This post represents another installment in the series detailing the second of our three cross country National Parks camping trips with kids and travel trailer in tow.
Okay, people, I’m finally making good on my promise! Below is the best road sign I’ve ever seen. Alan and I, along with our two kids (Ryan, aged 16 at the time, and Kyra, aged 11) had settled ourselves in at the Wax Campground, an Army Corps of Engineers (COE) facility on Nolin River Lake in Kentucky in order to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. But, on our 20 mile jaunt from the campground to the Park entrance, we came upon this road sign . . .
Well, that could certainly put a damper on the day’s plans! As it turns out, in order to reach Mammoth Cave, we had to cross the Green River which cuts through the National Park. While it’s true that, if we kept driving, we’d end up in the river, the Green River Ferry was there to save the day.
This tiny ferry is one of the few rural ferries still operating in our country. Although we needed to wait our turn to cross the river, it was such a delight to watch the little ferry doing its very important job that we didn’t mind the wait at all.
Whenever I’m scrolling through our vacation photos and I come upon that road sign, it never fails to brighten my day. So unbelievable and yet so true! To those of you who don’t share my quirky sense of humor and are wondering what the big buildup was all about, I'll just say that you had to be there. Let’s move on, shall we?
I’ve never been particularly fond of caves, but I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why. I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to venturing outside in the dark in our neck of the woods, but that’s more from the fear of running into one of God’s critters than from an actual fear of the dark. So the darkness of a cave doesn’t bother me and, besides, cave tours are usually pretty well lit. I guess I just find caves a little creepy, for some reason, and sort of unnatural places to be.
|Is it just me or does that look like eyes there on the right?|
A “grand, gloomy and peculiar place” is how an early guide, Stephen Bishop, described Mammoth Cave and I think that’s a perfect description of Mammoth or any other large cave. However, knowing that Mammoth Cave is the largest known cave system in the world (over 400 miles of it has already been explored) made our visit an adventure that we were all looking forward to. (I know, Mike, it should have been “an adventure to which we were all looking forward” but that is way too formal a phrase for me. You’ll just have to deal with it, my friend.)
|"Grand, gloomy and peculiar" indeed!|
Having read a compilation of the strange and humorous questions that have been asked of National Park Rangers, I understand that a visitor to Mammoth Cave asked, “What’s in the unexplored section of the cave?” No, I’m not making this up.
Since the National Park Service doesn’t allow people to wander around underground unescorted, visitors who want to view Mammoth Cave must choose from one of the tours that are available. What I really liked about the tours even before we arrived at the Park is that 17 of the 19 are available to book online through Recreation.gov. For someone like me who prefers to plan ahead, that’s huge. Of course, you may also purchase tour tickets the day of your visit right at Mammoth Cave. We chose the Grand Avenue Tour and enjoyed it immensely. The walk through the Cave was quite intriguing and visiting an underground snack bar and taking an underground boat ride were both fun and memorable.
Please don’t think that joining a tour is the only way to enjoy Mammoth Cave National Park! No, no, no! The above ground portion of the Park is absolutely lovely, and hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and camping are all popular outdoor pursuits here. If I were to go back to Mammoth Cave, I would forego the opportunity to take another tour of the Cave and focus on hiking, biking and kayaking. But, back in 2010, we were on a mission and Mammoth Cave was only the first of 11 National Parks and Monuments on the itinerary for our epic journey. I do hope you’ll come back to enjoy future installments of this National Parks Trip #2 series! Next stop, Missouri!
If you’d like to learn more about Mammoth Cave National Park, be sure to visit the National Park Service web site (link HERE). You will find tour descriptions and pricing on the Recreation.gov web site (link HERE). If you do visit, try to work in a river crossing on the Green River Ferry. It’s a unique experience that will enrich your journey no matter what your destination!