Some cities are just lucky enough to have a National Park in the backyard. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Estes Park, Colorado. Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And then, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Sometimes I don’t realize just how lucky I am to live near the longest cave system in the world. A cave system that’s been hosting guided tours for a couple hundred years.
Or how easy it is to fit such a guided tour into an afternoon.
I was at Walmart picking up a few things on a routine Saturday off the trail. In the parking lot back out to the car I decided I would make an unplanned trip north on 31W and stop in at Mammoth Cave National Park. Why not? A half hour later I was in Park City and turning left into the canopy and a slower speed limit. Two tours remained for the day. The New Entrance, and the Historic. I took the New Entrance, though it hadn’t been “new” since the 1920s.
A man by the name of Morrison was looking for oil prospects back then, and instead of finding Texas T, he found ol’ MC. Mammoth Cave, that is. Big Cave, Move Stars. Well, not quite, though you had to be wealthy at the time to see what was off in the deep. You arrived by stagecoach in those days and stayed in the cave some 18 hours. Women wore the long dresses and men donned their fancy tailed coats with dress shoes and ventured on hands and knees over boulders and through tight squeezes, without LED lighting or handrails. We must have been a tougher America back then. On this day, I would ride an air-conditioned bus to the glass door at the entrance and descend a million steps compete with handrails and the electric lighting.
I had been in the cave before, though I have yet to see all 392 miles. I’ll admit, in the past, I was a little let down by this dry cave, because most of it lacks the formations of a wet cave. Diamond Caverns was always a salve for that setback. But on this tour of the new entrance, I was impressed. The endless depths of the cave are on display in a couple of places here that would make a person scared if they didn’t like heights. And God help the person that drops an Iphone off the staircase.
The crown of this tour is the Frozen Niagara named after the New York original, since all of the early visitors to Mammoth Cave were the wealthy from up north. Morrison was able to sell this feature for $300,000 during the depression era, so another sight I shouldn’t take for granted.
Once back up top I settled in for a meal at the Travertine Restaurant on site next to the motel. Rainbow Trout and biscuits with black cherry preserves helped me to realize once again what a treat it is to have a National Park in the backyard.
Till next trip…
THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF TRAVEL
Capital Plaza Tower 22nd Floor, 500 Mero Street, Frankfort, KY 40601