4/25/14 Friday in Park City, KY (Diamond Caverns-TT/MA)
Well, that storm came. Lots of rain and thunder/lightening. Really glad we put the bedroom in so there were no leak issues. The leak area by the driver’s seat is holding up pretty well.
We left before 8:30 am to have plenty of time before our 9 am Historic Tour, starting at the Historic Entrance ($6/senior pass person). First though let me share the lovely dogwood lined road to the Visitor Center.
On our way walking down to the Historic Entrance:
Historic Entrance – used by the Indians 4,000 years ago. They stopped using this cave system after about 2,000 years, then it was re-discovered by, according to legend, a hunter following a wounded bear, stumbled across the opening. The area above the cave is now a lush forested area but prior to becoming a National Park it was privately owned farmland.
The caves have over 400 miles of charted passages and many more still to be explored and charted. During the War of 1812 a man in Vermont, Dupont (French), mined the caves for its saltpeter, which was used in the production of gunpowder. After the war mining was stopped, it was easier to import the chemicals since the tariffs and embargoes were lifted. They didn’t used the cave system for this during the Civil War because the owner felt that if one side could use it the other would destroy the caves.
Our tour went down to about 350′ below the surface; the caverns and walkways were impressive, carved from the flowing waters of the underground rivers. These are mostly dry caves, because the sandstone at the top forms a cap/ a barrier to the rain flowing everywhere through the lower levels of limestone (laid by the sea creatures of the sea that existed here way back). The temperature was a cool 54 degrees – comfortable when you wear a sweatshirt.
One of the most fun places we passed through was called a “Keyhole Tube” formation
It was named “Fat Man’s Misery” because of its shape. You really have to bend over and watch the edges. It was great fun. This is the first time I really felt I had a cave experience. I didn’t take a picture in the cave because I didn’t want to stop the line of us all trying to make our way. Plus I was concentrating on moving my own body through it! There also wasn’t a lot of light so because you can’t take flashlight photos you really had to stay still a while to get your image.
More cave images. People paid slaves to write their names on the ceiling with candle smoke. My favorite part was when we saw the bats. They are so small, just a little fur ball with a pair of ears peaking out at the bottom.
We had time to head back to our camp site for lunch. Vern came with us for this first tour but was just too exhausted to continue with the next tour in the afternoon. Beth didn’t come at all because she’s claustrophobic.
This next tour (also $6/senior pass person) was the Domes and Dripstones Tour, from the New Entrance. This new entrance was man made (dynamite, then nephew Earl took away broken rock) in 1921.
Wow. Beth and Vern really would have struggled with this tour: the first part is 300 steps down a rock crevice that would put the “Fat Man’s Misery” to shame. It was like going down the steps of a lighthouse with rock coming very close to you on all sides most of the time. That was the Domes section – domes were above our pathway down.
Next we got to enjoy actual flowstone (the big one they called “Frozen Niagara”) and stalagmites (ground you might trip over) and stalactites (ceiling you might hit your head on)
There is a small body of water at the bottom here.
Cave Crickets!!! Another critter I got to see for the first time. A group, as these are, are called a trumpet of crickets. These the base of the ecosystem in the cave. They go outside where there is food and sunshine, then come in to share.
We had a great time and loads of exercise. This tour was a total of 500 steps alone.
By now the light rain had left and we got out of the cave in sunshine. Buses took us to the New Entrance and returned us to the Mammoth Cave Hotel. From there of course we made our way to the car and home, where we relaxed before supper. Such a lovely day. We were also glad we could put the bedroom slide back out.