Last year we took a day trip from Campbellsville, KY to Mammoth Cave National Park. A little known fact about MCNP is that to actually go into a cave, you must schedule a guided tour. Reservations are encouraged, but most people don’t know that. We didn’t, and last year we were fortunate to be able to score a same day ticket for a tour of Onyx Cave, which is probably part of the Mammoth Cave system but is not within the bounds of the Park. Since we had not actually seen Mammoth Cave we simply had to return for a look at something in MCNP.
Last Saturday we did return, this time with reservations for the Domes and Dripstones tour. D&D is billed as ¾ of a mile with 500 steps. I learned that the 500 do not include the first eighty spent getting into the cave, nor is any credit given for the difficulty of climbing steep and sometimes slippery ramps that have no steps. It’s a fairly tough two hour hike, but everybody made it and a good time was had by all.
About halfway through our hike we progressed to a large room in the cave with benches for maybe 100 people. He offered us a chance to earn serious bragging rights about our visit: “Do this and you are entitled to tell all your friends and relatives that you have seen all 400 miles of Mammoth Cave.” He turned off the electric lights and suddenly it was literally dark as a tomb. You’ve never seen darkness like this. Then he flicked on a Bic lighter, cautioning us not to look at the flame, but to look up and all around. Sure enough, eyes adjusted and one could make out rocks, pits, walls, and floors. That Bic lighter, all one candlepower of it, is the escape plan in the event of a power failure. Each ranger carries one, and the two of them would order the group to stay seated, no matter what, while the rangers hiked out to get help and lanterns, then come back for us. That’s when I remembered last year’s corniness (“If the roof caves in, you can’t be buried deeper or cheaper.”) This was also about when I came to realize that if you’ve seen one cave, you’ve seen them all.
There was still more corn to shuck. While explaining the difference in stalagmites and stalactites (one sticks TIGHT to the ceiling; the other MIGHT grow to the ceiling) the ranger allowed that sometimes they grow together and become pillars. “But in Kentucky we sleep on ‘pillers’, so we call ‘em “columns”.
The USDA is forecasting a bountiful corn crop this year. Here’s the best way to cook it on the cob. Wrap two ears, husks and tassels still on, in a damp paper towel. Microwave them 6 minutes on high. Peel, butter, salt, and enjoy. It’s the best corn I’ve ever et!