Part VII: Off the Beaten Path

Did you ever read the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? For some reason, that book resonated with me as a child. Perhaps, it was Tom free spirit and adventures involving buried treasure. Maybe it was the setting—in 19th century rural America where the untouched landscape must have been wondrous.

I do know that the part of the story where antagonist Injun Joe is chasing Tom through a large cave system and they both wander around in the dark, concerned that they would ever see light again, was scary enough to spurn my interest in caves.

Today’s featured stop is not only a cave, but the largest cave system in the world. In fact, if you were to connect the second largest cave and the third largest cave, the resulting formation would still be more than 100 miles shorter than Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Fortunately, Tom did not flee into the Mammoth Cave system or the story may have needed a different ending.

Mammoth Cave contains over 365 miles of explored area. That number simply fascinates me—especially considering the hint that there are other large parts of the formation yet to be explored.

How can that be? And I thought we human beings knew just about everything about everything.

Believed to be first discovered by Europeans in 1797, 212 years later the cave is a National Park that offers ten different daily tours in the early summer. Their popular guided walks include the Historic and Mammoth Passage tours, but the Star Chamber and Violet City Lantern tours look unique and very inviting.

If you do plan a visit there, it is wise to take advantage of the park’s tour reservation service—or you’ll likely be stuck milling around for awhile like we were. It is a good thing that the Mrs. and I were newlyweds back then and just had to keep ourselves entertained.

If you do have extra time, the park offers waterfalls, and more than two dozen hiking trails enhanced by scenic views of the Green and Nolin Rivers.

A drive through Kentucky certainly would not be complete without a Mammoth Cave stop.

After a full day playing spelunker, you can stop by at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Mills (a couple of hours to the east in Harrodsburg) for an excellent dinner. If you have any energy left, they also display some of that fine furniture and crafts using designs made famous by the Shaker sect.

I think it is worth the visit simply to enjoy some of the village’s pickled watermelon rind or if you are more celebrity-oriented, go there just because Ashley Judd refers to the Shaker Village as her “favorite Kentucky place.”

Previous tour stops in this Off the Beaten Path Series are:

--Lynchburg, TN

--Centralia, PA

--Murfreesboro, AR

--Washington, DC

--Hana, HI

--Corolla, NC


Sandra G. said...

What an amazing place! I had no idea about the caves, and never would have planned a vavation to Kentucky. But now...oh yes, it's on the the list.

Thanks for the links - I've saved them to my favorites and will peruse them when I have a bit more time.

Sandra G. said...

vavation..oops...I meant vacation. That'll teach me to hit 'publish' before doing a spell check!

Word verification - abicop - what I call my friends who are officers in the City of Abbotsford.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks Sandra. Those word prompts are oddly coincidental for me as well.

spooky said...

mammoth cave is awesome! i stayed at a little campsite nearby. it's a dry county- so for anybody interested in drinking, you need to pack it in.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comment Spooky--I did not know that about the county.