A Visit to Mammoth Cave

My friend Monica Byrne (the author of the very fine novel The Girl in the Road, which I liked so much I blurbed it) had a hankering to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and since I was only a few hours away, asked if I would be interested in joining her. Well, I like a big hole in the ground as much as anyone, so I said sure, why not. And thus I spent a non-trivial part of the week roughly 40 yards underground, looking at fascinating geologic features and trying not to be eaten by cave CHUDs.

Naturally I brought along my camera to document the journey. If you like to see the photos of our trip, the photo set is up on Flickr. It contains many interesting pictures of the cave and its features. None of the CHUDs, alas. They are camera shy.

21 thoughts on “A Visit to Mammoth Cave

  1. I was close; I thought the previous picture was a volcano. Geology is geology, right?

    OK, I might not have been close, really, but I was in the same (extremely) general area of scientific study.

  2. I’ve been there. It is pretty neat.

    I found out part of the way through that I’m slightly claustrophobic. Not enough to fall into a quivering ball of fear, but enough to get a stress headache.

  3. What about Morlocks? Did you see any Morlocks? I hear they have a really good buffet at Mammoth.

  4. I visited there a few years back. It was a spur of the moment thing, so the only tour that had any openings was the Cave History tour. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t on the Really Cool Bigass Cave Formations tour, but whatever.

    I shouldn’t have been. It was AWESOME. Since it was a small group, the ranger took us to things that aren’t on the normal tour, like the old tuberculosis hospital that had been set up deep in the cave. (Spoiler: All the patients died.)

    HIghly recommended if anyone else heads out that way.

  5. About 30 years ago, I went on the “Wild Cave Tour” at Mammoth Cave. 6 hours long with hardhats, lights, knee pads…crawled through spots I never thought I’d make it through. One of the most memorable days of my life.

  6. Mammoth Cave is one of the nation’s treasures. There are several entrances and tours, so even if you’ve been once it’s worth going again. We hosted some exchange students for a week a year or two ago, and took them to Mammoth Cave over the weekend, as we wanted to show them something unforgettable. We took the tour of one of the older routes, which was popular in the early 20th Century. It begins by descending a metal staircase down a long chimney.

    There’s also a tour of one of the earliest explored areas that’s conducted by lantern light as it was done in the 19th Century. There are artifacts down there from Native Americans harvesting guano and, we’re told, at least one skeleton buried under a rockfall. And at one point they gather in a large cavern and then turn the lanterns off. Memorable experiences, all.

  7. What the heck’s a cave CHUD, and are we at risk of them venturing to the surface to dine on our cats?

  8. twobadcats16: You had to post twice to get something from the first page of any search engine? It means Canibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller and originates from the 1984 film C.H.U.D.

  9. Glad you had a good time! I remember enjoying that cave trip – but what makes it most memorable was the fact that thanks to a thunderstorm on the surface, the power went out while my tour group was deep underground.

    Including, of course, the lighting.

    There is no darkness like that of a cave, deep below the surface. Yikes.

    (The guides had flashlights, fortunately, and we made our way out safely.)

  10. Wow, I remember doing that tour 40 or so years ago. One of the highlights for me was after we gathered in a lager cavern and the guide turned out the lights. While it was pitch black and quiet, I stuck the end of my small flashlight in my mouth and turned it on, lit up the whole front part of my face & skull! My little sister & brother said it was spooky as hell.
    What?, I was 14.

  11. Also vaguely recall it was July, very hot, like 100 degrees and the cave felt wonderfully cool. Constant 55 year round I think?

  12. Did you see any hodags? Mammoth is the longest cave in the world so it must have lots. :)

    (Don’t believe the wikipedia definition! As every caver knows, a hodag is a creature that lives in caves and has longer legs on one side so it can easily scamper over slanted surfaces.)

  13. Heh, one of the graffiti signatures was from Theodore Graham. Teddy Graham to his friends.

  14. Great photos! I’m trying to talk my family into visiting Tuckaleeche Caverns in Tennessee this summer. We’ll be staying in cabins near Gatlinburg. The caverns are about an hour from our rental.

  15. I have done three different tours of Mammoth Cave. My favorite was an oil lantern tour where the electric lights were off for the entire three mile underground journey.

    I have a two-year-old and can’t wait to take him places like this, though I may have to wait a bit longer since his little brother is due in May, and an as yet undetermined number of siblings will be born in October. So it will be a family trip, minus their mother who doesn’t like a lot of walking.

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