Sunday, September 14, 2014

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2014: Mammoth Cave National Park

My summer became so busy somewhere around the first week of August that I lost any time I had to finish my Roller Coaster Road Trip stories, and I want to finish talking about the trip because even cooler things were yet to come.  So here I continue...

Mammoth Cave National Park

Our last stop in Kentucky before we hit Tennessee was Mammoth Cave National Park. I really wasn't sure how this experience was going to be, considering I'm not that crazy about caves and we had just done a cave thing in Louisville.  Besides, after visiting the Jim Beam Distillery, it was already getting late in the day and we weren't sure how much, if any, time we'd have there.  Luckily, we had entered the Central Time Zone...

Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system known in the world.  It is located in Edmonson, Kentucky, not too far from the Tennessee border.  The ride from the highway's exit to the site seemed to take forever, and no wonder because the park sits on more than 52,000 acres of property...huge! Eventually we made it to the visitor's center and thanks to the changing of time zones, we had a couple of hours to spend there, enough to take one of the many tours they offered of the immense system of underground caves.  

We took a look at the schedule of tours, there are several to choose from with a wide variety of lengths and level of difficulty, and quickly found one that was perfect for us, a short introductory tour.   We had to wait a bit for our tour to begin, but that was alright because the grounds were beautiful and there was a mini-museum inside the visitor's center that was pretty darned interesting. 

At tour time we were greeted by our guide, one of the rangers at the park.  I forget his name, but I won't soon forget him.  He was a well-spoken gentleman, and he was very proud of his heritage. I remember him distinctly because his pride was unlike anything I'd ever come across.  You see, he was descended from slaves and from the way he spoke you could tell that he believed it was an honor to be so.  He praised and appreciated the contributions his people had made in this country, and he exhibited no signs of bitterness that one might expect.  He carried himself with dignity and humility throughout the time we spent with him and though he was just a tour guide, I admired him as a person. 

Prior to going down into the cave we were to explore, the ranger told us about himself and then gave us a few warnings.  The first one was to be on the lookout for timber rattlesnakes.  Rattlesnakes? Gulp!  I immediately scanned the ground around me, but we were on a paved walkway, so I really didn't think one would come out and attack us.  Next he explained about this disease that's been infecting and killing millions of North American bats, and if we were to see any bats on the floor or exhibiting strange behavior, we needed to call on him pronto.  Third, the air temperature in the cave was going to be decidedly cooler than the air outside.  With that information, we were off...

Upon entering the cave you could feel the cool air rushing up and out.  We descended a flight of stairs towards the entrance and once we were all inside, the ranger closed a safety door behind us. We were inside a passageway that lead towards an old saltpeter mine from Civil War days.  It was eerie, to say the least.  The tour was what one might expect of a cave system.  The area of the system we were in had one large room, where the saltpeter mine was, along with another long passageway that went deeper inside.  For effect, lights were turned on and shut off as we walked along, and at one point the ranger wanted us to feel as early Native Americans felt when they first explored the cave as much as six thousand years ago.  He turned off all the lights!  

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park if you ever find yourself in the area.  The park itself is beautiful and the cave systems fascinating.  To learn more about it, just click on the link within this post and check it out, and stay tuned for some more places we visited on our Roller Coaster Road Trip 2014.
Here are my previous entries on our road trip:

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