Monday, April 26, 2010

Mammoth Cave National Park

We made one sightseeing stop on the way north at Mammoth Cave National Park, a place I have always had an interest in because of a story the seventh graders read each year about Floyd Collins, a caver who was trapped and died in a nearby cave. When the park was authorized in 1926 only 40 miles of passageway had been mapped. Today, that number is 365 and geologists believe there could be an additional 600 miles yet to be discovered. The new exploring is done by volunteers who are given access to look for and map new areas. This massive cave has been created by water flowing through the limestone over millions of years. Only about seven miles have been electrified for tours by the general public. Tours range from 30 minutes to 6 1/2 hours and start from several different entrances, so there is something for everyone. We did the two hour two mile historic tour which was recommended for the time we had available for our visit. The ranger guides where excellent and very informative.
This is a great time of the year for a visit as this group in the summer would have had up to 120 people. Since you are going under ground where the temperature is always around 60 degrees it does not matter when you visit..
Stairs into the Historic Entrance and looking up at the last bit of sunlight from just inside.
In the early 1800's saltpeter, a key ingredient in gunpowder, was mined by slaves. Some of the pictures are the remnants of the old mine. The middle of the picture is the ranger with a lantern showing what the light was like for early visitors. Bottom right is a piece of fossilized coral.
In 1816 people began to tour the cave and, as you can see, in the early days it was common for visitors to leave their mark. Some of these are scratched into the stone while others are made from the carbon of the lanterns. Bottom left is a mark that has been found in a number of places in the cave that was left by natives nearly 4000 years ago.
The area of the cave we were touring had very little water so there was only this one column-like structure. The frozen Niagara area has more of these formations.
There were a couple of tight spots on this tour including one called Fat Man's Misery. We did have to watch our heads and duck down in several places.
The park is more than just the cave, with many miles of trails and streams on the surface. This is where the River Styx which flows through the cave emerges to run into the Green River.
There is also abundant wildlife. We saw this huge woodpecker and a number of wild turkeys.
The wildflowers were in bloom as the forest was just bursting with spring. A visit to Mammoth
Cave is a must do on your travel list. We do plan on returning some day so we can have more time to explore some of the other areas of this great national park.

On our trip north we had the same problem we had on the sprint to Texas in March, a dead car battery. What we discovered was the auxiliary brake in the car was leaking air which caused it to run until the battery died. I called Blue Ox and had to return the brake to them for repair. Fortunately, we are sitting for a month and the brake is still under warranty.

We are now in Washington and have been running around getting caught up on things and seeing friends. We are looking forward to getting together with as many people as possible during our stay.

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