Our last stop for spring break was Mammoth Cave National Park. I thought this would be something my son would really enjoy. As I looked over their website it showed beginner spelunking classes for kids and a great tour of the old portion of the cave. Unfortunately tickets weren’t yet available for spring so I was patient.
Once tickets were released the spelunking for kids wasn’t available. My son was pretty bummed but still wanted to go. Unfortunately, many of the tours were already sold out. I grabbed tickets for the one tour that was available and figured we’d hike through the park afterwards.
When we arrived I saw that the tour I originally wanted was available. My son didn’t seem interested in taking two tours so we stuck with the one we had. Our drive was pretty short from our hotel so we stopped at a pond to kill some time. It had a nice little walk around the perimeter. I heard so many wonderful birds but they all seemed to be camouflaged in the trees. It sounded so nice though. As we walked we spotted a few birds, frogs (which made us jump as they got skittish and jumped into the water), a slug, and butterflies. I could have spent a longer time there but we had to head back to the Visitor’s Center for the tour.
We sat and waited for the busses to arrive. At the last moment, I realized I had forgotten my inhaler. The Park Ranger made a big deal about breathing issues and I didn’t want to take a chance. So I sprinted back to my car to grab it so I had peace of mind. As it turns out, my breathing was perfect within the cave. When we arrived to the cave entrance we followed the long line to enter. One thing about me: I have arachnophobia. Bad. Just above the doorway there were large spiders. Like daddy long legs on crack. I’m so glad no one saw me gather up my courage to walk through that doorway. I waited until my son was inside the cave a bit and then walked quickly not caring that I was holding up the line. I noticed more of those ugly critters along the side of the cave as well. I just kept repeating, “They don’t care about me. They don’t care that I’m here.” Thankfully they ceased to exist a bit further into the cave.
I live quite close to Luray Caverns in Virginia. I think they are beautiful and was excited to see how Mammoth Cave compared. The first portion of the tour was rather boring. No offense to Mammoth Cave but it was just a cave in that area. Sure, in parts it was massive and it was cool to look deep down into holes but I guess I was excited to see stalagmites and stalactites. I also thought there was too much talking. I know the Park Ranger wants to educate people and visitors had questions but I feel like most of that information is easily found on the Internet. The 2 hour tour was really just about 45 mins of cave and 1.25 hours of waiting, walking and talking.
Eventually we made it to a waterfall and Frozen Niagara. Finally, my interest was peaked. This is when the tour started to pick up and there was a lot to see. My photos won’t win any awards (well, none of my photos will but these especially) but I did my best with shooting in the dark cave. The last portion of the tour was the best portion. I wanted to walk slower and really see everything but it is difficult when the passage way is narrow and there is a long line of people behind you.
Overall, Mammoth Cave was fine. I would have preferred the other tour but my son wasn’t that interested. He enjoyed what he saw but I guess there’s only so much you can see in a cave before it all starts to look the same (to an 11 year old). We perused the gift shop and I picked out something small for my favorite person (shhhh. It’s a surprise. He doesn’t know yet.) I looked at the trails and found one that I thought was short and went to a creek. We drove to it and started on the trail. Unfortunately, it was also a horse trail so we had to be careful. Finally, a horse and owner came upon us and after hearing that the creek was another mile, my son bailed. I guess the previous 5 days of hiking had worn him out. So we turned around and headed back to the hotel.
I’d definitely recommend going to Mammoth Cave. It has 450 miles of trails throughout. I think I’d probably say attempt to go on the tour that goes through the original entrance (the one I wanted but didn’t get). I think that sounds more interesting. However, make time to visit Virginia and Luray Caverns because they are top notch!