We hit our third National Park this week – that’s like 15 in the last twelve months. Mammoth Caves sits in the middle of Kentucky, a huge underground cave where over 400 miles of underground paths have been mapped so far, more each year. The cave itself is 54 degrees, it is large and ummm, how do I say this….boring. There is no color, no cool draperies, no stalactites, no stalagmites, not much to see except a big hole in the ground.
We took the Historic Tour and learned a lot about the park and the caves, but with 120 people on the tour, it was like a speed walk through the place. About two miles round trip and 440 steps, we descended to 350 feet below the cave surface. We learned about the folks who have been touring the cave since before the war of 1812; the saltpeter mining that was done for the war effort to create gunpowder is still in evidence. Years later, young Stephen Bishop, a slave, mapped as much of the cave as he could and gave tours to the upper class and scientists from around the world, this all happened before the Civil War. The stories were fascinating, but the cave itself is stark. Nothing like you would find at Carlsbad Caverns. It just simply didn’t share the same beauty. My understanding is that there are some other areas of the cave where there is more water and many cave elements exist, but not so much as you find elsewhere.
Of course, we had a blast, like we always do…I earned enough bat points to get my Junior Ranger and we laughed and laughed. Our tour was interesting too, mostly because of the people on it. There was one lady who left as soon as we got inside the cave, she had a panic attack. After we got through “Fat Man’s Misery”, a narrow, twisty spot that we had to duck through, another lady left, she had a claustrophobia attack, and yet another one left when we got to “The Tower”, an eight story staircase that brought on the vertigo if you weren’t careful. The extra ranger on the tour covered a lot of miles leading these folks out of the cave, it was kind of fun to watch. Not that I take joy in other people’s misery, but sometimes, you know, especially when you are running through the caves on a speed tour.