Thursday, June 30, 2011

a mammoth day

With mere days left before the rhythm of my life changes dramatically, several days ago Ken and I revived an idea that we'd considered over a year ago. With the acquisition of a golden access pass, Ken (and at times, his companion(s)) gets free or discounted admission to national parks and their associated attractions. We contemplated visiting a different national park within a 100-mile radius of where we live once a month. There are about ten that fit that description, and we felt in good position to begin to check them off our list. That is, until the incredibly uncomfortable heat and humidity of last summer set in. The idea of being out in nearly 100-degree heat, with accompanying humidity, put a distinct damper on our plans.

We looked at our collective schedules and chose yesterday to head of to Mammoth Cave National Park, less than two hours from home in Mammoth Cave, KY. We had a gorgeous day for our outing, with temperatures hitting their peak in the low 80's, and zero humidity. The skies were blue and the sun bright and beckoning. Once in the park we paused to let rather large wild turkeys cross the road (no jokes, please), and shortly thereafter spotted a doe with her twin fawns. This picture is of one of them (my error on spotting the deer was in ogling this tame trio instead of grabbing my camera immediately--thus limiting my photo opps to this single shot).

Mammoth Cave NP is a HUGE park, with cave tours as the highlight but far from the only activity. We have learned that many such parks aren't done justice by a single day's visit, so we knew better than to attempt to cram in too much. We settled, instead, on a single cave tour with the highlight of stalactites and stalagmites toward the end.

Known as the New Entrance (blasted out in 1921), it takes about two hours to wind down labyrinthine stair steps through the living part of this section of the cave, known as the sinkhole. It is referred to as living because of the continuing presence of water. These next pictures are in the sinkhole--looking up, over and down (click to enlarge for a closer look).

Upon inquiry we learned that it took three years to install the stairs (which at times take you through rather narrow and contorting spaces) that take you to an area 250 feet below ground known as Grand Central Station: so called because of its relative size to the sinkhole through which you've just ventured. I opted not to take a picture there, since the light from my flash would not illuminate its size, nor was there an adequate place to try a time-lapsed exposure.  Generally speaking it was about the size of a basketball court, with a lower ceiling and irregular, sloping floors punctuated by chunks of rock. Grand Central is considered dormant: a constant temperature (54 degrees), no humidity and no water.

From Grand Central we walked--and sometimes climbed--through more dormant portions of the cave until we reached the most impressive section known as the drapery room, full of stalactites and some stalagmites. The remaining walk from that area to the exit also contained some stunning formations where I was able to use the handrail to steady my camera for a longer exposure and less washed out color. Then again, we are talking about shale and lime rock, not known for their splashy contribution to the world of geology.

Let's not forget our intrepid adventurers!
After some time in the bookstore we headed to the nearest Dairy Queen (thanks to Linda, our informative travel information concierge), then wended our way south through beautiful Kentucky farmland toward home. It was a wonderful day full of God's splendor, highly recommended to one and all.


The Bug said...

You guys look great :)

You know, I didn't really know that my tight spaces claustrophobia was getting worse, but as I looked at your pictures I had to conciously take long deep breaths. Weird!

Terri said...

Wow, what a great trip!

Jayne said...

What a cool place and a great day trip to take! Now I'm thinking we need to think of some places like that close to home. :c)

prudy said...

you could write some articles for the nashville paper under the title 10 parks 100 miles or less from home - one a week. why not present it to them with this first write up???i enjoyed it.

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