We left Atlanta Georgia around 10 am and hit the road to head to Kentucky to spend 2 nights in Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world. Of course, it rained. (Are you beginning to sense a theme to this trip?) Fortunately, when we arrived at the campground the rain had stopped and so we shopped for the driest and flattest spot we could find. We located a spot that allowed us to park on an angle and have flat ground to sleep on. (Hooray for not falling down a mountain!) After a muddy set up, (there was no such thing as a dry spot) we went and washed off. On our way back to the site, we met Pat and Jerry. We told them about our trip, and they told us some of their tips and tricks for living on the road.
They are a retired couple from Florida who are traveling the country, towing a camper and caravanning with their friends. They told us how the campground showers worked, and let us know which of the cave tours would let you see the best parts of the cave system. They also introduced us to the AllStays App which points out where all the campgrounds, KOA’s, and traveler friendly Wal-Mart’s are located. The app also shows us truck stops, rest areas, and camping stores like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop. One of the best things it points out is low clearance areas, which works out fabulously for us considering the Thule car top carrier on top of our Element makes us just under 8ft tall (we’ve had a few nail biting moments). We chatted with them for a bit and then headed back to the tent for some dinner and relaxation.
Another theme that we have been noticing during our trip is finding field trips. This time we encountered Boy Scouts who were camping for the weekend, so there were about 15 tents taking up two campsites a few sites down from ours. And let’s just say they were enjoying themselves, so at about 11 at night while listening to the orchestra of post rain frogs, we also enjoyed the noise of scout troop leaders yelling at the boys to behave.
We woke up early in the morning and at Pat and Jerry’s suggestion took the “Domes and Dripstones” tour of Mammoth Cave. It was unbelievable. There were over 100 people on the sold out tour with us, so we took 3 buses to the entrance of the cave. We entered through a door that a man named George Morrison blew open with some TNT in order to make his own entrance to cash in on the cave craze of the early 20th century (Now that’s the American spirit). The entrance leads to 279 supremely narrow, steep, winding, and wet steps down in to the actual cave system. At the lowest point in the tour, the cave is 250 feet below surface. The rangers refer to the LED rope lighting as “Theatre lighting” what they really mean is “Holy freaking dark, Batman!”. After all this winding, turning, dipping, ducking and dodging, the cave starts to give way to wider (not necessarily bigger) spaces, the first of which was the aptly named tunnel called “The New York Subway”. It has low ceilings, unforgiving walls, and even serves as the entrance way to “Grand Central Station” - a large cavern that has about 6 different exits sending you to different parts of the cave system. The tour continued in to the dry parts of the cave and ended with the “dying section” (by dying they mean that in 3 million years, these sections may be filled with stone.)
After about 2 hours of exploring inside the cave we climbed out to the light, and found……. (drumroll please) it had been raining. So we huddled under the shelter and waited for the bus to bring us back. By the time we got back to the visitor center where the tour began it had stopped raining, and we came to the realization it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t eaten breakfast. So, we headed out to the closest town, Park City, to see what kind of food options there might be for a girl like me. Short answer: There are none! We went in to a few places to investigate whether or not I could snack on anything, and found out that most eateries in this particular area in Kentucky don’t really accommodate food allergy patrons. However, they do support smoking, and fried foods. By that I mean there were full ash trays at most tables, hardly any ventilation, and almost all the food options were fried. Disgruntled, hangry and stressed, we headed back to the campsite and made ourselves some food rather than risk an allergic reaction or smelling like smoke for the next couple days. We decided that spending the time at our campsite was very relaxing and so we just enjoyed the fact that it was no longer raining.