As usual I woke up early this morning but today I decided to get out of bed and watch the birds instead of lying in my sleeping bag. Last night we stayed one night at Kanopolis, our halfway point between Mammoth and Rocky Mountains. We didn’t feel like setting up the tent for one night so we slept under the stars.
I’ve been havin trouble finding time to update my blog as often as I would like ideally. So I am doing most of the updating from iPhone which makes typing a bit of a pain.
Back to trip, on the way to Mammoth Caves National Park, which is in Kentucky, we stopped to get gas. Jared treated me to my first RC Cola and Moonpie. Right as I started eating, my favorite country song came on the radio, “Good Directions” by Billy Currington. This was probably one of my main highlights on the trip so far. Judge away! Yes, I was standing at a gas pump somewhere in the middle of Kentucky listening to country while eating sugary snacks, but it was absolutely fantastic. You’ll have to take my word for it.
On the way over we stopped and met our friend, Molly Ford, for some white water river rafting on the Ocoee River. Our guide was great. She was a great rafter, super nice, and very funny. I loved the experience and the thrill of the adventure. (I’m a little bit of an adrenaline junkie.) At one point, we went over a rapid that filled our raft with water and Miranda, who was sitting in front of me, almost fell out of the boat! I grabbed the back of her life jacket and pulled her back in. The whole trip was full of laughter and screaming. I think I was born to be in, on, and around water. I absolutely love everything about water.
We invited Molly Ford to come camping with us at Mammoth and she accepted. I droe with her to her house to pick up camping stuff then we went along our way to Kentucky. We had to stop in Nashville for dinner because I had never beem there and have always wanted to go. We met one of her friends and ate yummy tacos and burritos. Eventually, we made it to Mammoth around midnight East Coast time but we had gained an hour so it was really only 11pm.
Now there isn’t a lot to do at Mammoth except cave tours. So We were able to do laundry, take showers, and sit around a bit. We did take two tours. One in the morning and one in the evening. The first one had a lot of stactites and stalagmites and reminded me a lot of the Louis and Clark cave tours I took with my dad and brother outside of Yellowstone. However, this type of cave is not what Mammoth is famous for. In fact, most of the caves at Mammoth are not like that at all. What makes Mammoth so interesting are the huge empty rooms or vaults that were formed by underground rivers years and years ago. Open bubbles of underground air completely dark and silent. In the underground river that still exist in the caves there are four species of creatures including two eyeless fish, one shrimp, and one crawfish, I think. The crawdad can live up to 100 years and the fish can live up to 40!
The second tour we took was guided by lantern and wen tthrough some of those huge cavern rooms and taught us about some of the history in Mammoth Caves. First, we came across an old mine that the slaves worked to get minerals that were used to make gun powder for the War of 1812. Then we came upon a big room where our guide told us about the Native Americans that used to take small things from the caves using torches made from reeds.
Imagine with me for a minute.
You’re in a huge empty, dark room lit only by lanterns listening to a ranger tell you about the artifacts left by the Native Americans. Imagine there are about 40 other people in the room. Imagine that only 10 of them are under the age of 10. The ranger is listing off artifacts, then, in a long, drawn out, monotone voice he finishes his list that you’ve only been half paying attention to with “paleo-feces.”
Now imagine that of everyone in the room the only people laughing are the two 22-year-old women you came with. And they are laughing uncontrollably, choking on the sound, trying to stifle it and only making it worse.
Well, all that happened.
Jared and I had to move away from our good friends Miranda and Molly Ford to prevent our own bursts of laughter. Needless to say, we were concerned we were going to get kicked off the tour for being too disruptive. But the rest of the tour we actively worked to keep our snarky comments to a low volume if not a low quantity.
The third piece of history we learned about was the TB hospitals located in the caves. Back when doctors didn’t know about germs and thought that illness was caused by bad air, one doctor thought that the cold, damp, sunless conditions of the caves was also home to “good air.” Obviously, this was a failed medical experiment that only lasted about 18 months.
My favorite room was last. I want to call it the “room of name,” but in reality it doesn’t have a name. When slaves used to give tours of the caverns to tourists they would write the names of tourists on the ceiling with candle smoke for a large tip. Then they were able to buy their way out of slavery with the money saved from the tips. As you can imagine, holding a candle up to the ceiling above your head would cause wax to fall on your face. To prevent this they put mirrors on the floor to see what they were doing. But instead they ended up writing the names and letters backwards. This room is incredible. I absolutely love it. I am going to post pictures to Facebook as soon as I can get a chance to download my photos to the computer and actually connect to the internet from something other than my phone.
Well, that’s about all for Mammoth Caves. Since then we spent two nights at Buffalo River where we floated down the river on float tubes. I put on sunscreen but still got burnt to a crisp. Not such a problem except driving for 8 hours with a sunburn on the back of my legs and back is a little painful…
Driving to Rocky Mountain National Park now.