Since Baby Alex chose to present herself a couple weeks early, I am just now getting a chance to sit down and tell y’all about the amazing little trip the husband and I took right before she was born.
Courtesy of Xanterra Parks, we were treated to a tour of three of Ohio’s absolutely beautiful State Park Lodges and their surrounding areas. Now, when you hear the phrase “state park lodges” I’m willing to bet you’re imagining rustic log cabins and amenities little better than tent-camping. That was most definitely NOT the case. These are resorts. In the middle of Ohio. And they were awesome.
Now, here’s where a little bit of shame comes in. We live 11 miles from the Ohio state line. Eleven. Miles. And I had never really heard of any of these places even though the OSPL that ended up being my favorite is only about 40 minutes from us. Sure, we go to Toledo for Costco and the zoo. And I know the Mudhens are there, but that was about the extent of my Ohio knowledge other than our trip to Sandusky (Cedar Point) and Put in Bay last year. And here’s the bonus: Ohio State Parks are free. That can only be said about the state parks in a handful of states across the nation.
So on Tuesday, we drove from our home in Michigan to Maumee Bay State Park Lodge just outside of Toledo, on the shore of Lake Erie. We met up with some other bloggers who had arrived the night before and were greeted my the ever-so-friendly Lodge manager, Patrick. Around noon we travelled from Maumee to Salt Fork Lodge. Having never really driven through that area of Ohio, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the lovely views and hills on that 3.5 hour drive. We even got to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame as we drove by in Canton. (Mental note to plan another trip that way and actually visit there.)
Unlike Maumee Bay which is only a couple of minutes from the nearest town and neighborhoods, Salt Fork Lodge is very secluded. There is such a sense of peace as you drive through the huge park to get to the Lodge. And the Lodge itself? Gorgeous, but in a more rustic way than Maumee. Friendly staff and a beautiful lake view were the first things we noticed here. They served an absolutely amazing dinner and we had the chance to meet representatives (many of the volunteers) from different attractions in the area around the Lodge: Cambridge/Guernsey County Visitors & Convention Center, Dicken’s Victorian Village, Cambridge Glass Museum, Hopalong Cassidy Museum, John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail, The Great Guernsey Trail, and The Wilds. While I enjoy the handful of these we actually got to visit the next day, I hope to make it back in the near future to tour the rest!
After dinner and our little meet and greet, we were treated to a bonfire and s’mores and a fireside chat with some of the park’s staff. Now here is the part that I REALLY had no clue about. Apparently, Salt Fork State Park is the home of…Big Foot. That’s right. Big Foot. Now, I’m not saying he’s real…or that he’s not. And that was about their stance on it, too. But apparently they have lots of conventions and such centering around that. People really believe it’s there. And here I was thinking that was an Pacific Northwest thing!
First thing the next morning we met #friendlydeer while enjoying the lake view off our private balcony. As I witnessed the second morning, they are used to being fed by guests off those balconies. I felt a little bad that I had nothing to toss to her. After breakfast at the lodge’s Timber Restaurant (can we say, pancakes bigger than your head!), we ventured into Cambridge for a behind-the-scenes tour of Dicken’s Victorian Village. I cannot wait to go back this Holiday season and get to see the whole thing in motion! We took a scenic drive out to The Wilds, enjoyed lunch overlooking their zip lines and watching some amazing animals. We also got to tour their luxury accommodations…yurts! And took a drive-through tour of the park itself…complete with ornery camels and the chance to pet a rhino. We topped off the evening with a lovely dinner at Terra Cotta Vineyards. Steak and heirloom tomatoes while learning about their wine-making process, yes, I think so!
Day three was a morning of travel as we returned to Maumee Bay Lodge and the Toledo area. We had lunch at Real Seafood Co right on the riverfront. I had the swordfish regardless of the fact that I was 36 weeks preggo. It was delicious. After lunch we headed over to the National Museum of the Great Lakes and the Toledo Zoo. Part of our group did continue on to Toledo Museum of Art, but I’ll admit that I was exhausted after all the walking and heat and opted to head back to the Lodge with the other part of the group. Living only 20 minutes away, I plan to make a visit to many other things we missed. The ladies from Destination Toledo were so gracious and welcoming that you can’t help but want to return ASAP!
Dinner back at Maumee Bay Lodge was a fine-dining treat. There is something about a formal place setting with a few of a gorgeous lake at sunset that is just absolutely romantic.
That is, until you realize you’re eating lobster…and you have no idea how to open said lobster…and that is NOT a clean, or romantic, thing to do. But it was delicious. And afterwards we headed back inside to the lodge’s Icebreaker Lounge for a decadent dessert of chocolate tart. Mmmm. Let me say, these lodges sure know how to feed a person. When we travel, I’m used to the quality of our food going down, not up!
Day four began with breakfast at Water’s Edge Restaurant at the lodge. Again, with a beautiful view of Lake Erie. I may live in a town right on Lake Erie, but I never get tired of the views. And Ohio seems to have the best ones. Then the manager, Patrick, took us on a golf course tour of the grounds. I’ll have to dedicate a whole separate post to everything about this lodge. I LOVED IT! Oh, and true to his word from dinner the night before, Patrick showed us to the little farm stand nearby that had supplied much of the produce we’d eaten at dinner the night before. Anyone else never heard of a cucu-melon?!
Then we headed two hours south Mohican Adventures. Yet another place I can’t wait to return to. They had the coolest Aerial Adventure Park. Of course it was no-preggos-allowed. And a great canoeing adventure, which hubby vetoed thinking that three hours in a hot canoe wouldn’t be a good idea for me. So we settled for a round of mini golf and then watching the others do the aerial courses. I’ll be back for those one day! And I will conquer…at least some of them. Ha! After that it was on to the last of the three lodges we were visiting: Mohican State Park Lodge. This was the smallest of the three we visited, but also on a wonderful little lake and full of amenities. We were again treated to a wonderful dinner, this time with an introduction by not only the chef, but the farmer who grew and supplied much of the produce used at the lodge. If you’ve been around here long, you know how important local, sustainable food sources are to me and how dear to my heart any chef or restaurant who takes the time to source and use them!
After dinner we had a presentation by Ohio Bird Sanctuary about area birds of prey. We had the pleasure of meeting two of their handling birds and getting up close and personal with those beautiful owls is an experience I’ll never forget.
The next day, most of our companions headed back to wherever they lived…some there in Ohio, some fellow bloggers from Michigan, a few Candians, even a Missourian…but furthest of all…our new Australian friend. But Josh and I had one last task, a stop at Maumee Bay to play their gorgeous golf course. Okay, let’s be honest, he played, I rode along and took pictures. It was an amazing (and challenging) course! And then it was time to head home. :'( Our time in Ohio was over and back home we came.
I must say though, that as great as the lodges were, sometimes the best part of trips like these are the people you meet. Our new (and a few old) friends: Gwen Mulholland (and her mom), Kerri Hale, Joie Betterly, Danielle and Dustin – Happenings of the Harper Household, Tonya and Chelsea – The Traveling Praters, Wendy and Kathy – Tweenhood, Bill on the Road (and his dad), Cyn Gagen, and Brenden the Aussie! And of course, a HUGE THANK YOU to Mona Mesereau (Mesereau PR) and Dianna Rom (Xanterra Parks) for arranging everything and inviting us to enjoy the wonderful treasures of Ohio!
I have so so SO much more I want to share with you all about our time in Ohio. And so, on that note, I’d love to announce that we will soon be launching our new site: To Simply Travel. It’s been a dream of ours for a long time, and my husband Josh will be joining me on this new project. I can’t wait to show it to you!