This one is easy, click here http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/mammoth-cave-national-park/
Kidding – just kidding. You all know I’m a super fan of Nat Geo. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to tell it like I saw it.
Mammoth Cave. It was awesome. I sound like such a cliche but I just have to… the national parks are the crown jewels of America. Every one of them that I’ve been to has been special in it’s own way. This one was no different.
We were super lucky to get tickets to the Historic Tour today. We arrived prepared for a full-on spelunking expedition. We can’t help ourselves… always be prepared and whatnot. We had appropriate footwear and clothing (wicking t-shirts with sweatshirts tied at the waist – ready for deployment at the first hint of chilly), head lamps, flashlights, camera with the flash turned off and in one small Camelback a little water, a little food, extra diapers and doggie bags to carry them out and a way to make fire (…. just in case). Scott also McGuyver’ed a sling out of his sweatshirt to carry Jack because we’d read online that child carrying backpacks were prohibited. In short, we didn’t embarrass ourselves. Team Right Stuff arrived 10 minutes early to the rendezvous point having already eaten lunch and used the restrooms. Check check and check.
Turns out, the rest of America did not feel so inclined. I stopped counting after 15 sets of flip flops. One woman was in all white (seriously?! I guess it would be easy to bleach, but seriously?!). One lady was in a bra top. It’s 50 degrees inside the cave – have you never been to a cave before?!!? One man had a sprained ankle. Finally, and this one is sort of touchy for me given that I consider myself in the ‘could lose a few pounds’ category, the rangers repeatedly said, “There is a section called Fat Man’s Folly, it’s your responsibility to consider this…” There were some husky folks in our group who deemed themselves fit enough to navigate a 2 mile hike down into a 15 story hole in the ground and then back up again through a gauntlet that is specifically named to deter those with excessive girth. Those poor souls were hurting at the mid-way point. I never saw them at the end. One guy sincerely asked for an elevator when we stopped going down and started going up. Those rangers have super human patience as far as I can tell.
The cave system is the longest in the world. It’s a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There’s a severe bat-killing disease going around right now that has wiped out 90% of their population. They talked about the remnants of prehistoric man and how the cave has been in use for thousands of years. They explained the significant role the cave played in the War of 1812 and how slaves were used to mine it. All fascinating data points and I’m not doing it justice. Science, live and in person, is just intoxicating.
Evie did great. She walked the entire way by herself… up no less than 155 stairs and she did it faster than 2/3’s of the adults in the group. Also impressive, during the mid-way break she had to use the bathroom. There was no accommodations, so we put one of Jack’s diapers on her. The little trooper didn’t lose a beat and never once complained. Jack was carried the entire way – mostly be Scott. He did well. He liked making noises when they turned all the lights out (then everyone got to experience what it feels like to be me, #nightblind). Scott enjoyed most of it. His head had an unfortunate meeting with the rock on one low overhang though. In the car ride home he asked me to look to see what was “flapping” on his head. When I told him it was skin, he asked me to pull it off. Full stop. No. Just no. I’m not a skin ripper.
When asked, Evie’s favorite part of the day was literally on the drive into the park when she got to see 2 wild deer run across the road. Not exactly germane to the topic of the day, but it made an impression.
This is what all 405 miles of the cave look like inside in its natural state.