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Exploring Kentucky: Dutch (Re)Treat

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Hidden Cave Bed and Breakfast near Burkesville is a 6,000-s.f. timber beam and log home with furniture made from trees felled on the property.

There’s nothing like spending time relaxing with Mother Nature to regenerate body and soul, and a lovely hideaway in the southern Kentucky hill country specializes in that very thing.

“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 with his wife, Marion, owns the 156-acre Hidden Cave Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Burkesville.

A talented wood craftsman, Huur­man has filled his 6,000-s.f. timber beam and log home with furniture he has made from trees he felled on the prop­erty. Guest rooms feature king-size cedar log beds, homemade rustic log furniture, mini-fridges, and Wi-Fi. The house is filled with a delightful combination of curios and family treasures from the Netherlands – the Huurmans’ country of origin – and American antiques. Common areas sport comfy couches, TVs, DVD players, games such as chess, a pool table and dartboards. (Note: BYO darts.)

Sharing the farm are more than 60 animals, which Jaro calls their “menag­erie.” That includes 30 American Bash­kir Curly horses, two donkeys, bunnies, potbelly pigs, cats and dogs. Marion tends to the horses, a rare and ancient breed once ridden by Native Americans, including Chief Sitting Bull. A calm, gentle 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 or riding lessons. 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.

On a different section of the property, the Huurmans board and/or train privately owned horses. Facilities include newly constructed stalls, a round pen, a 25-acre pasture, well-groomed trails, and double stalls for foaling mares with 24/7 watch.

Walking and riding trails wind throughout the property and rockers on a wide covered porch overlook a secluded hillside for a complete out-in-the-country experience.

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 in the late 1800s lived in a small cabin, which still stands nearby. 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 but hour-and-a-half guided tours inside the cave must be scheduled in advance. Be ready to wade.

Also skilled in the kitchen, Jaro whips up hearty country breakfasts that change daily. Lunch, dinner and catering are also available at extra charge for guests and the general public. A wide variety of supper choices include Italian, country steak, home­made pizza, a fish fry, and griddling, a Dutch special that involves guest partici­pation and always commands rave reviews. There’s a campfire for outdoor cooking and always, handmade ice cream.

Another special appetizer treat has just been added to the menu. Handmade Dutch Voorn croquettes are filled with beef (the classic Dutch croquette), chicken, shrimp or vegetables. All also can be ordered online from the bed and breakfast’s website.

With a No. 1 Trip Advisor rating, this getaway hosts romantic rendezvous, family vacations – kids are welcome – and special events. Meeting planners can schedule a corporate retreat for up to 10 participants with a property buyout. A lovely 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.”

Set amid woods and wildlife, Hidden Cave Ranch is minutes from Dale Hol­low Lake and Lake Cumberland. Bass and trout fishing abound, as do boating, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. In Burkesville, Mutt E. Waters River Rentals can provide kayaks, canoes, tubes and floats, which come with pick-up and drop-off service to both lakes.

A short drive away, Up the Creek Winery now occupies a former tobacco farm in Possum Hollow 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.

If you can bear to leave the ranch, other fascinating attractions lie fairly close by, including the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Mammoth Cave National Park and Mammoth Cave Adventures – think zipline and drop tower…yahoo! – the National Corvette Museum and Assembly Plant, and the Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville, Tenn., which just nabbed the Guinness Book of World Records title for the world’s largest treehouse.

To find out more about the ranch, its owners and animals, and/or to make res­ervations for a getaway in Kentucky’s roll­ing hills, check out hiddencaveranch.com or call (270) 433-3225.