Background Music: "Blue Moon of Kentucky" performed by The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, composed by the godfather of bluegrass: Bill Monroe

Driving into Kentucky was like driving back onto the Natchez Trace in Tennessee- more of the beautiful trees, lush grass and all shades of green. The spring time also shows in the pastel colors of the trees on the hills, which are more plentiful here, and the dogwood and redbud are blooming, taking up where the Natchez Trace left off. Springtime also means the bugs are plentiful. We saw dozens of butterflies fluttering by, along with other bugs we weren’t so interested in. The literature for the area warns of ticks and chiggers, which made us jump, swat and scratch at any little tickle or brush of air. Numerous other, unlucky bugs met their fate on the front of our camper as we drove through the hills, and we had a virtual Jackson Pollock in day-glow orange and green by the time we got to our campsite. Eeuw is right!

We chose this site, in part, because of its proximity to Mammoth Caves National Park, but we had no idea that this entire area is cave central. There are a large number of caves, lots of them just in people’s back yards. Many were developed for tourism, and one was made into a National Park. Mammoth Caves is the grand daddy cave. At 367 miles, it holds the record as the world’s longest cave. The cave that holds the record as second longest could fit inside Mammoth two and a half times.

There are several guided tours of Mammoth Cave. Our first tour was a two and a half hour hike into the part of the cave with the most picture worthy formations, such as the “Frozen Niagara”- a thirty foot high flow stone. As you can tell from our website, we like to take pictures, so were looking forward to some good shots.

Our tour started off normally. We’ve been on several cave tours now, and know the routine. Don’t touch the formations, no food or drink, stay on the path. If you accidentally fall behind and get lost, you’re not going to have a good time on this tour. Every tour group seems to have the same people- different faces, but everyone has their role. There is of course the tour guide, with his or her witty, yet cheesy jokes and a handful of food related terms for formations (cave bacon, popcorn). And there is the tour group, made up, always, of the same five essential roles- the not-so-bright questioners, the complainers, the know-it-alls, the picture takers and the rule followers.

The tour guide starts us off with a few witty, yet cheesy jokes and then tells us about the cave, including its record of being the longest cave at 367 miles. He asks if we have any questions. A not so bright questioner establishes her role by asking, “Are we going to tour the entire cave today?” “No, it’s too long”, says the tour guide, un-phased. He understands the essential role that this person is playing. “Any other questions?” A know-it-all raises his hand and looks around at us as he asks an, “isn’t it true” question- a format which serves to disguise the fact that he’s really just supplying superfluous information to get validation. He looks around smugly as the guide affirms that yes, the detailed, unnecessary facts that this guy just stated are indeed true. The tour guide then asks a couple with open cans of soda pop and a bag of chips to please discard them in the trash before entering the cave. They complain. In my firm role as a rule follower, I’m glad to see that they are finally brought to justice, as I’d noticed this infraction from the very beginning. Our picture taker, Travis, is waiting, bored, to be allowed inside where he can finally begin his role.

We’re finally allowed inside and we begin our trip down into Mammoth. The complainers immediately begin complaining about the steep steps. “Our knees”, they say, “They can’t take a lot of up and down”. Genius, then, to be taking a cave tour that advertises over 500 wet, slippery steps. We come to our first formation and Travis brings up the camera for a shot. He looks at the camera in disbelief for a second and then looks at me. “No memory card”, he says with a look of annoyance. “Oh no- oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I say, remembering now the memory card fit snuggly into my computer port back at camp. I feel so bad. Travis hangs the camera around his neck- useless.

As we continue, everyone keeps up their role nicely. The complainers are now commenting on the uneven path- yes, it’s too bad that they don’t make these caves without so many rocks. The not-so-bright questioner tries to take some pictures with her camera phone, and asks, “Why is it so dark in here? Hey, why can’t I get cell reception?” Travis rolls his eyes and asks another lady with a very professional looking camera how she compensates for the low light. She doesn’t know, and Travis is mortified. He’s inadvertently found himself without a role, and the person who is potentially next in line doesn’t know how to use her camera. When the tour guide asks a question, Trav tries on the role of know-it-all, but doesn’t quickly scream out his answers like the other pros on our tour, and so loses out on that one as well. I’m silently hoping that he’ll join the rule followers, and am secretly thrilled that since he’s not falling behind taking pictures, we’re keeping up with the rest of the group, just like the guide told us to.

After the tour, we all get on a bus to be taken back to the visitors center. We’ve seen some beautiful things, but have had to commit them to memory, like suckers. We sadly move towards the back of the bus and sit down. The rest of the crowd gets on and the complainers sit in the front row- their knees are too tired to take them any further. They complain that a large sign in the window is blocking their view. They do not read the sign which says, “This seat reserved for the tour guide- please do not sit here.”

Back at the visitors center we purchase a CD of pictures that include some of the things we’ve missed. Since I was the cause of our memory card debacle I told Travis that I’d do something to make it right, and through the magic of photo editing I’ve inserted us into one of the pictures. You can barely even tell. You’ll see it in the photos for this stop. See, no harm done!

We ended our trip to this side of Kentucky with a visit to our friends Starr and Ron, who moved back here from Portland last year. They live on a beautiful piece of land that they’ve named Creekdance. Its 20 acres nestled in a little hollow, next to a shallow creek. Their little cabin sits right on the creek, actually. It was wonderful to see them- they’re the first familiar faces we’ve seen since before Christmas, and we’ve missed them since they moved to Kentucky. They made us the Creekdance specialty- grilled cedar plank salmon and tilapia. As we sat next to the bonfire, Ron pointed out the lightning bugs in the forest next to us. We had never seen them before- and even though it’s still a little early in the year for them to be everywhere, we could make out a few little twinkling lights amid the trees. It was a fun night, and a great way to end our stay in such a beautiful area.

Start/Stop Home First image Previous image Next image Last image