Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mammoth Cave

During the second day of our trip to Illinois, we stopped in Kentucky at Mammoth Cave. We took a 2-hour/2-mile tour through the cave, and we had a great time. Our tour guide was a colorful former Vietnam Vet, former drill sergeant, native Kentuckian, who was related to one of the original owners of the cave when it was still privately owned. He possessed a great talent for spinning tales and engaging the crowd of 100 tourists. I didn't get a great picture, but here he is at the beginning of our tour.

As we approached the mouth of the cave, cool air rushed over us, banishing the humid stickiness that enveloped the rest of the park.

We descended 200 stairs into the cave and began the tour. Overall, it was relatively easy. There are some tight spaces, and several places where the trail narrows the crowd into a single file line. The trail was rough and dark, but doable with common sense.

The cave itself is enormous in certain parts. The Rotunda Room, one of the larger parts of the cave, could easily hold a baseball stadium. Several sections open up into cathedral-worthy heights. Other sections, such as Fat Man's Misery and Tall Man's Agony, are not for the claustrophobic. They are true to their names, but fun to traverse through.

The biggest disappointment lay in the fact that Mammoth Cave is, in general, not a growing cave. There are no stalactites, stalagmites, or bizarre mineral growths to see. Intuitive Monkey was discouraged because he had looked forward to finally seeing them, only to discover that there weren't any there. He got over it and still had fun careening through the rocky darkness, as did we all.

If we had had more time, it would have been fun to camp in the rest of the park. It was a luscious, wooded, green forest filled with hiking and bike trails. Maybe we'll make it back some day.

More pics, just because.

Monkey says he's not mad in this picture, just trying to look tough.

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