Our Research TravelingMom’s family is nothing if not spontaneous. This was especially evident when they headed out for a Saturday breakfast with no particular destination in mind. It was after all, free admission day at the National Parks, so why not take advantage of this wallet saving occasion?

Inside the Rotunda Room. The 6th largest room in Mammoth Cave. Photo Courtesy: Allison Taylor

Inside the Rotunda Room. The 6th largest room in Mammoth Cave. Photo Courtesy: Allison Taylor, Research Traveling Mom

Visiting Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave is just about an hour and a half from Louisville, Kentucky, and 30 minutes from Bowling Green Kentucky. It is nestled in a little town, whose biggest claim has always been the park, and what a claim it is! The size of the park most definitely lives up to it’s name of ‘mammoth.’ The park covers over 52,830 acres, most of it underground.

Since our trip to Mammoth Cave was a spontaneous one, our family stuck with the cave tour offered for free. When you are looking at the schedule of fees, it is called the Mammoth Cave Discovery tour.

Our Tour

The day that we visited, the heat was oppressive. The humidity in Kentucky is unlike humidity anywhere else, the air is so thick that it like one is drinking the air. I tell you all of this because it is very important to be prepared for this type of heat.

Mammoth Cave

Just inside Mammoth cave. Photo Courtesy: Allison Taylor, Research Traveling Mom

When we arrived at the entrance of the cave, it was like the heavens opened up and the angels were singing. The cool air wafting out of the opening to the cave and out into the heat was very welcomed.

The cave stays a constant 54 degrees. Some folks wore a light wrap while they were walking through the cave. I didn’t think it was needed, and I was wearing a tank top! My 7 year old, however, complained about ‘freezing’ the entire time. So, my best piece of advice is to use your best judgement when it comes to needing a wrap.

Although a self-guided tour, visitors aren’t totally on their own. At the entrance, a run down of the rules of the cave are given (no flash photos, no touching any wildlife you may encounter, and no touching the cave walls).

Once in the cave, the path is lit by very low lights. Without the lighting, the cave would be pitch black, in fact on some tours, the guides turn all the lights out to show you just how dark it can get.

When we arrived in the area called the rotunda, I was enthralled with the older gentleman who was educating people about the saltpeter that sat in the middle of the room. A 5th generation tour guide, he walked the same passages as his ancestors who were slaves. They were leased to the county for $100 per year. The pride this man had was palpable. And for good reason, he was extremely knowledgeable. I could have sat and soaked in his knowledge for hours. My 5-year-old, wanted to keep moving.

Learning inside the cave. Photo Courtesy: Allison Taylor, Research Traveling Mom

Learning inside Mammoth cave. Photo Courtesy: Allison Taylor, Research Traveling Mom

At ‘turn around’ point of the cave (for lack of a better term), another guide waited, ready and willing to answer questions. He had pictures of the different species of aquatic life that had been found in the park.

The total tour was 1/4 mile, so it was perfect for the little legs in my group.

The Mistake We Made

We then made our way out of the cave, and this is when I realized our terrible mistake. The cave had been our reprieve from the soul-crushing heat. Then my sweet husband wanted to walk the trail down to the banks of the green river, another .5 mile.

My glasses fogged up immediately upon exiting the cave. Remember the detail of the trip being spontaneous? We had neglected to bring things like proper hiking clothes, water bottles, and a willingness to hike in the heat.

The trip down to the river wasn’t so bad because it was all.down.hill. The trip back up?  It made me feel irrationally angry.  It was all uphill. I had a whiny 5 year old next to me (speaking all of the things that I was feeling). To top it off, he wanted to hold my hand in the 8 million degree heat.

Here is what I would have changed. I would have walked the entire trail and stopped in the cave on the way back up the hill. The extreme temperature changes really did a number on me.

All in all, we had a fantastic spontaneous day that was easy on the pocket book. As my 5 year old said of the trip “I’ll have something to share with my friends at school on Monday when we talk about our weekend adventures!”

Have you been to Mammoth cave before? If you haven’t, do you plan to go?

Navigating Mammoth Cave