Underground

Underground in Mammoth Cave National Park

Today I spent two hours wandering through a cave. I have wanted to visit Mammoth Cave for- well forever I think. I remember learning about it in school and it’s been on  my list ever since.

The reason it’s called Mammoth is because it is the longest cave system in the world. 412 miles! Now, this doesn’t mean a looooooong tunnel. No, it’s got several layers of corridors that wind around like a river. Caves are formed by rivers, after all. My tour ( which is one of several different kinds) was two hours long, covering 2 miles. I chose the Historic Tour. Because…history, duh!

The entrance we went in at is the original one, used by tourists for almost 200 years.

You can’t use flash photos inside the cave so I didn’t get a lot of shots.

People wrote their names on the walls and ceilings back in the day. Of course, you can’t touch the walls now.

This was a tube that went up 3 stories. We also crossed a “bottomless” pit but I was concentrating on getting over the bridge so no picture!

Several parts were actually kind of fun. The section called Fat Man’s Misery was so narrow I had to walk sideways to get through. And even short little me had to stoop to get through a few areas.

Ranger Jenna was our guide and she was great. She is trained as a geologist, and told us lot about rock formations and such. But she also knew the history of the cave very well.

The cave was owned by several different private citizens until it became a national park in 1941. One used it for mining saltpeter for gunpowder during the War of 1812. Another was a doctor who built huts in the cave to see if the constant temperature  and air quality would cure tuberculosis. (It didn’t)

Finally the light at the end of the tunnel haha

The museum in the welcome center was fantastic. Lots of facts, history, and nature.

   

It took me over an hour just to go through it. Of course that may be because I’m that person who actually READS the information signs. LOL

Now if you’re thinking of seeing the caves, I would suggest you pick a tour that fits your capabilities. Some are very strenuous and go through hard to navigate areas. One is 4 hours long. They have one for kids wanting to know about spelunking, too. So, something for everybody.

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Alabama

From the peanuts in the south to the rockets in the north, Alabama was an interesting state.

First stop was in Dalton, where the George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum is located. The museum was fascinating. Not only is there a comprehensive history of Carver’s life, but there is lots of information on other African-American inventors. Dalton is known as the peanut capital of Alabama. Their city has peanut statues all over. Cute.

Alabama is a long state to drive through. Cattle ranches and farmlands give way to hills and then some mountains in the far north.

I stopped in Huntsville, to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Wow! What a great museum. There are real rockets on the property. I’m talking 30 stories tall. The Saturn program was built here and an entire building is devoted to that. I saw a National Geographic movie on the history of man’s desire to go into space, starting with Icarus. it was in 3-D; enjoyed that as well.

The center has all kinds of “rides” and interactive exhibits. A G-force simulator, a lift off simulator, a hyper drive ride, and a Mars rock climbing wall. I did not do any. Wandering around the exhibits took up all my time. An interesting idea is that there are retired NASA employees on hand to answer questions and explain things.

 

Jekyll Island

Jekyll is one of the barrier islands along the Georgia coast. It has a long and fascinating history. In colonial times it was owned by a man who built Georgia’s first brewery. Then in the late 1800’s it became one of the most exclusive resorts in the country. A group of families bought the island and built a “clubhouse,” which is now a grand hotel.

Only 100 people were accepted into this club and only the wealthy could afford it. Some of the names of members were Vanderbilt, Morgan, Rockefeller, Field ( as in Marshall Field’s), Goodyear, and Pulitzer. World War II brought an end to the club as the island was ordered to be evacuated for security reasons. The state of Georgia then bought it and turned it into a State Park.

They have preserved many of the buildings and houses that the Jekyll Club members built. I did the walking tour around the historic district.

     

           

The Federal Reserve was created on the island in a clandestine meeting of financiers in 1910. They secretively took a train to the island and spent a week hashing out the details of new currency regulations for the country. None of the employees were allowed to know who these men were, so they used aliases.

The island has several beaches, some of which have interesting landscapes.

       

The movie Glory was filmed in part on one of the beaches, now known as Glory Beach.

Along with the history discoveries, a highlight of my stay was a boat tour. The purpose of the tour was to see dolphins. Bluenose Atlantic dolphins live in the waters surrounding the island. They sure were fast whenever they came up for air, but I did manage to get a few pix.

     

The tour was a lot of fun. The captain played music throughout the trip with some special songs. The trip started out with the theme song from Gilligan’s Island. Although thankfully OUR tour was only one and a half hours. Then at the first sighting of a dolphin, he played the theme song from Flipper. Running commentary included a lot of island history and points of interest.

I stayed at the campground so I could explore the area. This place has something I had never before seen. There are a lot of snowbirds here, and each one has a sign post with a sign that has the state where they are from. Cute idea!

The island is on the Intercoastal Waterway which is part of the journey known among boaters as The Great Loop. It runs up the eastern seaboard to the St Lawrence Seaway, across the Great Lakes, and then down the Mississippi River and back to Florida. People travel it on a regular basis and are called Loopers.

The island has many other attractions, such as a water park, a 4-H camp, golf courses, and a 20 mile bike/walking pathway that goes around the perimeter. There are lots of shops and restaurants. I ate a lunch at The Wharf and had a crab cake BLT that was delish! Although the entire island is designated a state park, there is a thriving town with year round homes  in the middle of it.

This is my new favorite State Park. (so far LOL)

 

 

Edisto Beach, South Carolina

I spent a relaxing couple of days in Edisto Beach, SC. It’s a lovely little beach village. I had always known about them, from reading or watching shows, but I had never been in one until now. It looks like a fun place to vacation. I dird a little research and discovered most of the house are duplexes and are rentals. Each one has a name, some are cute: Eye Sea,  3 Gulls and a Buoy, Just Beachy, Seas the Day. And some were more traditional: Carolina Paradise, Beach Dream, Family Tradition, Southern Comfort

I stayed in the State Park that borders the town. It’s got two sections, one on the beach

and one back in the woods. I stayed in the woods cause it’s cheaper. I like the sites that have electric and water hookups. I can charge my laptop and DVD player, saving my inverter some power. I could have spent even less if I chose one of the walk in tent sites, but…I’m to old to carry all my gear more than 20 feet. LOL.

The trails are wonderful, solid ground pathways that are accessible to wheels (bikes and wheelchairs). They’re full of shells cause they use sand from the beaches which are full of them. Made it interesting to watch the ground as well as view the plant life.

       

There was a nature site that is a hill of shells, mostly oyster, that was once nearly twenty feet high. Supposedly it was used as a trash heap for hundreds of years. It has since been reduced to about six feet.

The education center focuses on sea turtles as they are prevalent in this area. In the mating season, people living on the beach are encouraged to turn off their lights after 10 pm cause that is when the females lay their eggs in the sand.

This park is on the ACE Basin, which is a bay with three rivers emptying into it. The Edisto River winds through the area.

      

You can see where it has changed course and left a huge marsh.

The campground was great. My site was right across the road from the bathhouse. Showers and flush toilets – hurrah! Even though boondocking is preferable (cause it’s free!) when I want a shower, a campground is a good choice.

 

Francis Marion National Forest

Do you remember the Swamp Fox? If you are around my age and watched The Wonderful World of Disney as a kid, you might. They made an 8 part miniseries about Francis Marion, AKA The Swamp Fox starring Leslie Neilson. Marion was a prominent figure in the Revolutionary War here in the USA. He was one of the first to use guerilla fighting against the British. And so, there is a National Forest named for him in South Carolina.

I’ve been staying here for a couple of days, soaking up the forest peacefulness and exploring the area. I camped at one of the primitive campgrounds called Half Creek. It’s a lovely site in the woods and there was only one other car here so I enjoyed the quiet.

The Palmetto Trail goes through the forest, stretching across the entire state from the ocean to the mountains. The section through here is called the Swamp Fox Trail. It begins at Buck Hall Recreation Area

       

which is on the Intercoastal Waterway that runs along the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida. Apparently, it was the first interstate “highway”, used by Natives and explorers for easy transportation.

       

Just north of my camp is the Hampton Plantation, which has been made an historic site. There is a walking trail around the property where you can see the locations of the rice fields, and an archeological dig of one of the slave houses. You can also tour the inside of the main house.

       

I was planning on going up the coast, but with the weatherman saying there’s going to be another winter storm in New England, I think I’ll go south instead.

 

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park in South Carolina is in my top five of national parks. It’s a huge old growth forest that was only designated a National Park in 2003. Before that it was made a protected area in the 1970’s. The Congaree River winds like a snake through the area and the watershed it produces becomes a giant flood plain in the winter. Known for the trees that grow here, the park is an educational bonanza.

Loblolly pines and Cyprus are the dominant plants. Some of the tallest trees in the Eastern US are here. Several have been named national and state champions for their age and height.

                

The main trail through the park is a boardwalk, half on the ground and half elevated.

                 

It is really well maintained. And what I love is the benches placed every so often.

The boardwalk is 2 1/2 miles long. There are other trails throughout the park in the wilderness area. It’s a definite reason to come back.

The ground is extremely wet because of the flooding every year.

     

Some places along the trail are higher so it seems more like the forests of the Midwest.

The state plant is the palmetto tree. Here are dwarf palmettos that love the moist soil.

I spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon here. The weather was lovely, the forest was peaceful and I was fulfilled.

 

 

West Virginia… Mountain Mama…

Well, I’m not a mountain mama, but I did drive through West Virginia today. I think I’ve finally convinced myself that I do not have to go as fast as everybody else. Driving slower than the speed limit makes me feel safer and they can just GO AROUND! LOL

I stopped for lunch at this place

It’s called Tamarack, The Best of West Virginia. It’s a showplace for local artisans and craftsmen and everything on display is for sale. They even have little rooms where you can watch an artist in action. The items include everything you could imagine, glassware, paintings, wooden toys, clothing, metalware,  furniture, pottery, food. All items come from West Virginia businesses, mostly small individual entrepreneurs. What a great concept to showcase the local talent.

There’s a restaurant that serves downhome country cooking. I had two kinds of pie: a savory chicken pot pie and a slice of peanut butter pie. Yum! And I bought only one thing.

I’m headed to the east coast, somewhere in South Carolina. Searching for warmth and sunshine. The temperature hasn’t been cooperating, though. It’s cold, windy, and I saw snow flakes this morning. Arrgggh!