Mammoth Cave Travel Blog› entry 15 of 27 › view all entries
July 8th, 2008 – by: jsfarv
Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky
After a lazy start to the day, we finally made it to the National Park. Like the Smoky Mountains before it, Mammoth Caves N.P. is a beautiful park and is very well organized.
When we arrived and checked out the tour schedule for the 367 miles of caves underneath the Park, my dad’s medications were not 100% and he wasn’t feeling up to a hike through the caves. My sister and I decided to take the 2 hour, “Historical Tour”, a 2-mile hiking tour with 540 steps up, down and throughout the original entrance to the Mammoth Caves.
The Mammoth Caves were named not because a wooly mammoth was found there, but because in 1790 when the first explorers named it as such due to its “mammoth proportions.
One ranger, Jeff Foster, described the 367 miles of caves not “as going in a straight line because that would take you from here to Chicago, IL” but as “a big bowl of spaghetti with many, many layers of caves atop one another.” So far, there are 367 miles of DISCOVERED caves and since the 1970’s they have increased the known mileage of caves from 260+ to 367 miles and about 5-10 miles are discovered each year.
The Historical Tour of Mammoth Caves was great because it not only described how, 4,000 years ago, people first settled in and used the caves as temporary dwellings to when, in 1790, people began mining salt petire from the caves for the production of gun powder and used slave labor to do so. In fact, Mammoth Caves was the largest provider of salt petire for the war efforts of the War of 1812.
Following the conclusion of the war, salt petire was no longer as desirable and production slowed. The owners of the cave, needing to earn an income, decided to appeal to the westward-minded travelers of the east coast and in the 1840’s, the caves became a major tourist attraction. The underground rivers even offered boat tours at more than 400 feet underground.
The caves have also served as a place where doctors established “clinics” in an attempt to cure respiratory problems like tuberculosis because of the caves’ constant 54∞ temperature.
Following our adventures in the caves, we headed back to camp to swim!!! I was elated.
Also, my parents had driven around the Park and through Bee Springs, Brownsville and Sweeden (all cities near the Park).
So far, there are 2 things I’ve discovered in these southern states that I want in California:
1. Cheerwine: A cherry soda made in North Carolina that I first experienced in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is refreshing and delicious and when mixed with Coke Zero, tastes just like a wonderful cherry coke.
2. Dill Pickle potato chips: The first brand I had was Golden Flake (made in South Carolina) but today, at the Dollar General, my parents found Pringles Extreme: Screamin’ Dill Pickle. They are delicious.
Oh, also purchased at the Dollar General (Their slogan: “1400 items at a dollar or less”) we also got water noodles.
I think we swam for 2 hours – until the minnows started nipping on us and the nightly lightening show began.
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