Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

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Our three day stop in Ohio was great.  We didn’t get a chance to see our daughter-in-law, Lauren, because she was out of town but we did have a couple of great phone conversations with her using our nifty little speaker device for our phone.  It was great spending time with Zach and the dogs but we were kicked out of Winton Woods RV park because of their weekend Halloween festivities.  So after three short days we were officially heading south. 

October is a great time to be on the road going south.  The Fall colors were absolutely fabulous going through Kentucky.  We decided to make our first stop at Mammoth Cave National Park in KY.  We purchased our Golden Age pass for $10 and what a bargain that has already proven to be.  I guess there are some good things that come with turning 62 such as this pass.

Mammoth Cave National Park is free to enter but if you take a cave tour or camp in the beautiful campground there are charges.  With the Golden Age Pass the campsites and tours are half off.  Campsites were $7.50 per night with the pass but it would have been a bargain at full price because the park was so beautiful.    It was much wooded with oak, maple and hickory trees and because the weather was so astonishing it was very busy.  There were 140 sites and I think about 130 of those sites were tenters.  Very few RVs and we think the reason was because there are no hook-ups.  We had a lot of eyes on us as we maneuvered our 5th wheel through the park.  As we were setting up a man stopped by and made the comment that we must like to camp in luxury.  We could see where he was coming from as we sat amongst the tents.  When we explained that this was our home he still thought we lived in luxury and just walked away.  Later as we walked around the park we found this man using the back of his pick-up to sleep in.  I guess in his eyes it was luxury.

The park offered 14 different cave tours from an easy 1/2hr tour to a 4 ½ hr tour that is called strenuous to a 6 ½ hr tour that is called very strenuous and you have to wear special suits and shoes.  Don’t think we will be going on that one any time soon.  We opted for a 2hr moderate tour and when we were done we were glad we hadn’t picked anything harder or longer.

A nice service this Park offers is an outside kennel for dogs or cats.  For $2.50 for a half day or $3.50 for a full day we could put Ivy in a kennel and not worry about her barking inside the 5th wheel.  It was a great service!  So off we went on our tour.  Before the Ranger started on the tour with the 140 cavers he gave us a pep talk.   We would descend 300 ft., be on a total of 440 stairs, go through ‘fat man’s alley’ (and boy this was not an area a real large person could go through) and crouch down to get through very low ceilings that were under 4 ft high.  He wanted to make sure no one had a heart condition, respiratory issues,  bad knees or hips, were able to walk 2 miles at a pretty fast pace, and climb those stairs.  He gave a look over the group to make sure everyone would make it through ‘fat man’s alley’ and gave anyone an out if they didn’t think they wanted to go.  It made you think about what you were getting yourself into but no one backed out.  It was a great adventure.  We have toured prettier caves but it was going down 5 levels, crawling through spaces that only one person could go through at a time, sometimes standing and sometimes almost on your knees and really moving at a good clip that made it such a memorable adventure.   At one point we came across a large opening where during the War of 1812 the slaves did saltpetre mining for converted into potassium nitrate combined with sulfur and charcoal in the proper quantity, renders a good grade of black gunpowder.    Everything in this huge cavern was well preserved because of being so far underground.  The slaves spent long days in very dimly lit working conditions for a short lived war.  But without the work that was done in these caves by those slaves the war might have had a different outlook.   While we stopped in this area the Ranger turned off the lights.  What a frightening experience!  You couldn’t see anything including the person standing next to you.  I just couldn’t imagine working in these caves day after day with very little light. The caves were opened in the 1830’s as a tourist attraction and mostly slaves provided the tours to only the very rich people who paid $3.00 a person for a cave tour.  In today’s money that would be about $200 a person.   It was privately owned until Sept of 1946 when it became a National Park.

At the end of the 2 mile walk we came to Mammoth Dome where those 300 stairs waited for us to climb to get out of the cave.  Needless to say we were tired when we came out but we still had a very steep road to walk before we were back to our truck. We sure did sleep well that night.  This beautiful National Park also had wonderful biking/hiking trails.  We will put this park on our “would love to go back” list and ride some of those trails.