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.

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.



Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unique.  It’s a recent addition to the National Park System, 1970’s, and was created in an urban area. In fact, it feels more like a National Forest because there are villages and towns and county roads inside its borders.

Civilization intrudes in many ways, like Highway 271.

Many areas of the park are actually city parks in the Cleveland metropark system. The Cuyahoga Valley lies just south of Cleveland, Ohio. It features the Ohio-Erie Canal and has many museums and historic sites. The one on the history of the canal system is excellent.

Other attractions within the park include golf courses, ski resorts, sustainable farms, horse riding trails, and several inns.

The Visitor Center is an historic site itself. It is in the village of Boston Mills and was a tavern/rest stop for canal boats.

There are several nature centers, too. The one I visited is tucked away in the woods.

I did a little hiking, but as you can see, the weather was not cooperating.

All in all this national park is interesting. And, as a bonus, since it is made up of city parks, there is no entrance fee.


Mountains and More Mountains

Tuesday – I went to Shenandoah National Park – the first NP in my new life. I got the America the Beautiful Senior Pass which lets me in all National Parks for free for the rest of my life.  I also got the first stamp in my National Parks Passport Book. Thanks Deb!

I drove through about half the park. Saw a lot of hikers, but I didn’t feel like climbing up and down mountains. And it was cold and rainy. So, just the one picture.  And, once again, all the buildings were closed. I guess I thought all the park facilities were open year round, but no, the Visitor Centers and campgrounds don’t open for another few weeks. Even the Lodge was closed. So tonight I’m parked at a Walmart.

Beautiful park, disappointing day.

Wednesday – I’ve been driving through the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, up into Pennsylvania, and back down into West Virginia. And just when I was getting used to mountain driving, (which has not been something I enjoy) the winds picked up until they were 25 mph. Not fun while going up and down, dodging semi’s and trying to go the 70 mph speed limit. The gusts were so strong I was getting scared. So I stopped at a motel to wait it out. Should be better tomorrow.




I Feel Like John Denver

“…Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…”

Today I spent most of the day driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s the same idea as the Natchez  Trace that my sister and I drove last Fall. It’s  a National Park Service roadway that winds for 480 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I didn’t drive it all. After 6 hours of mountain roads, I was ready to hit the highway again.


There’s lots of scenic views, of course. And I stopped at Mabry’s Mill, said to be the most photographed mill in the country. It is located in a small settlement of 1800’s era farm buildings. Open to the public as a living museum. Of course, as is my luck, it’s too early in the year for any of them to be open. I really need to come back in the summer.


I did do some hiking. This bridge spans the Round Meadow Creek and the path led down the side of a gorge. And up again, “pant, pant.”


Then tonight I am camping for the first time on this trip. Even here in the South the past week hasn’t been warm enough, so I was staying in motels. I’m settled in the Shenandoah Valley in a lovely campground. Going to watch a movie and then bed.