Mammoth Cave, Kentucky – one of our National Parks

Leaving rainy, cold and windy Lexington we headed on the road again to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.  It was so cold and rainy that we drove through the drive through lane at McDonald’s for salads to eat in the car.  We didn’t want to get wet or cold.

Before we left on our trip Blogger Friend Susan made reservations for us for two tours at Mammoth Cave.  Though reservations weren’t required, we didn’t want to drive there and find out that there was no room on the tours for us.  To give us enough time to drive from Lexington to Mammoth Cave, we chose the last tour of the day which happened to be the Dome and Dripstone Tour at 3:00.

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We arrived at 2:30 and walked around the visitor center.  The announcement was made for the tour group to meet at Pavillion B.  As I headed to the door, Blogger Friend reminded me that we were in Central Time zone and that they were actually calling the 2:00 Tour.  Shucks – we knew that Kentucky was in two time zones but we weren’t sure where the divide was.  We tried to get change our tickets to go on the 2:00 tour but they wanted to charge us $3 per ticket since we had ordered them online- we passed on that.  If we had purchased them there, there would have been no charge.  Instead, we walked around the visitor center, did our shopping and found that they and a very interesting exhibit and a few videos of the cave to watch.  Before we knew it, they were calling out group.

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We listened to the park ranger explain about the tour.  He told us that Mammoth Cave has over 400 miles of caves that have been explored to date – interconnected with each other making it the largest cave system in the world.  To get a visual, he said to imagine a bowl of spaghetti, turn it upside down and take the bowl off.  That’s what the cave system looks like in his mind.

He began to tell us about the tour and he said it was moderately strenuous and we would be walking briskly as well as a lot of stairs.  Wait a minute – that’s not the description that was on the website.  For the listed tours, they were rated easy, moderate, strenuous, very strenuous, and extremely strenuous. e said “moderate” meant moderately strenuous though that was not our interpretation. Also nothing had been mentioned about walking “briskly”.  Walking is not a problem but how fast or slow is briskly?  That was our concern as well.  We were also a little concerned since the other members of our 120 person group were high school FFA members (future farmers of America) and their sponsors.  Our ranger had us be the first two people in the line behind him.  We were driven to a cave entrance where we quickly descended about 280 narrow, windy (think spiral stairs at times) stairs to reach the cave floor.  One warning that should have been in the description is that it is not for the overweight or obese because of the narrow ness of the stairs against the rock walls as we descended.  At the bottom of the staircase were wooden benches for us to sit on while the ranger gave his presentation.  Afterward it felt like a race that we were always trying to catch up to the ranger.  It was much more than a brisk walk – it felt like a race.  We  weren’t the only ones having a difficult time keeping up with the ranger, the high school students were huffing and puffing as well.  There was no time to stop and take any photographs or admire the cave.  The was a second area that we could sit on and both Blogger Friend and I heard independent of each other that the ranger was going to “skip” part of the tour.  Toward the end of the tour was an optional climb down 50 steps to the Frozen Niagara.  We did not do this as we knew that we had walked down 280 steps and was saving our energy for the climb up.  We were very surprised that there was no stairs to climb to leave the cave.  If we had known, we would have gone down to see the Frozen Niagara.  Our tour was shorter than what was advertised and we were disappointed.  I have since read some reviews about this tour and a number of other people felt that it was rushed as well.  I would not recommend you take the Dome and Dripstone Tour.

The next morning we had another scheduled tour – The Great Onyx Lantern Tour.  Once again we had warning before the tour – whether you suffer from being in narrow places, dark places, walking in dimly lit areas.  Once again we looked at each other and decided to go ahead and do the tour.  We are so glad that we did.  Literally it was Night and Day.  Every 4th person received a lantern to carry, about 40 steps to go down into the cave.  This ranger took his time, always giving you geological and historical information.  He held us spellbound as he wove stories for us.  The caves were extremely wide and tall – a train could have fit in here.  There was plenty of light even though it was dim, for us to feel safe and secure.  Also, many parts of the tour had hand railings that you could hold onto. This tour I would recommend.

lighting the lanterns for our group
lighting the lanterns for our group
you can see how wide this cave is
you can see how wide this cave is
The nativity formation
The nativity formation

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P1040746Mammoth Cave no longer has the boat rides that they were famous for.  The explanation that we were given was that the underground river would flood and cause damage to the boats and to the docks.  They gave all their boats away to the Lost River Cave in Bowling Green, Ky.

There are many other tours to consider when visiting Mammoth Cave, about 15 minutes from the interstate near Cave City and Park City.  That night we stayed in the Holiday Inn in Glasgow, about 30 minutes from the cave.  This seemed like a good area and the restaurant recommended by our hotel, A Taste of Texas, was good as well.  It seemed like a larger city with more stores if you needed anything.
We left the cave and got back in my car and began our ride to Memphis – home of barbeque and Elvis!

We stopped for lunch and ice cream at Chaney’s Dairy Barn listed in the tour book as the best ice creme in all of Kentucky.  How could we not stop and try it out.  Our sandwiched and ice cream were very good.

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