Thursday, May 5, 2016

Exploring Beneath the Surface: Hidden River Cave and Mammoth Cave Tours

A friend of mine was heading to Kentucky over Spring Break on a research trip, and she invited my mom, my girls, and me to join her.  Knowing my husband would be working those days, we jumped at the chance to explore with her.

We headed toward Horse Cave, Kentucky, on Good Friday morning.  We were hoping to visit Detweiler's Country Store, but they were closed for the holiday.  We altered our plans and visited R&S Salvage Groceries.  We ordered our sandwiches and purchased our favorite Amish baked goods.  Later in the day we arrived at Hidden River Cave in time to take a tour.  

We chose the Public Guided Cave Tour.  Reservations are not necessary.  Upon our arrival, we paid admission ($15 Adults, $10 Children ages 6-14, Free for kids under age 5).  The admission fee includes access to the American Cave Museum.  We did not check it out the exhibits because we only had to wait about 10 minutes for the next tour to begin.  Our party joined another family and we were escorted to an elevator that took us to a short walkway that led to the mouth of the cave.  Another tour group was zip lining across and rappelling into this sinkhole.

We began our hour-long tour by descending the 230 stairs into what was once the most polluted cave in the country.  Great efforts have been made to restore the cave, and the American Cave Conservation Association continues to improve the experience for guests.  At the bottom of the steps, we were led along a bridge that crossed a river.  Just over the dam, we entered a cavernous room where we saw a variety of formations and were introduced to an albino cave crayfish.  This tour was really cool!

The next morning we headed over to Mammoth Cave for the Frozen Niagra Tour.  We planned to join the 10am (CST) tour.  Thankfully we purchased our tickets in advance!  Upon our arrival around 9:30am, ALL tours for the day were SOLD OUT with the exception of the self-guided tour for which $5 tickets were being sold.  As we waited at the Visitor Center to load the bus to take us to the entrance of the cave, we picked up the Junior Ranger guide books for my girls.  At ages 9 and 10, they completed the activities in the books to earn the 12 points required for a Junior Ranger badge.  A couple years ago, the girls earned their Junior Ranger badges at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore along with a badge and a patch that we sewed on the back of their Girl Scout vests.  When they turned in their books at the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center , they received the Junior Ranger pin and a certificate.  Unfortunately, the park did not provide the patch for free, but we were able to purchase one from the gift shop for $5.95.  There were several patches from which to choose.  While the patches were a little more expensive than I was hoping to spend, I wanted the girls to have something to remember our time together.  These are the two patches my girls selected:

The Frozen Niagra tour was breathtaking.  I'm 5'7" tall.  Even though there were a couple areas when I had to duck or swivel sideways for a step or two, I never felt claustrophobic.  The cave is well-lit.  At one point, our amazing guide turned off the light so that we could experience being in complete darkness.  Though it was pitch black for only a minute, this could be frightening for someone who is afraid of the dark.  For perspective, there were several families in our group who had toddlers and preschoolers, and these children were fine during the blackout.  What a fun road trip for families, friends, and Scout groups!  This could be a great way to spend some of the money earned through the Girl Scout Cookie Sale.  I hope to return to Mammoth Cave as a family in the near future so we can go on the Domes and Dripstones tour.  

The girls in our troop recently finished their last service project for the year before attending a Bridging event.  I will share all the fun details in my next post.  As always, thank you for reading.

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