not found it. He offered to lead the way. He needed gas, so we followed him to the station where we both filled up. He said, “Hey, we aren’t far from my house, wanna stop in there first.” “Sure”, we said. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but his home is beautiful! Complete with a huge fishing pond his wife is working on. Eddie grabbed a bowl of dog food and tossed into the pond, the result was dozens of huge catfish vying for their share. About this time, his wife came from working on the other side of the pond and introductions were made. Her and I chatted while Eddie showed Steve the garage and his “buggy in progress”. Eddie checked the time and said we should get going if we want to see sunset at the quarry.

15 minutes later, we came to this…

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Eddie offered to take our picture, he laughed when he handed me back my phone. He had taken several pictures, including…

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He explained he always takes a bunch of pictures, especially before people are ready. Turns out the best picture of us WAS before we were ready…

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Later, he proved again the best picture is probably the one before you are ready…

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My expression leaves something to be desired, but it is clear we were laughing and having fun. I took a couple pictures of our rides by the pond…

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And further up the trail…

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Just before sunset, I got a picture of Eddie drinking “The Best Damn Beer I Ever Drank”

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Steve and I called it a night while Eddie settled in for his evening at the quarry.

Thursday, I texted Eddie and invited him over for a campfire on our final night at the park. He said he was working on a souvenir and would be over later. When he arrived, I had a roaring fire going and we sat around talking about how much fun the last week had been. Eddie walked over to his buggy and came back with a surprise for us. Walking sticks he had made from locust tree limbs with our names and Kentucky 2020…

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We were shocked. It was such a “from the heart” souvenir. We have crossed paths with so many people over the last 3 1/2 years, very few have made us feel so special.

Up next – A Kayak Trip to Grotto Falls

Adventures in the Bluegrass State

We headed straight to Kentucky – The Bluegrass State when we left New Hampshire. Time with family and friends was great, but I was ready for some adventures. Our original plan was to boondock in the Daniel Boone National Forest, just outside of Morehead. There were two main reasons we nixed that idea, first being the was absolutely no cell service but the main reason was when we got to Paragon Road, the sites were muddy and soft. I could have lived with no service, but if we had gotten Waldo into the site, it would have taken a tow truck to get him out.

We spent the first week at Shady Valley Campground in Grayson. I rarely book a campground that has a Facebook page as it’s website, particularly if it isn’t updated regularly. But, I made an exception and it turned out well. Our site was fairly level and spacious…

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We did have a freaky visitor make his home on our picnic table…

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Several Google searches later, I learned it was a female Arrowshaped Micrathena spider. I know lots of people don’t want anything to do with spiders, but I thought she was cool.

We spent most of the week just driving around the area and seeing what there was to do. We explored backroads and small towns, we discovered the fact that Kentucky still has lots of dry counties – in 2020 – who’d have thought that!?!?!?

Anyhow, one of our daytrips included a stop at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park . We were quite surprised when we learned there are no day use fees for any of the Kentucky State Parks. As we toured the park, we saw how much there is to do, they even have miniature golf (for a very small fee). As we were leaving the park, we came across this…

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It’s hard to imagine all of the work that went into building it. I’m sure it produced a heck of a lot of Kentucky iron in its day. On the way back to the campground, we took a detour to see this…

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I have always loved covered bridges and photographing them. There were picnic tables inside, but the gates were chained shut, presumably because of Covid.

Back at the campground, I searched for somewhere to explore the next day. What I found piqued my curiosity! An abandoned town with an abandon mine. Who could resist?

We came to the abandon town of Lawton first. We explored everywhere it was safe to go…

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When we came to the final building, I didn’t think much would still be inside…

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As we walked around, we found an intact door that had a lock on it. I’ll go through any open door, but I draw the line at breaking in. There were several boards missing along the foundation so I was able to peek inside, imagine my surprise…

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I have no idea how long those vehicles have been in there, but I can’t imagine it’ll be easy to get them out. The roof is failing, the walls are leaning precariously and who knows if the floor is safe.

We drove on a few miles and found the entrance to what is now called Mushroom Mine. Originally, it was the Tygart Limestone company which shut down after WW II. Some time in the mid-60’s a group of Kentucky farmers decided to turn it into a mushroom farm. That lasted until the mid-80’s. In 2004, 2 bodies were found inside about a 1/4 mile from one of the entrances. The couple had been missing several months and their son was ultimately charged in their murder. In 2006, the mine was the center of a scam involving the building of a data storage site. Read more history here.

I was surprised how accessible the mine was…

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Armed with flashlights, we entered the mine. It was obvious lots of people drive in, but we left the Jeep outside and walked. Near the entrances, there is plenty of light…

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But the further in you go, the darker it gets. We found plenty of evidence of the mushroom farm…

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Rooms and rooms of growing trays. The farther in we went, the more water we encountered until we were forced to turn back. A selfie in the nearly pitch black surroundings…

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Back outside, we explored what was supposed to be the data farm buildings. Half built structures with tons of graffiti. I don’t care for the subject matter, but some of the “artists” had talent…

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Nature taking over
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Graffiti

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The mine was definitely creepy, but so much fun to explore.

Have you ever explored an abandon place?

Up next – the move to Carter Caves State Resort Park.