Our quest for adventure has no clear path. We try not to look too far ahead. You might say we are flying by the seat of our pants. So far…no worries. We like finding bargain camping where we can. We have stayed in state and national forest where we get senior discounts and, of course, we are using the Thousand Trails membership for free camping.
We checked in at Diamond Caverns RV Resort and Golf for four nights. It’s a Thousand Trails campground, but not in the zone we have with our membership package. However we added the midwest zone for fifty-five dollars to our membership. We will probably start looking at other places to stay inside this zone.
Diamond Caverns RV Resort and Golf is just inside the south entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park and only a fifteen minute drive to the visitor center. It has full hookups, swimming pool and laundry room. The staff was very friendly and helpful. I was escorted around in a golf cart to look for an available site and we were invited to a pot luck “taco night” dinner later that evening.
The pot luck dinner was a chance to meet other campers so grammi put together her black bean salsa dish and we went to check it out. There was a good crowd of maybe thirty or so people. One person we met was a guy named Dave. He is a retiree traveling alone in a 35 foot class A. He has been full time for over a year and stays primarily in Thousand Trails campground. He says he typically stays three weeks before moving to the next location. I found it interesting he doesn’t have a tow vehicle. He says he stocks up on supplies when traveling to a new site. If he needs to go somewhere he will call an Uber or rent a car.
Grammi’s salsa was a big hit. Several of the ladies complimented her and asked how she made it. We returned to our camper with an empty bowl just in the nick of time. A rain storm arrived so we went to bed listening to the pitter-patter of rain drops hitting the roof of the camper.
It was still raining in the morning. Scattered rain showers were forecasted for much of the day. We planned on going to the cave so the rain was not going to deter us. When we arrived at the visitor center I was surprised by the size of the parking area. It looked like a shopping mall parking lot and on this day was probably three quarter full.
The modern visitor center had electronic boards displaying the different cave tour times and locations giving the feeling we were in an airport. There was a 360 degree information desk in the center of the room and ticket cues located along the wall. It was a very efficient operation for running large numbers of visitors through the cave.
There were many different cave tour options which was a bit overwhelming at first. The tours go to different areas in the cave and range from a thirty minute easy walk to a six hour extremely strenuous climb and crawl. We opted for the Historic Tour which is two miles in two hours with a total of 440 stairs. A 155 of those steps are continuous at the end of the tour. It has a moderate difficulty rating.
The earliest tour available was a three and half hour wait time. We took the time going through the interactive displays and watched a short movie about the cave. We took advantage of a break in the weather to have a picnic lunch and to go on a hike down to the Green River. I don’t recommend this hike after a rain. The rocks were slippery. Grammi slipped and fell right on her butt. She injured her wrist and shoulder and I could tell she was in pain. Luckily she was able to get up and walk back up the hill. It was steep and strenuous and I ended up sopping wet from exerting myself with the humid conditions. I bought a souvenir tee shirt so I would have a dry shirt to wear inside the 54 degree cave. Grammi took a couple ibuprofen and said she was good to go. She’s a tough girl.
The Historic Tour enters the cave appropriately through the historic entrance. This in the grand entrance used by tour guides for over two hundred years. The tour goes through cavernous areas except for one area called “fat man’s misery”, a long narrow serpentine section with low head clearance. The misery in my opinion is when you knock you head on the rocks above.
The ranger stops occasionally to talk about some of the history in the cave. He pointed out hollow logs used to carry water for mining saltpeter in the early 1800’s. Wooden boxes used in the operation are well preserved due to the climate conditions inside the cave. Graffiti was seen throughout as it was common for visitors to smoke write with candles. We saw dates going back to the 1830”s. He pointed out evidence of early Native Americans mining of gypsum although he said scientist were unsure why.
This part of the cave is a dry section due to the mineral cap in the soil above the cave. No water dripped from the ceiling. There were none of the cave formations you might expect hanging from the ceiling. In fact, the ceiling was flat and smooth as if done by a skilled plasterer. We ascended the 155 steps to the surface and daylight feeling like we got a weeks worth of cardio exercise.
We left the visitor center and drove around a bit exploring the park. We saw deer and we saw turkey. We crossed the Green River on a ferry boat just to see what was on the other side. We drove down a long narrow dirt rode to find an old church building and cemetery. We saw some hiking trails but we’ve had enough of that for the day. We were tired and we finally surrendered and returned to the camper for the night.
The next morning was bright and sunny so we headed to the golf course for a round of golf. I only played nine holes because we were going on another cave tour in the afternoon. The course rolled and curved between the hills and a valley making for incredible views and challenging golf. Grammi with her swollen wrist was my caddie. I had fun and played well enough to want to play again soon.
The cave tour was called Domes and Dripstones. Another two hour moderate rated tour with 500 stairs. We boarded a shuttle bus for a short ride to the entrance of this section of cave. The initial descent is 280 steps to the cavern below. Here were the formations and creations created by a continuous dripping of water that we love seeing. Stalactites and stalagmites, flow stone creations, and bottomless pits. It’s a beautiful part of the cave and much different from yesterdays tour. I can’t recommend one tour over the other as they are unique to each other. I am glad we did both. There are other tours too. Maybe someday we might return to explore other sections. They say there are 444 miles of cave here.
The next day we went to the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a National Historic Site near a spring were Lincoln’s parents lived when he was born. The farm was named Sinking Spring Farm. A memorial stands on the hill overlooking the spring.
The Memorial Building dedicated in 1911 houses a log cabin from what was once thought to be original logs from Lincoln’s birth cabin. Later investigation has revealed that the logs used to build the cabin post-date Lincoln’s birth. Also when the cabin was reconstructed inside the memorial building it was reduced in size to accommodate foot traffic around it for visitors. It still stands today as a symbolic replica of Lincoln’s log cabin.
I enjoyed our time in this area of Kentucky and feel there is still more to see and do. I hope to one day return here for more adventures.
4 thoughts on “Spelunking”
All these photos are so great! This place looks great! I am so envious of yall’s trip 🙂
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Another great write up. I hope you print copies of each posting and make a book for your grandkids to read down the road. I wish I had not waited so long to travel, feel that I might be too old now, but what a wonderful way to see this country.
Thanks Bill. Can’t say I agree with you. I’m finding that I’m younger than many full-timers. If you say you’re too old then you are. But if you say you’re not then you’re not.