The Old Kentucky Home State Park is a great little spot from which to investigate this part of Kentucky. Nestled in the town of Bardstown, KY and home to Federal Hill (built in 1812) which was the inspiration for Stephen Foster's ballad, "My Old Kentucky Home." There are 39 sites with electricity and water hookups, no sewer, and weak WIFI. There's also a restroom and shower house (somewhat dated) Most sites are not level but are manageable. The park also is where “The Stephen Foster Story,” a Broadway-style musical is performed onstage within the State Park.
Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. Settled in 1780. it is Kentucky’s second oldest city and was once listed as the Most Beautiful Small Town in America. The downtown town hub is a collection of small shops, businesses, historical buildings and restaurants. We strolled around the town looking at all the architecture with some buildings predating the 1800’s. Seeing these structures built in the 1790’s and still standing is a testament to the craftsmanship in those days.
One such building is the Old Talbott Tavern built in 1779. It was once a Western Stagecoach stop and the hotel had the likes of Abraham Lincoln, General Patton, Jesse James and countless others who stayed and slept in this very cool building. They have a restaurant and a bar on premises and we even had happy hour one evening at the bar. It is neat to be imbibing in such an old and historic structure. The restaurant is know for the Kentucky staple called the Kentucky Hot Brown. It is an open-faced sandwich of turkey and bacon, covered in Mornay sauce and baked or broiled until the bread is crisp and the sauce begins to brown.
Also near Bardstown is the the Barton 1792 Distillery and Visitor Center. We are not huge bourbon fans but have had fun visiting some of the distilleries in both Kentucky and Tennessee.Our tour guide was very passionate about bourbon so it was a very entertaining tour. She informed us that at any given time, Kentucky has more barrels of bourbon aging than people living in the state! Amazing!
Another fun thing to do near town is to make the 15 to 20 minute drive over to the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. There is a $5 per vehicle charge on weekends and holidays but during the week there is free admission to the park. This arboretum is comprised of a 14,378-acre forest preserve, complete with a nature center, picnic areas, 38 miles of hiking trails and lakes as well as a short but nifty canopy tree walk.
We did a lot of short hikes and loop trails while visiting the park. There are some really nice stands of ancient timber found in the park along with quite a diversity of plants. The trails were a bit muddy and could use a little maintence but we had a great time visiting this park. Just as we were about to leave the park we had a an encounter with a snake. As I was driving away from one of the trails I noticed a large, and I do mean very large, Timber Rattlesnake crossing the edge of the parking lot.
This rattlesnake was about 5 feet in length and the girth of the snake was as big around as a small cantaloupe. The snake was moving along very slowly as is typical for this species' somewhat passive nature. It appeared to us as though the snake had recently consumed a large mammal such as a rabbit due to its mid-section girth. Nevertheless this was an impressive snake and we were certainly glad we didn’t encounter it on the trail as I am sure one or both of us would had to have changed shorts shortly afterward! Ahhhh, just another exciting day on the road of retirement…