March 9, 2008

A few Mammoth Cave Pics

Below are a few of the pictures I took during the Grand Avenue tour at Mammoth Cave... This fellow's pictures came out much better than mine, but suffice to say, the Grand Avenue is a strenuous 4.5 hour hike including long, steep inclines and declines, tall, tight narrows and nearly 700 stair steps up, down and around. I think I was at least 15 years older than the next oldest person in our group of 24 people (no children under 16 are allowed on this trip, and apparently few people over 35 are interested). The temperature inside the cave always remains about 54 degrees, and humidity runs upwards of 90 percent. Everybody started out in jackets, sweaters and hoodies, but ended up in shirtsleeves reaking of cold, clammy cave-sweat.

First Pic -- Irene Ryan (Granny Clampett) was here, in 1937 (she would have been 35 at the time -- speaking of ages -- and her name is scratched in several places inside Mammoth Cave). And that's what granny looked like when she carved her name into the cave walls. Well, she probably wasn't wearing a satin dress, but you get my drift... she was young and un-grannyish. I took these pics at high resolution, so you can click on them to get really big pictures.

Next up is the "bare hole." The only tour more difficult than the "Grand Avenue Tour" is the "Wild Cave Tour" -- and if you can't fit into that hole our guide is shining his flashlight on below, then you can't go on the Wild Cave Tour. Wild Cave is 6.5 hours of crawling through passages on your belly. This hole is called "The Bare Hole" because some guy who was a little overweight went on the wild cave tour and ended up losing his pants trying to squeeze out of this hole.

This is a picture of one of our stops where the guide discusses the history of the cave and lets us all take a breather while he talks. I took these pics with my Sony digital camera with no flash... I set the camera on rocks and let the aperture open for awhile to catch the dim light. We had two guides, one up front and one at the rear. The one in front would turn on the lights in the section we were headed to and the one in the rear would turn off the lights behind us. It was never very light.

Below is the snowball room... complete with picnic tables and a cash register and modern restrooms... people could buy a box lunch, a soda or water and rest awhile. It's called the snowball room because of gypsum formations on the ceiling, which you can see on the right hand side.

I'll pop a few more pics below and put some up on my flickr page as well... It was a really fun trip and Mammoth Cave is a very interesting place to visit. I've been there three times -- back in 8th grade in 1973 when all of the Ossian and Lancaster science fair winners got to go, then again with my young family around 1990, and this time with my son, Ryan. It's interesting, I hadn't thought of this until I put the dates up, but it's been about 17 years between each visit -- Cicadas stay underground for 17 years, don't they? I guess I'm the opposite. :)

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