I don’t know why we kept talking about Mammoth Cave, but we did. Or more accurately, my pal, Silas, kept talking about it, talking about how he wanted to go, thought it would be fun to go through the cave with us—us being any number of our group who could manage a day away.
Logistics with busy people is a nightmare.
Should we go for overnight, or try to do it in one day? Which weekend? A Friday? Saturday? If Mammoth Cave doesn’t work out, should we consider Lost River Cave in Bowling Green? But restaurants, there must be restaurants. A date was set, then was changed, and the time when we should meet. Finally, we synchronized our calendars, and we were in business.
On a beautiful Friday a few weeks ago, my running mate, Alice, and I bundled in the car and drove across country for Edmonton County, past woodland with redbud just about to burst, past stands of daffodils on rolling hillsides, under an impossibly blue sky.
From Owensboro by way of Fordsville, it was a pleasant drive, scarcely an hour once we got back on Hwy. 54. I can’t remember the exact route we took, but it was secondary highways the entire way, and lovely.
I’ve been to Mammoth Cave many times. With each visit of relatives from out the state, my grandmother organized a trip to the cave, complete with picnic and singing in the car, which I suspect annoyed the adults and I know for a fact deeply embarrassed the children. In college my anthropology buddies and I often hiked on the trails and we applied to work there one summer but they didn’t want us.
There have been some improvements since the last time I visited. There is a grill and a restaurant in the renovated hotel, and a nice little walkway over to the visitor’s center. We arrived in time for a late lunch, and while we waited to be served I toddled over to see about tickets.
Now. Pay attention.
You really must get your tickets well in advance for any of the tours. On the day we chose—the Friday of spring break—all the tours were sold out and had been for days. We knew this before we left home, but decided to take our chances. There was one tour that is only booked on the day of but we were too late for that, too.
However, there is a self-directed tour, the only one now that uses the historic entrance, and for five bucks you can do that one, all day and at your own pace. Rangers are stationed in the cave to answer questions and keep an eye on things.
Well, now. This was perfect. We wandered down to the entrance around 3:00 p.m., the last minute to still enter the cave for the day. Down a few steps, not so many, and then we were in the cave, walking past the saltpeter mines, listening to the ranger tell a group about the tuberculosis patients who once lived in the cave—an experimental treatment that managed to kill them all.
We took pictures, most of them quite awful, because it is really dark, although our camera phones did a pretty good job, considering. Alice posted a pitch black photo on Facebook of us in the cave, and we had big fun with that, like we were the cleverest people in the world.
It took us less than an hour to see this small part of the cave and to read the plaques and ask the rangers some questions. But it was enough for us. We went topside and spent another hour looking at exhibits and watching a film.
We were hungry again, or thought we were, so a ranger at the information desk suggested a couple of places toward Park City, including a place the locals like, Porky Pig’s, in…I am not making this up…Pig, KY. We couldn’t resist.
Pig, being so small,was hard to find, but we eventually pulled up in the gravel lot of Porky’s. It seemed more like a community center than restaurant, with tables dotting the large expanse. But there was a buffet, pulled pork, and sliced tomatoes and a friendly waitress, so we ate too much and someone bought a ball cap.
We lingered over coffee and cobbler, because we are lingerers. Even so, I was home by nine. I recommend this little road trip. A weekend’s worth of fun in under ten hours.