Kickin’ It in Kentucky

This was our first time to Kentucky. My sister and brother-in-law had been several times to visit their best friends who lived there for quiet some time. We were told to expect a lot of corn, which was true. There was lots of corn, and soy beans, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how beautiful parts of Kentucky were. There was something romantic about the rolling hills, fields and fields of crops and flowers, and random horse and buggies that pass you by on the winding roads (there is a large Amish presence in rural Kentucky).

We stayed in the Maple Springs Campground in the center of Mammoth Cave for 5 nights. We absolutely loved our campsite. We had water and electric hookups for a very reasonable cost and were literally the only RV there. It was right in the heart of Mammoth cave, so there was nature and wild life surrounding us. Our first night there we had dinner on the porch with a barn owl in the tree next the trailer, “hoo-ing” at us while we ate, and reveled in the beauty all around us. We saw lots of lightning bugs, deer, owls, a snake, crickets, caterpillars & spiders (lots and lots of spiders). We went on several hikes…when it wasn’t raining, that we’re just beautiful. Most people come here to explore the caves, but miss what’s above ground. Definitely take a hike or two while you’re there!

If you’re interested in staying at the National Park, I would highly recommend Maple Springs. If you do camp here, know that you DO NOT take the main entrance into the park, you must take the northern entrance. We ended up arriving at the campground (so we thought) only to find out we had to go all the way around the National Park to the north entrance to get to Maple Springs (it added an hour to our drive). So take our advice and come from the North! If you want to sight see or visit any of the “nearby” towns, be prepared to drive, at least 30 minutes but likely 45 minutes to an hour. Also be prepared to cook if you stay, there are very few if any restaurants around and access to quality produce is limited.

We of course had to do a tour in Mammoth Cave, the largest cave system in the United States. That is after all, why we were there. We opted for the “Domes and Dripstones” Tour which is roughly 3 hours. After checking in (or buying your tickets), the bus took us to the newest entrance of the cave, which was followed by a never ending staircase way down into the depths of the cave. There were cave crickets all over the walls and ceilings in the damp areas, which kind of look liked cockroaches, but the guide assured were indeed crickets (phew). Once we got to the bottom of the cave, we walked through three large rooms where we stopped and heard a bit about the caves history, fact, etc. The interior of this cave is enormous! I’m talking throw a party in this thing, drive a car through it, big.

The specific tour we went on showed us the dry part of the cave (the large rooms I mentioned) in addition to the damp area of the cave, where you can see 80% of all cave formations. Considering a formation (either stalagtite, or stalagmite) takes about 1,000 years to grow a mere 10 cm., and some of these formations were 75 ft. long this cave has been in existence for millions possibly billions of years. I think that was the most impressive part about this tour, the number of formations in such a condensed area, the variety of the types of formations, and the size of them!

While we enjoyed the tour and loved walking inside this enormous cave, I don’t think we’d go again or do a different tour. The sheer size of the groups (about 80 people) really limited our experience. We were at the end of the group and missed almost all of the information the tour guide gave us. We also felt rushed since these tours are very timed, we couldn’t stop take pictures, and admire the caves as much as we would have liked. After the tour finished up we decided to walk to the Historic Entrance to the cave which has been there for thousands of years and for a long period of time, the only in and out of the cave. You could feel the temperature change as you walked closer to the entrance by 10 or more degrees in an instance. As hot as it was, we sat nearby for a bit enjoying nature’s air conditioning.

The next day was the Fourth of July, while we had grand plans of grilling out in Mammoth Cave it was raining, a lot. So we visited my sister and brother-in-laws best friends, Ashley and Robert, an hour outside of Mammoth Cave in Upton, KY. We hung out at their house catching up, playing with their children, and enjoying a nice Fourth of July meal together. Robert works for Roundstone, a Native Seed Company. He took us on a tour of grounds and gave us a lot of history on Kentucky farming, agriculture, and native seeds. It was super interesting and gave us insight into a Kentucky we likely would have never seen or learned about if it wasn’t for him. In addition to learning about Kentucky’s native seed, we also learned about the Amish presence in Kentucky (we almost hit several horse and buggies at night time – thank god for reflective lighting), and Family Quilting Pattern’s that often adorn barns in rural Kentucky.

Unfortunately to see a big fireworks show we would have had to drive another hour north, so we skipped the fireworks. We were happily surprised though on a drive home to see lots of fireworks going off in the street from someone’s rural farm or home, so we did get our show after all!

Ashley suggested we visit Horse Cave, a wet cave about 45 minutes southwest of Mammoth Cave where you can get a full on cave tour (you actually walk, crawl, and squeeze) through the cave. Elise and Shane had gone on the cave tour before in a prior visit, and highly recommended it. While it sounded fun, I was super hesitant. I don’t like feeling trapped. Cave exploring in a large open cave is one thing, squeezing through a cave tunnel where I don’t see either way out doesn’t exactly sound invigorating. Everyone convinced me to go and I’m SO glad I did! I couldn’t believe how fun it was to get wet and muddy, and explore a cave with a true caver. There was also only 8 of us in the group, so she catered what we did and what we saw to meet our interests. We even saw a cave crawfish (which is like a normal crawdad, but is an opaque white with no eyes) – we were really excited about that! I would 100% go on this tour again and highly recommend it to anyone going to Mammoth Cave. I loved getting to see both a dry and wet cave, they both were very different experiences.

We left Mammoth Cave feeling really positive about our time in Kentucky and we’re really looking forward to spending some time in Louisville. Here we come Bourbon, Beer, and Bites!