Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Mammoth Caves National Park and Hotel

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

I have claustrophobia so have never visited a cave. After reading how large the passageways and rooms are in areas of the caves on public tours at Mammoth National Park, I decided to give it a try. And not only did we take one tour but we actually took two.

The first tour is called the Mammoth Cave tour ($5.00 per person). It starts at the original historic entrance which is reached by climbing down (and then back up) 160 steps. The tour lasts about 1-1/4 hours. Total walking distance is about one mile. We learned a lot and we enjoyed the tour. After the tour, we had to walk over an approximately 4-foot rubber pathway in a trough filled with Lysol. There is a problem with white-nose syndrome, lethal to the bats, and the idea is to try and keep this fungus from spreading.

We spent the night at the Mammoth Caves Hotel. It is literally attached to the park’s visitor’s center by an open bridge. The hotel is old. The room is small, it was difficult controlling the room temperature and there is no wi-fi. Not only that but I had a problem trying to connect my Verizon modem because we were in a 'roaming' area.

They have a dining room and a coffee shop. The dining room is known for their Kentucky fried chicken and the time of the year we were there (May) it has to be pre-ordered since it can take up to 45 minutes to prepare. We ordered ours and then went on our tour. It was ready for us and we both enjoyed our dinners.

I’m sure the hotel would be a very pleasant place to spend an extra day or two but we had horrific rain. And being holed up in a tiny hotel room wasn’t the way we wanted to spend our day.

So we decided to do our second tour and then get back on the road. Our second tour started at 8:45 a.m. and is called Frozen Niagara ($10 per person) because of the formations. We had an approximately 10 minute bus ride and were taken to a man-made entrance to the tunnel. Heads up warning! If you've got a problem with insects and/or rodents, skip this tour. This cave area is loaded with cave crickets and they are, literally, all over the place. It is also the home to several pack rats, which we did see back in their nest, and they are actually pretty cute.

This tour was well worth the money. Whereas the first tour took us through large passageways into large open rooms, this cave was filled with beautiful formations. It is a short walk of only about 1/4-mile but took about 1 1/2 hrs because there is so much to see. We saw columns and drapes and 'cave bacon'. And of course the area that looks like a frozen waterfall. Nice tour.

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