Mammoth Cave National Park

With over 400 miles of passageways surveyed so far, Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world.
Great site in one of the three campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park.

I had just settled into the chair outside my camper after returning from the campground showers at the end of the day.  Sweat and trail grime scrubbed off, hair still wet and smelling clean, teeth brushed and minty fresh, I was enjoying the firefly show in anticipation of retiring for the evening shortly to recover from over 9 miles of hiking.  I was pooped!  Then I heard the mother of the nice family camping next to me that I met earlier in the day call my name.

Would you like to join us around the campfire for smores?

For a split second I thought: And go to bed smelling like smoke with marshmallow goo in my teeth when I could crawl in bed right now and sleep like the dead instead?!  

A half a second later I responded: “Yes, thank you, I’d love to!!

It’s so hard not to laugh at people when they ask me if I get lonely while I’m traveling!  I meet so many people, it truly is mind boggling.  When I pulled into the Mammoth Cave campground the day before, I passed another motorcycle camper set up on my loop, so we rallied up later to compare campers and towing tips and stories.  He was a Vietnam Vet and we had a great visit before saying our good-byes and going in different sight-seeing directions.  I suppose if I wasn’t receptive to meeting people, then yes, I could get lonely.  But so far, I have not 🙂

The historic entrance to the cave is still undergoing archaeological digs.

The campground and fellow campers were great, and I was excited about exploring all that Mammoth Caves National Park had to offer.  I love science and processes.  More specifically, I love life science, ie, the sciences that deal with living organisms and life processes.  Biology, physiology, biochemistry, etc.  I’m intrigued by the Earth sciences (geology, astrology, paleontology, etc), but am less interested in going as in-depth in these as with those dealing with bodily processes.   That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a good origin story though!   

Directly from the NPS web page:

“Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave, and is a well researched example of a “solution cave.” 

“Solution caves form when rainwater percolates through the soil, picks up carbon dioxide (from both the air and soil), forming a weak acid.  This acidic water squeezes between the small cracks and layers of bedrock, such as limestone, and dissolves out a small channel in the rock for the water to flow.”

“The water actively dissolves minerals in the limestone.  Over a long, long period of time, the channels enlarge so that water can flow more freely.  As more water passes through, the passageways grow.  When these passages are large enough for humans to enter and explore, they officially become caves!”

I took the Extended Historic Modified Guided Tour, which was a Ranger-led excursion that took us underground for a little over 2 hours.  I’ve taken a few cave tours throughout my life, so I knew to bring a sweatshirt even though I had been sweating in 90+ degree temps all day; temps in the cave stayed pretty much in the 50s. We entered through the historic entrance, saw the Rotunda, “Fat Man’s Misery,” 1840’s consumption/Tuberculosis treatment experimental area, the Dome, and climbed 540 stairs.  At one point, the Ranger turned out all the lights (after ample warning) so we could experience the complete darkness of the caves.  Pitch blackness.  So cool, but I wouldn’t want to experience it alone for very long :-/  

The Ranger telling us about the TB huts. “In the 1800’s some people believed Mammoth Cave might have healing properties. In 1842 cave owner and physician Dr. John Croghan created a hospital for tuberculosis patients 183 feet beneath the ground. Unfortunately, the cave holds no cure for tuberculosis. In less than a year, the patients left the underground hospital.” –NPS website
Not far from the historic entrance to the caves is The Rotunda. On the ceiling of this large circular underground room, it looks as though swirling water created it where large slabs of limestone fell out and created the dome. In the center of the room are the leaching vats from the early saltpeter operation. Saltpeter was a major component of gunpowder used during the War of 1812. –NPS website
“Fat Man’s Misery is a winding keyhole shaped passageway, the lower part of the passageway is about as wide as your hips or a little wider, above your hips the passage widens to about 5 ½ feet or more, at the very end, the floor comes up 2 feet for a 20 foot stoop walk. This is one of the most asked about and popular passages in the cave.” –NPS website

As impressive as the cave system is, Mammoth Cave National Park is so much more than its underground tunnel systems.  With over 80 miles of hiking and biking trails, along with over 30 miles of the Green and Nolin Rivers running through the Park, you could spend weeks just exploring the above ground treasures of this area.  I camped in Mammoth Campground, one of three campgrounds in the National Park.  It is within walking distance of most of the trails and the Visitors Center (where the cave tours start), so it made the perfect staging area for my stay.  The trails were well maintained and beautiful.   

So many beautiful hiking trails!
The Green River, the longest in Kentucky, runs right through Mammoth Cave National Park.

After a few days exploring Mammoth Cave from above and below ground, it was time to pack up the camper and find a place for an oil change and a professional look-over for my bike.  Which direction should I go?

2 thoughts on “Mammoth Cave National Park

Add yours

  1. Very interesting, but I’m not a fan of caves. I think I have become more claustrophobic as I get older. I can’t quite explain it because I don’t understand it. Keep on biking! Ride SAFE

    Chief & Babycakes

    Liked by 1 person

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