How I Lost My Glasses in Mammoth Cave
There’s no better way to embrace the harmony of nature other than to surrender to the spirit of adventure, and there’s nothing that spells adventure like venturing into the largest cave system of the world.
Whenever my friends like to visit, I immediately plan a trip to Kentucky Mammoth Cave National Park, it is my favorite place to go to by a stretch. Why? Well a person like me loves adventure and having the serene, quiet of nature around me.
Call me old fashioned but there’s nothing like braving the great outdoors; exploring hiking trails, camping beneath the starry night sky and munching on campfire cooked food as you sit with your buddies around the warm glow of the fire. Nothing like it.
Before I get too reminiscent, let’s move on. A bit of background is required on Mammoth Cave National Park, before we proceed however.
The park is located mostly in the Edmonson County area in central Kentucky. Patches of the park extend to the east into Barren County and Hart County. The river on which it is centered is the Green River, with its tributary the Nolin River joining the main river inside the park itself.
The Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest cave system having 400 miles of surveyed passageways. 400 miles. Of Caves. Think about this for a moment. For anyone who loves caves this is the Holy Grail for them. It outstrips the second largest cave system in the world easily – Mexico’s Sa Actun, an underwater cave doesn’t even stretch for half the distance as this gargantuan cave system.
So having given a few details about the park itself, let’s move on to why I think it’s a great place to go with your friends. Try to avoid days when it is somewhat crowded, or if screaming (and sometimes puking) toddlers are not your forte.
However, if you are a little socially phobic, you can always find a remote area for yourself seeing as the park stretches for more than fifty thousand acres. Once you’re there you have a whole host of choices at your disposable.
I will list some of my favorites. Five or so friends would make the perfect group for these activities but I think this is just my own thought, you may like it better with more people.
You can take one of the numerous tours offered of the caves. Trust me when I say you’ll be spoilt for choice on which tour to embark on. I will list some of them for your information.
The Frozen Niagara Tour is one that offers the perfect taste of Mammoth Cave for families and those who have trouble walking long distances. So if you and your friends just want a glimpse of what the caves are like in the park this is just the tour for you. This is a short tour through a heavily decorated part of Mammoth Cave so if your friends are not particularly fond of closed spaces this tour is perfect.
It lasts around an hour and fifteen minutes and covers a quarter of a mile. The main stairs are only twelve in number with an option of going through 98 more. Its difficulty is easy. However since it’s for families, be prepared for some degree of howling in the echoing caves. And a couple of people (mostly kids) clutching a sprained ankle or two.
If you and your friends live and breathe adventure, then I recommend going on one of the more difficult tours like the Grand Avenue Tour. It is a physically challenging tour which will test your limits but it will also give you an excellent and insightful idea into the true magnitude, complexity and size of the Mammoth Cave System. You’ll also learn of the interwoven natural and cultural history of the cave.
Be prepared to wander through (and above) gypsum lined passages, steep underground hills and much more. In addition tour encompasses the entire Frozen Niagara Tour route and the Domes and Dripstones tours. The duration is 4 hours and the distance is 4 miles and the total number of stairs are nearly 700 hundred. It is recommended booking it in advance since the places fill up fairly quickly.
If gloomy caves are not your thing (it’s okay, many people don’t like what could be down there), then the park has many other activities in store for you and your pals- is there a better way to provide multiple adventure options than this?
Mammoth Cave National Park has several bike trails which you could explore. Street bicycles are allowed on all paved roads of the park that are publicly open. Mountain bikes are permitted on the unpaved administrative sections of roads. So I recommend taking mountain bikes if you are truly looking to explore the place. Feel free to challenge your friends to a marathon, just be wary of the stray hiker cutting across your path and creating a road rage incident.
Whatever else you do, make sure you camp there. The park offers plenty of camping spots in the backcountry and along the Green and Nolin Rivers. There are three main campgrounds: Mammoth Cave, Houchin Ferry and Maple Springs. And they have 105, 12 and 7 sites respectively. To get a true camping experience I suggest Houchin Ferry or Maple Springs as there are fewer facilities provided, and you will really get the camping feel.
Explore the network of trails that the park has to offer. It has nearly 85 miles of trail in the frontcountry, backcountry and visitor center combined with all sorts of varying difficulty levels so you can be rest assured that you will find the perfect nature difficulty that suits you.
The area located in the vicinity of the park’s Visitor Center also offers around 7 miles of great scenic trails that take you from rivers to ridgetops, springs to sinkholes, old guide’s cemeteries to overlooks and to historic entrance and beyond.
I suggest the following places are worth a visit as well. The Cedar Sink – a place where earth seems to open a window into its depths. Rotunda, you will see why the Cave came to be known as Mammoth. Chief City and Spring River church are a few of my favorite places.