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Summertime is a great time to visit a state park

Summer has officially arrived and the weather is proving it. When the temperatures warm up, I like to hit the road and take mini-vacations to beautiful, natural areas.

I usually save my longer trips for the fall, because while summer can be nice, fall is easily my favorite season. That doesn’t prevent me from really enjoying summer.

Camping, hiking, kayaking and bird watching are all great summer options. You and I are lucky enough to live in an area where where all of those options are on the table — Kentucky. One of my favorite ways to enjoy the Bluegrass State is by visiting our awesome state parks. We have a wonderful state parks system and this summer is the perfect time to check them out.

I love camping, but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea — and that’s okay. There are many state parks the offer cabins and lodges to stay in. If you’ve got an extra-long weekend available, you could even camp for a couple of nights and then stay in a lodge for a couple of nights.

Camping puts you right out in nature and it can be a lot less expensive than other options. That means you can take a trip without breaking the bank — or turn what would be an overnight stay in a hotel room into a multi-night adventure for the same price.

You can also use the money you save to eat at the lodge restaurant in some state parks. Some of my favorite state park restaurants have views of lakes and nature, including Lake Cumberland and Buckhorn Lake.

When booking a camping spot, I always like to get one with an electric hook-up — I can easily blow up my air mattress, charge my cell phone overnight and anything else I might need. I do like to stay off my cell phone as much as possible — I can use my cell phone anywhere, but I can’t experience camping from my couch. But it can be a useful way to augment your experience. My cell phone allows me to find geocaches, view trail maps, take pictures and look up nearby attractions during my stay.

A lot of people think that camping is rough, but it really doesn’t have to be. In my next column, I’ll talk more about how you can still have some of your creature comforts while enjoying the beauty of nature. What I do is far from “glamping” — luxury camping that seems to remove all the actual camping — but it’s true there is no reason you have to be miserable while you camp. After all, camping is supposed to make you happy.

IF YOU GO

Here are some of my favorite Kentucky State Parks: Buckhorn Lake, Carter Caves, Cumberland Falls, Dale Hollow Lake and Lake Cumberland. Visit parks.ky.gov to view information about all of our 49 state parks.

The Kentucky State Parks website lets you search parks based on what you want to do. You can search for parks that have miniature golf, disc golf, birding, fishing, boating, picnicking and many other features.

Amanda’s animal fact of the week

During the summer, black bears in the southern Appalachian area feed primarily on grasses and fruit, including blueberries and blackberries.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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