The South Bend Adventure Club took a trip down to Mammoth Cave Kentucky to camp and to take a few cave tours. In all, nine people arrived safely from early to late evening and setup camp. It’s funny, no matter how you prep, you may forget something or mistakenly bring the wrong tent poles. One picture bellow shows how as a team we jerry rigged a tent! Good thing we all got setup in time as although the day the temperatures were in the mid sixties, night temperatures fell into the forties. We built a campfire, had some food and drink and then settled in for the night. During the night I woke up a few times in my one person tent and just looked up at the amazing light show of stars and occasionally off in the distance you could hear the howl of Coyotes.
In the morning we had varying breakfasts. I was up early to start the fire and cooked eggs for my family. Others made things such as bacon and brewed coffee by the fire. We needed to get ready for our big day of caving so we got the day started on the right foot. For those who are hesitant on cooking on the fire or camping in the wood, Mammoth Cave National Park does have a hotel and restaurant. One of our fellow adventure club members arrived after midnight and stayed in a cottage the first evening. I took my family out to lunch at the Mammoth Cave hotel since we did not have a great deal of time between cave tours.
If you read about our earlier trip back in April 2014, we went on the Violet City Lantern Tour:
The Violet City Lantern tour was three hours and three miles and our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the caves and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We wanted to see the cave lit up and figured the Historic Tour (2 hours, 2 miles) would fit the bill. While we enjoyed the Historic Tour, we thought we received more of a historical perspective on the Violet City Tour. There are two places on the Historic Tour that were worth going through, “Fat Man’s Misery” and “Tall Man’s Misery”, they were a few tight squeezes, a few places you really needed to duck your head but all in all, nothing that this claustiphobic, fear of heights, heart palpitation, somewhat exaggerative person couldn’t handle
The second tour we went on was the Great Onyx Lantern tour. Between the bus ride to the cave opening and getting back to the hotel, the whole trip was 2 ¼ hours but covered only 1 mile of cave. This tour was mostly by lantern. At the start of the tour you get to see beautiful dripstone formations and afterwards you will see of Gypsum and Helictite formations. We enjoyed the tour but felt it was a bit short and the best sights were in the beginning but we had enough time and the guide took us through “Fools Alley”, another somewhat tight squeeze through a portion of the cave that I must admit I enjoyed going through.
Saturday evening we met up at the camp, started a fire and I started making Tortellini soup. Everyone took turns making their own meals such as beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, hot dogs, and popcorn. We had two different types of hummus, beer, wine and the standard fare. We looked over and one of our campers had a Stick bug walking all over her. It ended up camping out on one of our battery operated lanterns but in between, it led to about 20 minutes of our entertainment! We had another clear night, it was a bit warmer than the previous evening. I woke up again around 1am to the sounds of Coyotes howling, this time it sounded as if they were nearby.
Sunday morning arrived and everyone set out to make breakfast. One person made pancakes, another made bacon, the coffee was percolating but my family and I skipped the campground coffee grounds and went to the camping store to grab a cup of coffee there (for the cream and sugar) but after walking there, we found they opened later. We ended up going to the hotel and filling up on coffee and their buffet. On our arrival back, we started to take down our tents and clean up our area in preparation for leaving. We had one more tour to go on before heading out.
Domes and Dripstones! We took the Domes and Dropstones tour which was a 2 hour. ¾ mile tour. Don’t let the ¾ mile fool you, it was actually my favorite. You take a bus from the visitors center to this cave and once inside, you about 300 feet by stairs. It is a vertical drop that you can look over the railing and see down the nature made shaft. While we headed down, I noticed a horn corral fossil in the limestone. This is a short tour at ¾ of a mile but it has plenty of eye candy. If you have ever seen one of those large holiday display of buildings, villages, ice skaters and winter scenes this will keep your eyes busy, but this one is Nature Made! After heading down the stairs, you make your way through a few tight squeezes before arriving at “Grand Central Station” from there it appears you go through some parts of their “Frozen Niagara”, “Moonlit Dome” before heading out.
Mammoth Cave is about 6 hours south of South Bend (and about an hour and a half north of Nashville, TN! Maybe another adventure??) It really didn’t cost my family of 3 much. It is generally $20 a night for a group site if you want to combine resources. Cave tours vary in price but my family of 3 enjoyed 3 cave tours for a total of less than $100. As long as you pack your meals and essentials, the only thing you have to pay for is your gas. They door have a store inside the park where you can pick up items that you may need. We picked up a few cords of firewood inside the park. They do have cottages and a hotel inside the park as an alternative. Thanks to all those who joined us in our adventure. It was great to share it with great people! Which included two members making their first South Bend Adventure Club trip!