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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mammoth Cave Fun

Our first two days on the road went well, despite the dog's occasional barking and whining.  These moments ignited the parents growling a little and we were very excited to arrive in Horse Cave, Kentucky for our camping portion of our exodus South.  When we arrived the sweltering temperature had us worried, along with the sketchy guy with the campsite next to us.  Hooray for Pop-Tart and her AC unit!  Hooray for Sketchy McSkecherson's exit too!

Our main focus of this stop was Mammoth Cave National Park.  Luckily we are planners and had previously booked our tours because many other travellers were visiting this park too.  Our first day was spent checking out the museum and gathering our Junior Ranger books.  If you aren't aware of the National Park System's Junior Ranger program, I highly recommend it for your kids.  Mine have earned badges at 7 or 8 different parks!  It's a cool collection that is usually free and completely educational.

Day 2 was our first hike on the Historic Tour of Mammoth Cave.  As we descended toward the historic mouth of the cave the temperature made a very welcome drop; as natural AC breathed out of this ancient cave.  It dates back approximately 4000 years!  Native Americans left torches and moccasins in the first 12 miles, which was all they reached.  It is the longest cave in the world though and technically does not have an end.  They have found 400 miles of cave so far and it keeps on going.

This first hike was 2 miles long into 300+ feet down under layers of sandstone, limestone, and shale.  The kids were very excited to learn that people started touring this cave back in the early 1800s.  A slave named Simon Bishop was ordered to show people around down there.  He received tips from these early "adventurers" and eventually bought his freedom.  The names of some of these people were burned onto the rocks with a candle and because nothing decays down there, they still remain.  It was truly amazing to walk through that much history.

Day 3 was a tour entitled Domes and Dripstones.  As you can imagine, we learned more and more about geology and saw amazing stalagtites and stalagmites.  My kids already knew the difference thanks to Luray Caverns and Howe Caverns.  I guess we like caves.   We enjoyed the first day a little more than the second, but I believe that it's because of the obnoxious tour group with us on our second trip.  Some people don't deserve the beauty that our National Parks offer because they don't really seem to "get it".  Thank you d-bag for the undesired flash bulb in the eye!  People suck sometimes.  The views did not.

Jack got the lucky priviledge of doing a special tour all on his own.  It is called the Trog tour and it's for kids 8-12 only.  He got coveralls and a helmet with a head lamp!  He got to go into places unseen by the adults and got to experience what it must have been like to go in the cave with only a torch or a lantern.  Needless to say, the rest of us were extremely jealous.  I could pass for 12 right?  Maybe not so much.

The kids really made me quite proud during all of our time at the park.  They were active listeners.  They were respectful to other people around them and to the cave itself.  This is a great park to visit for all of you National Park enthusiasts.  We felt like we would have loved to do one more tour titled the Star Chamber where the prehistoric relics were found and remain.  The River Styx tour wasn't available because of Government cutbacks, but that must be great too.  We also would have liked to see a little more of the wooded hikes that the park has to offer.  Unfortunately, the kids slowed us down a little on that part of the adventure.  No biggie though because what we saw was spectacular.

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