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Exploring Kentucky: Discover Hidden Cave Ranch

Burkesville gem is much more than your average B&B

By Katherine Tandy Brown

When Marion and Jaro Huurman decided to take a courageous leap from their Amsterdam home to the United States back in 2010, they sold their home, their business and their cars; packed up their remaining belongings, including two dogs, two cats and a horse; and eventually landed in the southern Kentucky hills near Burkesville. It didn’t take long for the industrious couple to create Hidden Cave Ranch Bed and Breakfast and Curly Horse Farm.

The Netherlands’ loss is certainly the commonwealth’s gain. Trip Advisor agrees, as the popular destination ranks No. 1 with five well-deserved stars. And the business has been named The Most Unique Bed and Breakfast in Kentucky by Onlyinyourstate.com/Kentucky.

One of the many ebullient guest quotes on Trip Advisor states, “Oh my goodness! What an incredible weekend!”

Read on, and you’ll agree. Better yet, try it out!

No matter the season—Hidden Cave is open year-round—spending time relaxing with Mother Nature regenerates body and soul.

“A stay at our ranch is an opportunity to disconnect from your daily routine or hurried lifestyle and reconnect with yourself, a loved one, God or all three,” says Jaro Huurman, who co-owns the 156-acre property with his wife, Marion.

A talented wood craftsman, Huurman has filled his 6,000-s.f. timber beam and log home with furniture he made from trees he felled on the property. Five guest rooms feature cedar log beds that can sleep a total of 12 people. All the rustic log furniture is handmade and the house is filled with a delightful combination of curios and family treasures from the Netherlands and American antiques. Wi-Fi is available and common areas sport comfy couches, TVs, DVD players, games such as chess, a pool table and dart boards (bring your own darts). Rockers behind the log home lure guests to settle in and read or just gaze at the horses and exquisite hill-country scenery.

Jaro is also skilled in the kitchen and whips up hearty country breakfasts that change daily. In addition, dinner and catering are available at an extra charge for guests and the public. A wide variety of supper choices include Italian, country dinners, Black Angus steak, baby back ribs, homemade pizza, and griddling, a Dutch special that involves guest participation and always commands rave reviews. A campfire can be used for outdoor cooking.

More than 70 animals, which Jaro calls their “menagerie,” share the farm. That includes American Bashkir Curly Horses, Scottish Highland cattle, donkeys, alpacas, potbelly pigs, cats and eight dogs. Their two sheep breeds—Katahdin and St. Croix—need no shearing. The Huurmans do lots of horse, dog and cat rescues and guests can interact with many of the farm animals. Last year saw the birth of their first two Scottish Highland calves.

Marion tends to the horses, a rare and ancient breed once ridden by Native Americans, including Chief Sitting Bull. A calm, gentle, curious type with great stamina, Curly horses have tightly curled, hypoallergenic coats, so even folks normally allergic to horses can saddle up for a guided trail ride on six miles of well-groomed trails. According to Marion, the property attracts a lot of families with allergies as guests and as buyers. Many of those folks assumed they could never ride horses again due to allergies and whole new world has opened for them, she says.

Before assigning a horse to a guest, Marion first tests a rider’s skill level in an outdoor arena and then matches them to an appropriate horse. The guest then gets to choose whether to head out on the trail or to stay in the arena, where Marion teaches them about horses and horsemanship. Sometimes in the process guests learn about themselves and enjoy that as well, she notes.

Rumor has it that the ranch’s “hidden cave” is one of the largest privately owned caves in the state. Rich Wolff Cave is named for a man who lived in a small cabin, which still stands nearby, in the late 1800s. Deep, wide and high, the cavern hides behind a creek and a waterfall. Guests who are staying at the ranch may explore the entrance area and inside the cave and often, the friendly dogs like to take guests there. Be ready to wade.

On a different section of the property, the Huurmans board and/or train privately owned horses. Facilities include newly constructed stalls, a round pen, several fenced pastures, well-groomed trails, and double stalls for foaling mares with 24/7 watch.

In addition, Hidden Cave is the area’s only equine rehab and therapy facility where kids can connect with horses. The Dutch couple also rent RVs, store RVs and boats, and run a valet service that can deliver and set up your motorhome or camper at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park’s campground.

Truly a destination in itself, the Huurmans’ getaway hosts romantic rendezvous, getaways for friends, family vacations (kids aged 4 and up are welcome) and special events. Meeting planners can schedule a corporate retreat for up to 10 participants with a property buyout. A beautiful alternative from the standard four-walls-in-a-motel-room space, the Huurman homestead is spacious and quiet for attendee meeting time. Afterwards, there’s plenty for everyone to do.

“We like to be a part of their stay,” says Huurman. “We can provide team building with games on horseback, take them horseback riding, arrange a cookout and fishing trips.”

If you can bear to leave the ranch, other fascinating attractions lie nearby. A short drive away in Possum Hollow is Up the Creek Winery, which occupies a former tobacco farm and is open on Fridays and Saturdays. Wines are made from Kentucky Proud grapes grown on-site and in neighboring vineyards. Be sure to try the Sweet Kentucky Blackberry that’s made from fruit grown right here.

Hidden Cave Ranch is minutes from Dale Hollow Lake and Lake Cumberland, which offer plentiful bass and trout fishing as well as boating, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. The Huurmans can connect you with any activities, including fishing guides.

Should you have lots of exploring time, hop aboard the Big South Fork Scenic Railway and take a tour deep into Mammoth Cave. Or find your thrills at Mammoth Cave Adventures, where you’ll find a zipline and drop tower…yahoo! For a trip back in time, car afficionados won’t want to miss the National Corvette Museum.

To find out more about this something-for-everyone ranch, its owners and animals, and/or to make reservations for a unique stay in Kentucky’s rolling hills, visit hiddencaveranch.com or call (270) 209-0907.