Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mammoth Cave National Park and Severe Storms

We were carefully watching the weather Monday night. They were calling for severe storms starting Tuesday afternoon sometime, so we decided to get up early and head over to Mammoth Caves for the 8:45am Historical Caves Tour. This is a 2 hour, 2 mile walking tour through part of the cave system that begins at the Historical entrance. We hoped that by getting an early start we'd be able to see more of the park before having to head back ahead of the weather.

It was pretty cloudy out when we left Bailey's Point at 7:15 and it was a quiet, quick drive over to the park...I just can't deal with the amount of traffic on these roads :-)! I had called ahead to find out about kenneling the dogs, and they have kennel facilities at the Mammoth Cave Hotel, for $5.00 for 4 hours. They are outdoors, but have a shelter at the back in case of rain, and are set behind the tennis court area next to the woods. They were very good, and we settled them in one of the kennels with some water, told them to be good and we'd be back in a little while. Fortunately, when we parked over in the visitor center lot, we didn't hear any barking or howling coming from that end of the property :-)

"The historical tour can accomodate up to 120 guests, but fortunately for us, there were only about 2 dozen people on this early tour. This made it much nicer. Here's a description of the tour from the NPS website:
Entering the cave through the Historic Entrance, you will feel the excitement that intrigued the earliest explorers and visitors. Experience the history and the role Mammoth Cave played during the War of 1812. Large passages invite you to imagine what it would have been like for prehistoric discoverers who walked these passages more than 2,000 years ago. Descend into the lower levels of the cave and follow in the footsteps of the first explorers who crossed the Bottomless Pit. Squeeze through Fat Man’s Misery. Climb 155 stairs up Mammoth Dome and exit through the Historic Entrance.   •2 hours, 2 miles. Tour limit: 120. Total stairs: 440, including 155 at Mammoth Dome. Elevation change: 300’. "

I did take a few pictures, it was difficult in the low light situation, especially as whenever we would gather to talk about a particular area, our guide Kevin would lower the light levels even more!
On the way down from the Visitor's center to the Historical Entrance...and as we were told in the beginning, whoever goes down, must also come back up!

The Historical Entrance, with a very long steep staircase descending into the cave, and yes, we did have to come back up this staircase to exit the cave!

The very well-lit, well paved entrance area, known as the Rotunda. In the pit in the middle there is an exhibit of the saltpeter mining they did in here during the War of 1812.

Descending further down, and leaving the paved pathways for the original cavern paths. You need to really pay attention to your footing now, as it's dark and the pathway is quite uneven.

There'sa bridge crossing over the Bottomless Pit; it's hard to get a feel for it in a picture, but it's creepy crossing over it...reminds me of the cave scene on Lord of the Rings where Gandalf falls into the pit!
We went single file through a very narrow section called Fat Man's Misery; it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, it opens up wider before hip level.
After Fat Man's Misery came Tall Man's Agony; almost everyone except the kids had to stoop over to avoid doing some head damage to one's self!

We were told that there's 2 types of graffitti in the caves; historical, such as this, where the tour guides back in the early to mid 1800's would use their lanterns to "paint" their names and year with the soot from the guide lanterns. This one was from 1839. The other form of graffitti is usually scratched in, done much more recently, and is also a federal offense!

This is the Mammoth Dome which rises over 200 feet. We were at the bottom, which was approximately 310 feet below the surface, our lowest point of the tour. It was here where we had to climb 144 steps up a twisting staircase to resume the tour. Yep, we had our stair-steppin' exercise for the day :-).

Back at the top, there was an exhibit of artifacts found that date back 2000 years, when the first Indians found the caves. For some reason, around that time they ceased using the caves, as nothing else has been found dating later. The cave was next found in the 1700's, and people have been exploring them ever since.

After we huffed and puffed our way back to the Visitor Center, we stopped for a quick bite to eat for lunch before collecting the pups. It was beginning to get warmer, although still cloudy. We had decided to stay for the afternoon, since the storm line wasn't expected to hit the area until 10pm tonight. There are several scenic drives, and miles of hiking trails, so we thought we'd take the dogs for a hike, and take a drive.

The dogs were quite excited to see us :-). I was glad to see, though, that as we pulled up they were just laying quietly enjoying the day, not going frantic ar barking like crazy. It's good to know they will behave themselves in a kennel, even outdoors. Unfortunately for us, though, as we loaded them into the truck, Al noticed that one of our rear dually tires was going flat! We need to deal with that first, before doing anything else.
We asked the GPS for auto repair nearby, and about 9 miles away on Hwy 65 was a tire place. We headed over there, they took a look at it, couldn't find anything wrong..no holes, nothing stuck in it, no slices; so, he refilled it with air up to pressure, told us to keep checking it during the day, and sent us on our way. It concerns me that it lost air, but I'm happy I don't need a new tire...yet, anyway!

We drove back into the park, and decided to drive over to Cedar Sink Road, and walk the Cedar Sink Trail. From the trailhead information "Cedar Sink is perhaps the most dramatic surface expression of the cave-bearing landscape of the mammoth Cave N.P. By walking down into the sink, one is afforded a glimpse of  the region's underground river system as one such stream emerges briefly into the sunlight." It's a little over 2 miles to do the whole loop, including the loop around the sink.

Beginning the walk...very excited!

The paths are very well-maintained, easy to follow and walk on.

Some wildflowers along the way...it is spring!

At the top of the sink, looking down. It's very far! I saw some swallows diving around, it looks like a lot of insects are on the surface of the water.
Here's the info poster about the sink.

On the way down to the bottom of the sink, this overhang sheltered an observation platform. As I was looking around, I saw a swallow fly into a crevice of the wall..this must be where they nest.

Yellow and blue wildflowers dot the hillsides.

The stairs back up to the trail...again, whoever goes down, must also go back up!

Halfway up, Casey jogs down to see what's holding me up, besides my huffing and puffing :-)!

This is hysterical, the way the photo caught his ears flappingout!!

It was really getting quite warm by now, we later heard it was a record heat for here today...remember that fact for later.

Once we returned to the trailhead, we all had long drinks of water. Also checked ourselves over for ticks; yes, the little buggers seem to be everywhere! I had a package to mail out to my niece Sammie for her birthday, so we stopped at the campstore where there was a post office. By now the sun was out, and we decided to do one more loop drive in the park before heading back to camp. We decided to do the Green Ferry Road drive, taking us past the Maple Springs Group Campground, down the Ugly Creek unpaved scenic byway, and also across the ferry...take a look!
That's the ferry! One vehicle at a time, although I suppose two smart cars would fit, and it's guided across the river by wires on either side. It was pretty neat!

It was time to leave the park, but there were many more cave tours available, dozens of hiking trails, and more scenic drives available. I was happy to have the one day available to at least get an overview of the park.

Tuesday night was not so good, though. We were watching the local news to keep an eye on the storms, and the weather radio started going off non-stop around 9pm. Severe thunderstorm watches, then warnings. Tornado watches, then warnings. I was not happy about that! I had my emergency plans in place, and knew where to go for shelter if necessary (the concrete bath house!). The local news finally went to continuous coverage around 10PM. The storm from was expected to go through here between 1am-2am. The winds really picked up, and I do have to say, I'm pleased with how the trailer held up during these ferocious winds, not too much moving around at all. I was watching the tornado cone very closely, as it was passing south of us around 10 miles. The thunderstorms arrived right on cue, and Chelsea took herself off to the shower, where she spent the rest of the night. We were up until almost 3am, when they gave our area the all safe signal and the weather radio stopped going off. There were still a few pretty good, deep rumbles of thunder rolling by here and there, but when I got up around 7am the wind had died down, and the rain was done. It's a lot colder though! It was actually quite interesting watching the meteorologists explain about the fronts crashing into each other, showing the demarcations on the maps, and how the tornados form. The only thing that would have been better is if we weren't SITTING in the zone at the time!

So we came through the storm ok, I feel better about riding things out here in the trailer, I know the weather radio works! and there's no wind damage here in the campground. To end on a really neat note, here's a picture of a very interesting animal we ran across here in the campground, and I'm so glad we got pictures because I know certain people would be saying, oh here she goes again, seeing things nobody else does!

It's an albino squirrel! Isn't that neat?

Tomorrow we move from here to Ohio for a week before our final move, for the summer, to Michigan. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be cool and dry, mostly sunny, so travel should be good. I hope the weather is a little better in Ohio next week, but it seems as if the spring hasn't been very nice anywhere along the east this year. It's a longer drive, so I probably won't post again until Friday or Saturday. Until then, have a great couple of days! Oh, and thanks to everyone who comments, I love it! Except to Anonymous who posts about fishing...please sign so we know which wise guy it is :-)!!


  1. Wow what a day you had.Thanks for the tour it's on our bucket list.

  2. Looks like a great place to visit. I'm not sure Johnny will be able to handle the steps, but I'm sure there's some golfing around there to amuse him with...

  3. Great post, Karen, as per usual. One of these days, I hope to visit the Mammoth caves, I think. Not to keen on the dark, however.

    That storm sounded horrific, to say the least. Glad to hear that your rig made it through with flying colors. Good to know, I'm sure. Tornados scare the living crap out of me. It is always good to have a back up plan as you guys did.

    Keep up the good posts and happy/safe travels to you both.

  4. sounds like you guys are having a good time !!!!have a nice easter!!!!say hi to al for me ttys!!!robbie

  5. We have been there many times. Looks like you had a great tour. Thanks for the memories!

  6. Great pictures as always, Karen. Sounds like you had a wonderful time exploring...except for the storm warnings! Stay safe.

  7. hey guys, just for future knowledge, the ferry guy will let you troll a fly across for an extra buck.

  8. Some beautiful places you saw on this trip. Thanks for the tour and pictures. Stay safe.

  9. Great pictures. I wish we had made mammoth cave while we were east of the Mississippi. We will likely be west for quite a while.

  10. Love your blog! It was great meeting you at the rally, and I'll continue to follow your dream :)

  11. Great Blog! Your pictures were terrific and brought back great memories of when we took our daughter and a friend there and stayed a week. We were in one of their cool cabins that time....no Winnona yet!

    Can't wait to hear about your work in Michigan.

    www.directionofour dreams.blogspot.com

  12. How were the kennels ? Safe , clean, unable to escape from ? Thanks.

  13. Mary, the kennels were fine. They are right on property by the hotel, behind the tennis courts. They are outdoors, but there is a shelter at one end so they can get out of the sun or rain. One was plenty big enough for both of our dogs together. When you register for the kennel at the front desk of the hotel, they will give you a lock. You select which kennel to put them in, we also put a bowl of fresh water, and I would suggest if you have any kind of bedding to bring that as well. Then you lock the door, and take the key with you. I do believe it's very safe and unescapable. My dogs were there for about 3 hours altogether. We did the one tour, and had a quick bite to eat, then went and got them. It cost $5.00 for both! The rest of the day they were with us, we did a couple of hikes in the park, and drove all the roads. It was fun, and I would have no problem leaving them there again to take a tour.