Day 2 – Underground Exploration

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Louisville to Mammoth Cave to Gatlinburg

We had to get on the road pretty early today. First, I made the executive decision that we drive by Churchill Downs. We snapped a few photos and then were on our way.

Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

We had a few cave tours set up at Mammoth Cave National Park which was about two hours away. It was a very winding, scenic drive. As we approached the park, we got to a road that ended “under water” so we had to take a mini ferry across which was a unique experience. We parked the car at the visitors center and got ready for the Historic Cave Tour.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

We entered the cave at the only natural entrance in the park. It was  a very humbling experience being inside the cave. We learned a lot about who explored the cave and how the first tours were given by slaves. We learned that Native Americans used the cave to gather minerals as a right of passage into manhood. It was crazy just how big some of the spaces were, like one called “Bottomless Pit”. And equally crazy how narrow some of the passages were, such as “Fat Man’s Misery”.

Mammoth Caves

Bottomless Pit

We covered about two miles in two hours and were as low as 310 feet below the Earth’s surface. When the tour was complete we made some sandwiches at the car before doing a little above ground exploration. We hiked a quick one mile trail along the Green River, which was adequately named. It was then time for our second tour of the day. This one was called “Domes and Dripstones”.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

On this tour we experienced a different section of the cave and saw a lot of unique rock formations. We learned more about the geology of the cave and how it was 100% by water. This tour had a lot of steep steps. At the end we saw stalagmites and stalactites which were really cool. I was glad we did two tours because we got to see and learn about two different sections of the longest cave in the world. After leaving the cave we had to walk across a sponge like surface to clean our boots in order to prevent the spread of white nose, a disease very harmful to bats. We finished getting cleaned up and it was back to the road again. We had a four hour drive to Gatlinburg, TN. We stopped halfway for dinner and to catch a little basketball. I had fried gator, and Lace had brisket, both delicious. Two hours later and we were driving through the ridiculously twisty Gatlinburg. The main strip was littered with flashing lights and tourist attractions. There were multiple Hollywood Wax Museums. I was very surprised at this, definitely not what I had expected. We checked into our hotel and are now ready for bed after a long, but fun day.

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