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Mammoth Cave National Park

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.

Mammoth Cave National Park


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.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Heading 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.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Layers of rock along the tour

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.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Frozen Niagara

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.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Dry Prong Buffalo Creek Trail

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!

More photos:
Mammoth Cave National Park


Daniel Boone National Forest & Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

One of our days during spring break was spent in Daniel Boone National Forest and at Cumberland Falls. I had read about a trail that I think is called Bark Camp Creek Trail. Because I’m always looking to photograph waterfalls I was excited to hike this trail. It didn’t seem very long and being in a National Forest is always special. My son and I found the trail and once again on our spring break hiking adventure the scenery didn’t disappoint. There were huge rock formations, green moss on everything, and a pretty creek to follow.  Our goal was to make it to the cascades I had read about online.

My son complained a little bit with the elevation but it was minimal. The hike was fun and offered us rock hoping, creek wading, and a great waterfall.  This waterfall had a huge portion of rock that had been carved out by water behind it. We had so much fun taking photos and climbing around behind the waterfall. I truly don’t think my photos do it justice.  As I was taking photos the sky started to get very dark. I knew it was supposed to rain that day and I was worried about getting caught in a storm. There was absolutely no one else on the trail (or even close to us I don’t think). And with the wind picking up, we decided to go back to the car. Of course, once we reached there the sun came back out. I was a little annoyed because I really wanted to photograph the cascades. Alas, it will be for another day.

We still had a good amount of time in our day so we hopped over to Cumberland Falls. It was only a 15 min drive from where we were so it made sense. I can’t remember if I saw these as a kid. I don’t think I did because my parents didn’t say anything when they saw the photos.  They are impressive to say the least. And with the sun going behind the clouds I was able to get some really special photos. We took them from all angles and my son started to get interested in taking some too. The best part was because it was a Tuesday and not everyone’s spring break we had the place almost to ourselves. A few people milled around but mostly we had the opportunity to take photos anywhere. I saw people across the river on a trail that was a bit higher. I would have loved to get up there for photos but I could tell my son was tired. We did have a plan to come to the falls for the Moonbow. It is a phenomenon that happens during a full moon. I guess the light from the moon cause a rainbow to appear over the falls. With the rain moving in that wasn’t going to be possible. Plus, it turns out the falls were 2 hours from our hotel so I wasn’t too upset by that.

I know that Daniel Boone offers a ton more for me to see. As with most things, I wish I could spend a whole week exploring and hiking. I guess I may have to take the plunge into backpacking so I can stay overnight. I’m not so sure I would have wanted to camp on the Bark Camp Creek trail only because it was so far removed and I didn’t have cell service but maybe one day with the right person.

Spring Break Planning

For the past two years my kids and I have gone hiking for a couple of days during spring break. This is the only time I get to spend uninterrupted time with them as they are both so busy with their sports. This year, unfortunately, it will just be my son and I. My daughter will be visiting Peru during spring break and doing both volunteer work and visiting Machu Picchu. I am incredibly jealous because Machu Picchu is number one on my list of places to visit. Alas, I could not afford to go with her as her trip will cost plenty. I am, however, very happy that she gets to go and experience that culture. Hopefully she realizes just how lucky she is.

So my son and I have been working out where we want to go. The places that have crossed our lips are The Grayson Highlands, New River Trail, Kentucky areas, Sand Cave in Virginia and others. I think we are finally narrowing it down.  The sand cave is number one on our list. I’m not sure if we’ll make White Rocks as well but the cave is a sure thing.

Next on our list is Mammoth Caves. I have to remember to ask my parents if we visited there when I was little. I remember a cave of some sort but am unsure of which one it was.  We have now added Breaks Interstate Park to the list. The park looks amazing and they have a lodge where we can stay and it is pretty inexpensive.  In talking to my son the other evening he said he is ready to have “legs of steel” after this hiking trip.  What he doesn’t realize is that it is a lot of driving but I’ll manage. I want him to have a memorable trip and I want some amazing photos as well.

A couple weeks ago my son declared, “No!” to camping in a tent. Just yesterday he changed is mind again so I guess we’ll be planning something for that next spring/summer.