The South Bend Adventure Club made a trip down to Mammoth Cave, Kentucky to explore their trails, go on an cave tour and camp this weekend. I was not there for all the adventures so stay tuned for a possible update from another member of the club.
My family and I arrived Saturday morning. When we left the South Bend area, we left an area still in the early Spring cycle. Trees and bushes out here are just getting their initial buds on them. Crocuses, Tulips and Hyacinths are up and the grass is just about greening up. Just 2 or 3 hours south as we headed towards Indianapolis, things are really green! But continue on an additional 3 hours into Kentucky, Spring has sprung! Flowering bushes are flowering, trees have their leaves and the pollen count is pretty high. When we woke up our car was covered with a coat of green pollen.
We went on the Violet City Lantern Tour on Saturday. It is a 3 mile, 3 hour hike through an unlit portion of the cave. I’d love to offer you exclusive pictures of every part of the cave we went through but would you settle on this?
On our tour, we had very little light, no flash photography! It was after all a “Lantern Tour” of the cave. Our eyes adjusted pretty well after being in the cave for about 15 minutes but the camera just couldn’t tell the story, good thing our tour guide is a 5th generation tour guide at Mammoth Cave! She was able to offer details that many of the other guides could not, she even took us to areas that a select few groups get to see in a given year.
Before the Tour begins, you are given details on the difficulty of the tour. Again, this is a 3 mile, 3 hour tour but it is only lit by lantern (and the occasional flash light from the guide). They explain that people with claustrophobia or a fear of heights may not want to take this tour. Then they go over medical conditions that should not go on the tour and I start to feel claustrophobic, begin having a fear of heights AND heart palpitations! It is all for naught because the tour, despite being 3 hours and having hills and stair cases made out of stone, it really is an easy tour, maybe some thigh burn 🙂
The tour starts underneath the visitors center and as the pictures show. You can see how quickly it gets dark. The guides stop for a few minutes to caution you against touching the ceiling as there could be bats. Awaking a hibernating bat is bad for the bat especially since White Nose syndrome is now effecting some of the bats in the cave. Disturbing the bats could also lead to, among other things, Rabies. Right off the bat (no pun intended) in the tour, we find out that the area of the cave we are in they produced gun powder from the Calcium Nitrate. 2000 years ago, Indians would use the cave to mine Gypsum. The caves have been used as a hospital, celebrations and the idea of using it as an Inn was also considered. Unfortunately, the Mammoth Cave Inn, was a failed name because no one wants to stay during a Cave-inn (cave-in). Tour Guide humor! Our guide took us to a location in the cave that not many get to see. It is a location that Slaves who ran the tour would use a candle to sign their name on the top of the cave:
The blog is not large enough for all the information on the history of the cave system that spans 400 miles and 200 miles that have yet to be discovered. There are also tales of death and as pointed out above, it use to house a hospital that experimented with tuberculosis patients. The toughest part of the cave was probably the 3rd mile. At this point we were no longer descending into the cave but ascending. There were rock stairs heading up and sand trails with steep inclines. I don’t think would be an issue for anyone I know who I have adventures with. My 12 year old son was able to do this with slight effort. I will leave you with the remainder of the cave pictures. The final pictures are the exit from the cave.