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STOP #220

We arrived at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in Minnesota to find out there is absolutely no cell phone signal anywhere in the park. Even with our booster turned on, still no useable signal, but text messages do get through every once in a while.

Now that Tricia is no longer working it's not as big a deal. We will be able to stay the entire week we have reserved, instead of switching over to Plan B, finding a nearby campground that does have service.

It will however mean you won't be getting this post until we arrive at our next stop.

TUESDAY - Our first day with no internet!

We do have a couple of chores to take care of today, so we drove the 12 miles back into town. Once in town where we had cell service we checked on Google Maps for Breakfast Places Nearby and it came up empty, we weren't surprised because it's not the first time that's happened to us. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the grocery store, some banana nut mini-muffins and chocolate milk.

Next we located the one and only laudromat in town, we saw it yesterday when we passed by towing THE POD, fortunately it was very well maintained. We spoke to a local gentleman who was also doing laundry and he told us of two diners downtown that were open for breakfast, we'll have to check them out later this week, it's too late for today.

Once the laundry was done we headed back to camp after driving by the two diners, oddly they were located across the street from each other.

WEDNESDAY - We have reservations today on the 10:00AM cave tour at Niagara Cave in Harmony, MN which is 33 miles from camp. It also is just a mile outside of the Iowa State Border.

It's listed as one of the TOP TEN caves in the U.S. by the National Cave Association and the International Show Caves Association, but we've learned not to trust their opinions when it comes to selecting our personal TOP TEN caves.

As you might have guessed, Niagara Cave got it's name due to the fact there is a modest waterfall at the beginning of the tour. We saw Ruby Falls Cavern's waterfall outside of Chattanooga, TN and it was two or three times the height of this waterfall, but they weren't rated as a TOP TEN cave?

The cave did have long narrow passage ways with rock walls as high as 40 feet in some areas, but we've seen that before at Ohio Caverns outside of West Liberty, OH. At least it was rated in the TOP TEN.

I guess what I'm getting at is we have now seen about half of the caves who are members of the National Caves Association and I believe we are going to make our very own TOP TEN list and share it on our CAVE TOURS Page, instead of someone elses list.

That's why you're here isn't it? To share our experiences and opinions, not everyone elses!

THURSDAY - Once again we have 10:00AM tickets for another cave tour. This time it is located only five miles from the Main Park Area in a separate section of the state park we're in.

As usual we arrived early at 9:15AM and waited in the parking lot. Just a few minutes before they opened the doors to the Visitor Center, where the tours starts from, a 15-passenger van pulled up and a moment later a dozen "young adults" piled out the doors with two adult chaperones.

They were "doing what kids do" outside, yelling, screaming and roughhousing. Once they moved inside the Visitors Center not much changed. Turned out they were here as part of a local summer camp group that tours the cave several times a week with different participants.

Once everyone was checked in I noticed they too had tickets for the 10:00AM tour, great! A few minutes before the tour was scheduled to start a women walked in with a child in her arms. She wanted tickets for the tour and was told the first available was for 10:30AM, she seemed disappointed and looked like she was going to leave.

I walked up and asked if I could exchange my tickets for the 10:30 tour and was told no problem. The last minute woman got my 10:00AM tickets, with all the kids, and we got 10:30AM tickets. Turns out the 10:30AM tour only had five tickets sold and Tricia was our "youngest adult" on our tour. I'd say that was a WIN-WIN situation for everyone.

Since our photos don't really do justice to our actual cave experience I decided to include a short video taken during our tour of Mystery Cave today.

The highlight of the Mystery Cave tour is definitely at the end of the tour where you come to this turquoise colored reflection pool.

While I'm not sure if Mystery Cave will eventually be selected as one of our TOP TEN cave tours I can tell you we rate it as a better experience than the cave we did yesterday.

The name of the state park we are visiting this week is Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.
You know about the Mystery Cave part of the name, now we'll talk about the Forestville part.

After our cave tour today we returned to THE POD to eat lunch. After a short rest we drove to the edge of the state park where a bridge crosses the South Branch of the Root River. This road bridge was taken out of service a long time ago, so the road just comes to a parking lot at the dead end.

You can still walk across the bridge and then you'll find yourself on a 14-acre parcel of land that is owned and maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society.

The town of Forestville was established in 1853, even before Minnesota became a state in 1858. It was an overnight stop for the local stagecoach and during it's first 15 years it grew and prospered. In 1868 the railroad was built through the area, but passed by nearly 15 miles to the north and the 100 residents began moving away to be nearer the railroad.

In just 12 short years the town's population was cut in half and one of the founding families began purchasing all the vacated land nearby. By 1890 the Meighen family owned over 1000 acres and turned their land into a "company town", where workers and farmers were paid with store credit and housing.

When the Post Office closed in 1902 the town offically ceased to exist and in 1905 even the Meighen family moved away to the nearby town of Preston to be near the railroad. This action meant the end of anything resembling a town community.

In 1963 the land was turned into a state park and in 1978 the Historical Society took over a small parcel of the previous town to preserve. Today we took a guided tour, led by an Historical Society member, of the little ghost town and the Meighen family homesite.

Here are a few photos of what we saw.


The Meighen family property in Forestville.
Their Victorian style home was a one of a kind in town.
The organ left behind in their main living room.
A large kitchen stove and an indoor sink.
The town's business office space.
The bankers/postmaster/store owner's desk belonging to the Meighen's.
Their two story turn of the century general store.
When the Meighen family moved away they simply just locked the door and left everything behind...
...which is a big win for the Historical Society.
More mechandise left behind.
A horse buggy found in the blacksmith's shop.

FRIDAY - This morning we got up late (9:00AM), then grabbed our computers and headed into town. Spring Valley, MN is 12 miles northwest of the campground, where they have cell service and a nice public library.

There also are two options for breakfast in this small town, Elaine's Cafe and Big Bob's Eatery. Elaine's had more cars out front so we chose to have breakfast there.

The menu had all the typical breakfast offerings. Everything was à la carte, so you could get exactly what you wanted to eat.

I chose two eggs, toast, hashbrowns and one slice of french toast. Tricia chose an egg sandwich on an english muffin and a coffee. Our total bill was only $11.27 plus tip.

Afterwards we drove a block and a half away and found seats in the rear of the public library. There was electricity nearby, bathrooms, air conditioning and most importantly free wifi and cell service. What more could we ask for!

After about four hours we had our apps undated on our cell phones, our location updated on the blog and pretty much this entire post ready to upload. I held off on the post because we still had two days left at this location and you never know what adventures we could manage to get into.

Turns out we could have just upload it Friday because the only other activity we did was to go back into town on Sunday for breakfast again, this time at Big Bob's Eatery, just to spread our money around town. I actually liked Big Bob's bettr because they had Sausage and Gravy Biscuits on the menu.

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