Life beneath the surface
Once more we got up early. The previous day, we had visited the homepage of Mammoth Cave National Park and discovered what time the different cave tours were leaving. The first tour was leaving at 8, but that was too early. Instead we left our hotel in Bowling Green around 7.45 and drove 35 miles north on I-65 to Park City. From here we continued 6 more miles to the parks visitor center. Here we could see on a board, that almost all tours were sold out until 3 PM, and we didn't want to wait that long. We could go on one tour though, the 9.15 to a place called Frozen Niagara. This tour was the shortest and easiest of all the tours. Only a quarter of a mile long, and only 12 mandatory stairs plus an optional 98. We would rather had gone on the two mile Historic Tour (440 stairs), but as that was sold out together with all the other tours, we bought tickets for the Frozen Niagara, and were told, that it would leave from Shelter 2, outside the visitor center. After we had bought the tickets the young lady behind the counter asked us (as we are usually asked) where we came from, so we told her. The she asked us where we stayed, and when we told her, that we stayed in Bowling Green, she immediately recommended a restaurant called Judy's Castle, that should be excellent. But even better would be Watermill in nearby Cave City. They served the best catfish in the state, according to the young lady.
From the Frozen Niagara Tour in Mammoth Cave.
Tickets in hand we spent some time looking at the small museum at the visitor center and then walked to shelter 2. At this time (a little before 9 am) it was already 86 F and sunny, so we found a spot in the shade. Ten past nine, our guide who was a volunteer ranger, and a bus arrived. To spell it out, she was not a volunteer ranger and a bus. When she arrived so did a bus. We entered the bus, and shortly after it took off for a ten minute drive to the entrance to Frozen Niagara. The guide told us, that the concrete entrance and the steel door, was not part of the natural rock, if any of us should have thought otherwise. She opened the door, and we entered the cave. "We" was a group of around 20 people. Along the way she entertained us by explaning what we passed, and she told us how to remember the dfference between stalactites an stalagmites. if we didn't knew already. If you don't know read here: Stalactites grows from the ceiling while stalagmites grows from the ground. Unfortunately it doesn't work in Danish as "ceiling" are called "loft". "Gound is called "grund", så the G will do. If a stalactite and a stalagmite meet, it will become a column. While she was explaning we continued walking into the cave and the path got more and more narrow. Finally we walked in a single file, and then we came to a full stop. As we were in the rear, we couldn't see what happened further forward but slowly the people in front of us moved ahead until we reached the guide. Once there we could see a lady, trying in vain to stop a bleeding from the top of her husbands head. Apparently he hadn't listened to the guide, when she told us to duck our heads, and had walked straight into a stalactite, banging his head into the stone. Fortunately we were right next to a phone, so the guide called for assistance, then asked us to stay put, while she escorted the man and his family back to the surface.
'When she returned, we continued our tour. At the Frozen Niagara, a large dripstone, that somehow ressembles the Niagra Falls (I couldn't see the similarity, but that's just me I suppose), the trip ended. It was here that 49 steps leading down to the bottom of the "fall", and everybody climbed down there to see the dripstone from below, and then up the 49 steps again. The we headed back to the surface, and along the way the guide told us more stories, and showed us more sights. When we passed the stalactite, that the man had crasched into, Tim got some nice pictures of the blood on the rock below :-). One of the sights we were shown, almost scared the life out of one of the ladies. The guide pointes her flashlight at the ceiling, where hundreds of small insects crawled around. The frightened lady thought they were spiders (aracnophobia can be devastating), but the guide reassured her, when she told her, that it were not spiders but crickets, cave crickets as it were.
Very wet water in Diamond Caverns
When we reached the surface and exited the cave, the wounded man, was being treated by two park rangers, and he and his family stayed behind, while the rest of the group entered the bus, that took us back to the visitor center. At this time it was 10.45 and 91 F, so we hurried to our car and turned on the aircondtioning. Tim was a bit disappointed that this short trip was all we got, and wanted to see more caves, but we still didn't want to stay until after 3 pm. On our way from the interstate to the visitor center, we had passed another cave, Diamond Caverns. In 2002 Dorte and I stopped at these caves, but as we misunderstood the number of stairs, we didn't visit then. You can read more about this non-visit in the article Jackson's Mill or whatever? on the 2002 travel page. This time Tim and I decided to give it a shot, so we drove to Diamond Caverns. This is a private cavern, so we had to pay another entrance fee. As a tour was leaving at 11.15 and is was now 11.05, we decided to go for it.
Like in Mammoth Cave we were a group of around 20 people. The guide was a young man, and he gave us the same explanations, at the volunteer ranger at the Frozen Niagara. Diamond Cavers offered more different kinds of dripstones though. This tour was around 2 miles long with 350 stairs in all, but no more than 50 at any one time. The trip should have lasted 60 minutes, but lasted about 75. Along the way the guide told us a lot about different kind of dripstones, but unfortunately I don't remember much of it. This cave was very wet. A lot of water dripped down from the ceiling, and we got rather wet ourselves, but the flash from the camera, hitting the dripping water made some exceptional pictures. The tour was even more interesting than that in Mammoth Cave. The only thing, that was a bit annoying was a family, mom, dad and three children of which the youngest was around 2 years old. The mother had him walking all the way for himself, which was ok, but he also had to climb the stairs on his own, which took a lot of time. This was what caused us the delay, and even the guide looked annoyed, as he was supposed to get back to the visitor center to guide another tour. When we got back, we went outside in the sun and the 95 degrees to dry up. We didn't stay in the sun for long though, but entered the car and turned on the air conditioning.
Once more - absolutely nothing happened
Former Victory Baptist Church - soon to be a Greek restaurant
Before heading back to Bowling Green, we decided to have lunch at the recommended Watermill Restaurant in Cave City. When we arrived a lot of tables were free, and we were told just to sit whereever we felt like. We wanted to taste the famed catfish, but didn't want to eat a big meal, so when we discovered, that we could have a catfish sandwich, that was what we ordered. For some reason it took almost 40 minutes to get the sandwich, but maybe they had to catch the fish before they could cook it! Anyway when it did arrive it was great. As it is the only catfish I have eaten in Kentucky, I can't confirm, that it was the best in the state though. When we were about to leave, it looked rather dark outside, and when we left the building, it was raining heavily. We took a few pictures in Cave City, including the Onyx Cave ticket office and the entrance to Dinosaur World. Then we headed for the interstate, while the rain was getting heavier. At one time, we had difficulties seeing the car in front of us, and if he hadn't turned on his hazard flashers, it would have been impossible. Ours were turned on as well and so were everyone elses, and we moved forward with an impressive speed of 10 miles per hour. Everyone was driving in the middle of the two lanes, to be able to get clear of anything unforseen. The rain lasted for about 20 minutes, then it stopped as sudden as if someone had turned of a tap. When we passed the National Corvette Museum, we left the interstate, not to visit the museum, but only to get some pictures of it from the outside. When we got back to Bowling Green, the sun was shining once more. We returned to the hotel, and relaxed for an hour or so, before heading out again.
We drove to the center of Bowling Green, expecting it to be filled up with people celebrating, as it was 4th of July, but the town was almost empty. Later we found out that the celebrations had taken place on the 2nd of July, which was a Saturday, so once again we missed a 4th of July celebration. Instead we parked the car and walked around for a while looking at the courthouse, the city hall, the sheriff's office and a few churches and of course a lot of other buildings in the historic town center. Especially one of these were interesting. The Victory Baptist Church was actually abandoned and in an advanced state of decay. But it had a beatiful blue dome. A sign on one of doors said, that the building had been sold, and that it would reopen later in 2016 as a Greek Restaurant! When we returned to the car we met a group of around 100 youn people on foot, but we never discovered what they were doing. Back in the car we drove to the campus of Western Kentucky University and took a few pictures. We headed back to the hotel, and stopped for dinner at the local Applebee's, and for once we both had chicken, both for starters and as en entree. I can't speak for Tim but my cedar grilled, lemon marinated chicken breast was excellent. At that tme we had forgotten all about Judy's Castle but from the internet I have discovered that it seems to be a typical rural restaurant, which I often prefer. Anyway, after dinner we returned to the hotel.