Tuesday 7/9/13 we just wanted a mellow down day to enjoy a little piece & quiet. In fact I don’t think we even left the campground. That felt pretty good after being active every day all last week. So not much to report.
But Wed. 7/10/13 we decided would be a good day to visit Mammoth Cave National Park so after a leisurely morning we headed that way just before 10. The park is only 5 miles from our campground and that 5 miles is a easy country drive so it doesn’t take us long to get there.
In fact by 10:20 we had bought tickets for a 10:45 guided tour in the Historic Cave. It was a 2 hour tour that covered 2 miles underground and is considered the staple tour of the park.
The Mammoth Cave system is best known for being the longest surveyed cave in the world with more than 400 miles of mapped passage. There is a lot of the cave that has not been explored and they estimate that there very well could be 1400 miles when it is all said and done.
The first known visitors to the Mammoth Cave system were native Americans who visited the underground passages at least 4,000 years ago. They explored the cave with torches, using the soft light of fire to illuminate the passages.
Modern explorers didn’t rediscover Mammoth until the very end of the 18th century, In the early 1800s, Mammoth became useful not for tourism, but for gunpowder. Miners extracted saltpeter from the cave soil. Saltpeter was one of the most critical ingredients to making gunpowder. During the War of 1812, saltpeter mining in Mammoth became an important source of saltpeter when a British blockade prevented saltpeter from reaching the United States from abroad. And there are still remnants of the mining in the caves.
I took a couple pictures of the hollowed out tree’s that were used to run water through but I only had my little camera and that thing is pretty worthless for pictures in dark areas. So sorry for the darkness of the photo’s.
By 1816 visitors could go on guided tours of the underground caves.
Did you know that some of the first guides at the caves were black slaves?? Well it’s true. African Americans played a vital role in the development of cave tour routes and the visitor experience throughout the 19th and early 20th century. The first black guides were slaves and through their efforts opened up the golden age of cave exploration for Mammoth Cave.
There are 17 different tours you can take ranging from one that is geared towards kids to one called the Wild Tour that takes 6 hours. Here is the description they give of it. ( Hand and knee crawling belly crawls as tight as 9″ through small cave passages off traditional walking tour routes.)
I don’t think we will be doing the Wild Tour!! The Historic tour was just fine. It had over 400 steps on stairs and areas that had us bent over with our head close to our knees getting through one area of about 40ft. And a area they call Fat Mans Misery that was pretty tight. But really it was a easy hike that they classified as moderate.
The Historic cave is a dry cave. I think all of the other cave tours we have done have been wet or active caves. This one was a bit different but interesting. It did seem a bit more rushed than other tours we have done. But from looking at the schedule and sold out tours I guess I can see why. And there were over 100 people on our tour. And had ONE FAMILY TO MANY LOL!! Diane won’t let me elaborate so I will leave it at that.
I did the tour in shorts and a tee shirt and was fine but it does stay a steady 54 degree’s in the cave so a shirt would have been ok. And I wore my Keen hiking sandals and I think a pair of socks and tennis shoes would have been nice as well.
I think tomorrow or Friday we will go back and do the New Entrance cave hike. It is another 2 hour hike but I think it is less than a mile long.
Once we finished our hike we headed home and just in time. There were severe thunder storm warnings being issued and we don’t like to leave Jack alone during a good storm.
I watched it come in on our phone radar app and decided it was going to be a good one so I rolled up the shades over the windows and put the chairs away,, and just I time. It rolled in fast!! And is was a pretty healthy storm for a few minutes anyway but passed as fast as it came in. Good thing.