Camping With Canines…and Cousins!

5 07 2018

One thing we quickly learned about traveling with canines: the driving time indicated by your GPS is never ever on target.  What should have been a four hour drive from Franklin, TN to Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana turned into about 7 ½ hours with our frequent dog-breaks.  Still and all, we arrived at the campground in plenty of time to set up the camper, walk the dogs, and go to dinner at Harry’s Stone Grill where my cousins’ reunion would commence.  Well, at least one of us got to go to dinner.  That’s the other thing about taking your dogs on vacation:  someone always has to stay with them.  Sure, we could have left them in the camper (leaving them tied up outside is frowned upon by campground hosts), but we didn’t trust the dogs to maintain the camper in the manner to which we are accustomed so that wasn’t really an option.  And since these were my cousins that Brian didn’t really know, guess who stayed behind?  I did bring him back a nice slice of cheesecake, though.

6.18.18 Clifty Falls, IN cousins reuniona

Missing Brian (with dogs) and Alice (photographer).  The “Freethinkers of Madison” sign behind us was for another group!

This was a relatively (ha, pun!) small reunion.  There were only ten of us: five cousins and their spouses.  My brother Dan and his wife Susan came, heading out early for a lengthy trip to the Northwest.  Then there were my cousins from my mother’s side whom I had not seen outside Facebook since our last reunion 12 years ago: Sara Lippett McInery and husband Bob, Alice Ragan Fowell and husband John, and the reunion organizer Beth Ragan Minski and husband Jack.  Three of the couples stayed in nearby hotels, but the McInerys and ourselves were at the campground, which made a comfortable meeting place.

Clifty Falls State Park, near Madison, Indiana just over the border from Kentucky, is a beautiful and interesting area. Millions of years ago, a glacier gouged out a gorge and the Clifty Creek continues to carve out the canyon and several waterfalls that spill over the limestone layers.  In the 1850s, John Brough began a railroad tunnel through this area but the project was abandoned when funding ran out.  Brough’s Folly became Brough’s Tunnel, a 600-foot tunnel easily accessed by one of the numerous foot trails through the gorge.  Residents of South Carolina will remember a similar story behind Stumphouse Tunnel in upstate S.C.  The cool air of Brough’s Tunnel was welcome relief to the summer heat and humidity as we hiked with our dogs. A sign outside the tunnel’s entrance urged explorers to follow the national decontamination protocol for the white nose syndrome that is decimating bat populations. Unfortunately, the sign did not explain what the protocol was.  Having visited Mammoth Cave last year, we were familiar with this issue, but I doubt many others were.  Sorry, bats!

6.19.18 Clifty Falls, INa

Brian and the dogs explore Brough’s Tunnel

The reunion continued with a low-key dinner at the campsite with everybody contributing: brats, corn on the cob, fresh salad, S.C. peaches, and of course s’mores.  Conversations around the campfire reinforced family ties as I reconnected with my Mainland cousins. Sara regaled us with stories of her travels around the world and told family stories gleaned from her genealogy work.  My cousin, whose given name is Mary Elizabeth, grew up as Betsy, and now goes by Beth, added her own stories to the mix in her quiet tone, while her sister Alice thrust wholesome snacks and goodies upon us and joined in the stories and laughter.


6.19.18 Mainland Cousins Reunion (16)

The Formal Photo: Brian with Pip and Shae, Alice, Susan, Beth, Sara, Beth, Dan, John, Bob, and Jack

The next day we continued our time together as we explored the small town of Madison, spread out along the Ohio River and looking like it was stuck in a 1950s time warp. We all met for lunch at a café; this time Brian and I tag-teamed sitting with the dogs across the street in the shade outside the courthouse. Afterwards, we meandered down to the river and watched tugboats pushing incredibly laden barges move up and down the wide channel.

6.20.18 Cousins reuniona

Downtown Madison, In.: And to think that we sniffed it on Mulberry St. …

I would have liked to have spent more time here, both with the cousins as well as seeing the sights of Madison, but we were headed onward and upward toward Michigan the next day, so it was off to sleep in the air-conditioned comfort of our camper.  I think it was this night that I took pity of poor Pip and invited her to sleep at the foot of my bed rather than on the floor where she was blasted with cold air.  I use the word “sleep” generously, as not much was done by me that night.  More on sleeping with dogs later…



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