Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vacation 2013: Kentucky and Mammoth Cave

Early Sunday morning we loaded up and headed on our way to one of the longest family vacations we've taken. Daddy had taken off 2 weeks, and we planned on spending most of it on the road, traveling.   First leg of the trip was 5 days of camping in Cave City, Kentucky.  The Jellystone Park Campground was going to be a new experience for us, as it promised lots of activities for the boys, when we weren't in the nearby National Park.  The main goal of this trip was to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park, and go "caving."  We were all excited, and new, if it got too hot, we could just go down to the caves again.   Excited and raring to go, we were all happy when the 8 hour trip ended and we could finally get our vacation started!

we were treated to beautiful views of countryside along the way

Daddy keeping an eye on the hobos

Henry loved camping, especially hanging out under the dining fly watching everything going on!

One of the favorite things for everyone was the golf cart we rented.  We spent many evenings just riding around. Henry especially enjoyed it!

Home sweet home for a week.
 We hung around the campground the first day, planning on enjoying the pool, getting organized and just "chilling."  Mother Nature had another idea as a gully washer storm came through right before lunch time.  We are talking wet.  As in the bottom of the tent felt like a water bed.  The freshly put down tarps, in order to keep the tent clean and give Henry a place to play, were covered in mud.  sigh.  So, to let things dry out a bit, we headed over to the National Park to buy tickets for our cave tour.  While we were there we discovered you can't take baby backpacks in the cave.  Great.  So now, we don't have a way to get Henry down in the cave, but you can take front carriers. So, off we go to the towns ONLY consignment shop, in search of one that will work with Henry.  Thankfully they had one, and off we went.  Admitidly, this was a bit of a rough start.  But finally, it seemed things were going in the right direction.

The next morning dawned beautiful and we were all excited for our first trip down to the cave.  Mammoth Cave has over 400 miles of explored caves, and geologists say there are even more down there.  We were excited to explore too!
The boys, waiting for the ranger

heading into one of the largest areas, called the rotunda.  Salt peter was mined here during the wars and due to the environment in the cave, it was all preserved.

Cheese!  We were all  blind after this shot!

What's this?  Oh yes.  The 18 inch wide passage way you had to scooch through.  Little B had no problem, the adults all had to shuffle!

Slaves used to act as guides in the cave, and for a fee, they would write your name on the ceiling in candle smoke.  These were original.
 There are not many photos of our trip because of 3 things, it was dark.  It was a lot of rock that while gorgeous in person, just didn't do justice on camera.  And we were busy keeping track of the kids.  Not to mention the fire tower stairs at the end.  Did I mention that stairs, going up, with grating, are NOT MY THING?  Going up them as fast as possible left me breathless, from fear?  or out of shape?  your guess is as good as mine!

All to soon we returned to the Historic Entrance.  Beautiful and stately, you could feel the cave breath. Exhaling in the summer, the cool (actually, kinda cold) breath was refreshing.  We emerged and lenses fogged!

Still bundled up from the cave

Back at the campground, water wars were in full swing.  The rec staff had all sorts of activities going on, like the giant slip and slide in the meadow behind the campground.

Then we headed to the pool for a bit..
 And then to the bouncing pillow....

 Beside the bouncing pillow was a giant inflatable fort for launching water balloons at each other.

Somewhere in here it rained.  Again.  But we got dinner cooked and hit the sack, as we had lots of plans again the next day.

We decided to head back to the National Park and do some hiking.  Henry fell asleep in the van on the ride over, so, having timed it just right,  Little B and I went to the Junior Ranger program.  Quite fun, we learned more about the animals, geology and history of the park.  We also learned about the Junior Ranger program that the parks offer, and got B started on his book, in order to earn the badge for Mammoth Cave.

Look who woke up!
 We decided to do a few short hikes.  The first was to the River Styx.  On the way, we saw the Green River, responsible for the formation of the cave.

Where River Styx exits the caves, eventually meeting up with the Green River

We decided to take a short cut (still laughing at this!) that switch backed up the side of the mountain. 

But finally we reached the top and were treated to this view.  Heading to the Heritage Trail, we were in search of the grave of the most well known guide. 

Having a little snack and rest

And we found it!  Also buried in this cemetery were the tuberculosis patients that actually stayed in a hospital in the cave.  It was a failed experiment. 

The railroad that took visitors from Cave City to the cave.
 Arriving back at the campground for lunch, we also made it in time for the special Hay hay hay ride.  Pulled by a brush rig fire truck, the kids were soaked on a ride around the campground.  They were also soaking people, and campers ambushed them too!

Henry and I enjoyed the swings, waiting for them to return.

See the couple in the truck?  Yep, super soakers ambush!
 Hot and wet, even Mommy and Henry (as we were ambushed in the golf cart on the way back), we relaxed in the campsite
There are so many photos of me when I was little, in diapers or underwear camping.  I always complained to mom.
Now I understand!  Easier to clean skin than clothes! 
We still had lots of vacation to go!  And still a few days at Mammoth Cave.

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