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There’s a huge hole in the earth in rural Kentucky. And we went into it. I’ve been to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but this one tops the cake. Mammoth Cave National Park is one of those truly fascinating things that you just never hear a lot about, but it really is a must see attraction that has been an attraction for over two hundred years.
*we were provided tickets in exchange for our honest review of our visit. If you’d like us to visit your place, contact us here! Please ignore the poorer quality of the photographs- it was very dark and flash was not allowed, resulting in some camera shake!
If you go during summer months, ticket reservations are a good idea. We reserved tickets, and if we didn’t, we would not have been able to see anything. The visitor’s center is first rate, with wonderful guides to help point you in the right direction. The park offers several types of cave tours. We elected to see the “history tour.” This tour takes you past a large underground room called “The Methodist Church,” a haunting place where the local Methodist congregation used to hold services. The preacher would admonish the people by lantern-light, (and I bet he could really throw down a good sermon on the dangers of Hell…)
We learned that the United States government used the cave to mine minerals essential to make gunpowder during the War of 1812. The cave became a major attraction for not only wealthy Americans, but a host of affluent Europeans who made a point to see the Kentucky cave during their sojourns to the New World. (Those nineteenth century tours often lasted 12-18 hours. The one we enjoyed lasted a mere two.)
If you’re among the more rotund visitors to this fascinating spectacle of nature, beware! You may find yourself maneuvering with difficulty through the dreaded “Fat Man’s Misery,” a tiny, tiny pathway that requires passersby to hunch down and tighten up the knees to venture through. If you want a rush, try this one on for size. Do you like heights? You’ll be impressed. There’s a mind-boggling metal bridge that passes over an underground “endless” pit. (Actually, you can see the bottom at nearly 200 feet, but it looks deep enough. Trust me.)
The only reservation I had came when our tour guide gave the typical “millions of years” spiel about the causes and age of the cave. Personally, I don’t buy into the evolutionary world-view that millions of years philosophy is predicated upon, but, the guides are entertaining enough, with “rock solid” cave jokes peppered through their talks. We are, by the way, headed to the Creation Museum (also in Kentucky) later this month to tour what I believe is a much better perspective about the causes and age of caves and such.
The best thing about the cave in July: it’s a steady 54 degrees year-round. As you approach one of the cave’s many natural entryways, you can feel cool air before you see the monstrous hole you are about to enter. No heat, no humidity, just pleasant air. For us Southerners, that’s worth the ticket price right there.
If you’re looking for a great way to spend a day in Kentucky, maybe while traveling to other destinations, you really should stop by. Most of what you need to see can be done in a day, but it is a day well spent. There’s even a neat little gift shop where tourists buy official cave memorabilia. We bought an official cave Christmas tree ornament, and a magnet for the Airstream fridge that reminds us of our trip to the deep dark depths of the American landscape.
Once the tour finished, we walked about half a mile to the old riverboat landing on Green River. History tells us that honeymooners and other travelers used steamboats to approach the trails that led to the cave entrances. Want some unique history? Go to Mammoth Cave. You can see inscriptions left by tourists of old, many names and dates, several from the 1800s. Although the tour guides will scold you for trying to write your own name on the cave walls, it’s remarkable that we are still able to see a part of the earth nearly untouched by time. It was a memorable experience, and given the chance, we would certainly go back!
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