When I realized that our route northward took us right past Mammoth Cave, I just had to schedule a visit to the largest cave in the world. There is no flash photography allowed, so I've inserted a YouTube video here to give you a little taste of it.
As we checked in the owner of the campground was telling us that the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green KY is still searching for the last car that dropped into the sinkhole. Yup, when you have a state that is honeycombed with caves, that kind of thing can happen.
We did the cave tour the next day and learned that Mammoth Cave is the longest cave in the world, with over 400 miles of explored passages. It is one of the two oldest tourism destinations in the US, second only to Niagara Falls.
We chose to take the Historic Tour and learned a great deal about the cave and the surrounding area. We were doubly lucky to have Jerry Branford as our guide. He is a direct descendant of the slaves that lived here and were tour guides many generations ago.
The cave was used to mine gunpowder for the War of 1812 until the saltpeter mine petered out.
In 1839 it was attempted for use as a cure for pulmonary consumption, or tuberculosis as we know it today. It was a failure.
Part way through our tour, the guide turned off all light sources and we got to experience complete and total blackness. Living in a world today that always seems to have some sort of illumination, this was a real treat. You literally could not see your hand in front of your face.
We ventured through areas known as Fat Man's Misery and the Queen could feel her ample hips and butt scraping the sides of the rocks, but she made it through! We also had to duck and walk hunched over through some areas of very low clearance.
Then we approached the Bottomless Pit. No, this was not a teenage boy in the group...although they have been called this many a time. It was believed to be bottomless because when rocks were tossed in you could never hear it strike the bottom. Seems that was because of the thick layer of mud, the pit was only 150 feet deep. But, you have to remember that this was originally passed by crawling over a ladder stretched across the pit, carrying your lantern in your mouth. The Queen was so glad to have a steel grid path to walk over, even if it was creepy looking down into the abyss.
It has been visited by many people over the years and several have left their graffiti in the form of smoke painting. Many of the names were signed with dates back to the 1800's. Some of the more notable visitors were John Muir, John Wilkes Booth and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Because of the cool and dry nature of the cave, things are preserved well.
The tour took about two hours and covered two miles of walking up and down and elevation change of 300 feet. There were 400 stairs to be climbed and descended. It was listed as moderate for difficulty. I'm so glad we didn't try anything labeled strenuous.
After the tour we stopped for some Mexican food for lunch and I had a margarita to soothe my jangled nerves....not that I was really upset at all, but it was as good an excuse as any.
Tomorrow we head north into Indiana to begin the remodeling part of our trip. More on this to come later.
Long Live the Queen of the Caves