Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky


In June 2010 the Brosius Family went down to Mammoth Cave for a few days.  I had been wanting to check this place out for awhile.  Since this trip, we've made it our go-to stay-over spot to break up a long trip.  Mammoth Cave National Park has a lot to offer. 
poolWe rented a convenient but very rustic little cabin at Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Cave City.  The Savannah cabin that we chose was basically like camping but with walls, two small sinks, a toilet, and a tv.   I could hear the cricket chirping outside like it was in the room with me.   But it was far better than a tent.  Did you guess that I'm not much for camping?  The Savannah cabin in peak season is $134/night.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day, their 300' waterslide and minigolf is included in the price of camping or cabins.  We didn't have much time for the pool and waterslide, but I went down the slide a few times with the kids, and it is steep and fast.  Jellystone Park at Mammoth Cave
Mammoth Cave Historic Entrance
Entrance to Historic Tour at Mammoth Cave NP
Here's a bit of science for you:  the temperature of a cave is an average of the warmest and coolest above ground temperatures of the area.  In Kentucky, that means a cool and damp 55 degrees inside the cave.  We drove from Jellystone to the national park in nice warm clothes which I had packed specifically for the cave tour.  Back at the cabin, I insisted everyone wear their pants and sweatshirts and  I put thin gloves in my pockets, just in case.  Once we arrived at the park, we observed people all over the grounds in normal June-appropriate summer clothes.  My then-thirteen-year old daughter began second-guessing my advice on clothing and begged could she "please change into normal clothes?!  Look how other people are dressed!  I'll be fine in shorts!" etc.  I was pretty sure I was right about dressing warmly, but I acquiessed anyway.  She changed in the van and began the cave tour in shorts and a t-shirt.  Boy, was she cold!  I felt the situation was score 1 for me on "Listening to your Mother".  She should have known mothers are always right!  I knew I was right as we walked down the paved road toward the cave entrance.  You start to feel noticably cool air, round a bend, and then bam! it hits you.  Like the strongest air-conditioner ever known to man.  Except it doesn't click off periodically.   Jim and I and our four children took the Historic Tour, which was recommended by a friend as the best introductory tour. It was a little like an underground hike, not strenuous but active. A few narrow squeezes, but no crawling. I was anticipating being more into the science of the cave and the feeling of being down in the ground, rather than the history of it, but the history of it was very interesting. This tour accepted 100 guests which I thought would be too many to hear anything. However, there is one guide at the lead and one in the rear of the group. At larger clearings, the first guide stops the group and everyone gathers around the area of interest.  Once the rear guide signals that the stragglers are caught up, the lead, speaking guide begins demonstrating and telling about that particular section's features. There was no issue with not being able to hear. The Historic Tour didn't include any really spectacular stalagtite formations like the Frozen Niagara tour, but was a longer tour and a better overview of the cave system. Even the stairwell at the end leading us back out of the cave was quite a feat of engineering and a marvel to gape at.  Next time I'd like to take a more strenuous and adventurous tour. The National Park Service explains each tour and any physical considerations. Check out the link here.
Bridge on River Styx Trail, Mammoth Cave 
During the next morning and afternoon we took a canoe trip down the Green River with Mammoth Cave Canoe and Kayak.  Here is the trip we choose: "Half Day Trip - Dennison Ferry - 8 miles - Our shortest trip taking 3 to 4 hours depending on river level and your pace. Excellent trip for beginners or those with small children. Great scenery, limestone bluffs, a small cave (canoe accessible depending on water level). No Rapids. Class 1. Never closed due to low water level."   I think it actually took almost 5 hours. This was fun and the kids liked it.  Though my husband was tired of paddling by the end.  We brought a lunch and ate in the canoes and on a little island along the way. I also brought a fly swatter in case of deer flies.  I had read a tip about this.  However, there were none.  Only tons of dragonflies that landed on my paddle when I rested between strokes.  During lunch on the island my three older kids (at the time 13, 10, and 9) were enjoying swimming across the river from the island to a spot where a rope had been hung.  They'd swim across, grab the rope on the other side, hold the rope for awhile letting the current stream by, let go, then swim back to the island downriver a bit, swimming hard before the current took them past the end of the island.  Now mind you, my kids are pretty good swimmers. And of course they were wearing life jackets.   But instead of enjoying their excitement of their little adventure, I was being anxious, afraid they would not swim hard enough and miss the end of the island.  Worst case scenario, they miss the island, I swim in after them, catch up to them, and we float along til the rest of the family came alone with the canoes.  It would have been no big deal.  Instead I nagged my husband and put an early stop to the fun.  It was a personal defeat for me knowing that I had given in to being the worry-wart mom who is too scared to let her kids enjoy an adventure.  In retrospect, I disappointed myself and my family.  I'm going to keep working on this.  Controlling my need to control a situation. It was a good lesson for me about parenting and control.  At any rate, I must keep working on this;  I'd like to canoe with alligators in the Everglades eventually. 

So, if you are heading south through Kentucky, or just want a two or three day get-away, consider this trip.  Here's what we spent:
  • Jellystone Park 137.80/night for two nights          $276
  • Green River Canoeing for 6 people                       $91
  • National Park Service Historic Tour tickets for 6    $60
  • plus some food for the cabin, some fast-food, and gas to get there.

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