Saturday Afternoon September 21, 2014
Mammoth Cave National Park Campground
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
We hadn’t booked the Historic Tour initially but we took it anyway because we had the afternoon available and it was too. Boy what a great decision. We just love this cave.
Hope you aren’t getting tired of cave blogs just yet. There is really a lot to see and do here and it’s all wonderful.
You’ve seen the great Historic Entrance, the perfect entrance to a cave both looking in and looking out.
And you’ve heard about how Mammoth Cave helped win the War of 1812.
But that’s where the similarities end on this tour. Today we actually walk easily over the bottomless pit while we are told of the early 1840’s amazing heroics of the slave Guide Stephen Bishop in first finding a way over this impossibility and continuing on in his cave explorations. Prior to that, the cave tours ended right here.
If you haven’t heard of Stephen Bishop, he deserves your attention as the first cave explorer discovering the miles of passages, to pave the way for those explorers to follow and the first cartographer of Mammoth Cave. I talked about him near the end in yesterday’s post. See it here.
Just imagine this big hole in the dark with only lantern light to guide you. I lightened this photo considerably for you to be able to see that you can’t see down there.
Thanks to Mr. Bishop this is now a 2 mile, 2 hour tour with 440 steps the information says. It’s marked as strenuous.
I think that’s because it goes through “Fat Man’s Misery” which is VERY narrow. Many times I had to turn sideways to get through. Also along the way inside and outside of “Fat Man’s” are several very low ceilinged areas where even I had to duck my head.
Most people had to bend over at the middle or even squat and try to follow the feet or the rear in front of them since they couldn’t see straight ahead. It was pretty impossible to take pictures in these narrow and low places as the light is nearly non existent and you really do have to watch where you are going. Very uncomfortable for people with small space issues. Luckily that’s not either of us. I thought it was all great fun!
We finally reach a big room with numerous benches where we sit and the guide talks about the monitoring devices here and in other spots in the cave used to make sure that the cave isn’t suffering from all the visitors. If so, they cut that area of the tour back. Or reschedule that tour for alternating seasons.
He also prepares us for the 440 steps up and through the Mammoth Dome whose sink I saw just this morning. Seeing it from the outside and then from the inside was really VERY cool. Lucky coincidence for me.
It is pretty easy to get a picture of the bottom of the dome at the first level of steps.
But we have to climb up and up and up before I can even zoom up to try to get the top which I guess is somewhere under or near the sink and covered by caprock. This place is so interesting and every tour has something new to see.
Look carefully in the picture below, those are folks on the metal stairs climbing up through the dome.
This picture is one from the Mammoth Cave Website so you can see the bottom sections of the stairs in a picture used for publicity in what almost looks like total daylight. I would assume it is the design of the stairs that make it safe enough to turn out the lights and protect the cave.
And speaking of light, we walk back though the entrance halls and as usual it’s pretty darn bright when you come out of the dark cave. I would most definitely take this tour again, perhaps several times but we only have time for one more tour. That will be the Violet Lantern Tour tomorrow on our last day here before starting the final push to Virginia.