Husband and I used to go spelunking with a couple of our Nashville friends fairly often. The first time we went was with our friend Mike. At the time Mike was basically a stranger. On our very first caving expedition we followed him hours away into the mountain of Tennessee, traveled down skinny empty roads, parked on the side of the road and were told to give him our keys and wallets. We were slightly worried that we were about to be murdered and robbed, but handed over our valuables and followed him into the woods anyways.
Mike, turned out to be the best “tour guide” we could ever imagine and a great friend who we later had many outdoor adventures with over the course of a year. The caves he took us in were always found in the middle of the woods which involved a long, usually steep hike, and were often next to secluded waterfalls. We spent hours in the empty caves crawling through tiny tunnels with only the light of our headlamps, repelling down tall cave walls and discovering beautiful underground sights.
It’s been three years since our spelunking adventures, so when our good friends called and asked us to go to Mammoth Cave with them we immediately hopped in the car and drove to meet them in Kentucky. Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest known cave system. It has over 400 miles of explored cave tunnels! It’s a National Park and a World Heritage sight. It is crazy big, wildly beautiful and ridiculously full of tourists. It’s nothing like spelunking in unexplored caves in Tennessee.
We took the 2-hour “historic tour” with our friends where we learned all about he famous slave cave tour-guide, Stephen Bishop. He eventually made enough money in tips to buy his freedom, a home and several acres of his own. He was the first person to make extensive maps of the caves and taught the guests in his tour groups how to write their names on the cave walls using the flame of a candle.
Walking on the artificial floors edged with ropes to keep us from going off course was not quite as exciting as wearing helmets and squeezing through 8-inch tunnels, but we had a good time hearing the old stories and enjoying the sights. Mammoth Cave is really an amazing attraction…especially if you aren’t interested in spelunking with strangers in dark abandoned areas.
We actually toured Mammoth Cave a few years ago on a 5-hour tour, and I’m sure one day we will return for a different tour. They have about a dozen different tours, and opportunities to spelunk (is that a word?), camp, horseback ride, hike and much more.
If you’re interested in touring the famous Mammoth Cave, check out their list of tours and activities here.