With 3 days available post-Thanksgiving Day, we decided to derive down to Kentucky and see one of the natural marvels relatively accessible to us. Mammoth Cave is an enormous cave with over 400 miles of passageways explored and, since it sits in a National Park, relatively well protected. It’s not a short drive for us, 7+ hours, but with 3 drivers now, a lot easier than it would have been in the past.
Our initial target: Wigwam Village #2, in Cave City, KY. Built in 1937, this is one of three Wigwam Villages still extant (the others are in Arizona and California). Eighteen concrete wigwams surround a central play area – the main structure once housed a restaurant, but now is a gift shop. Two small wigwams house public bathrooms, five have 2 double beds, and the remaining 10 are single double bed accommodations. Unfortunately, the overall feel is slightly gone to seed, with a capital influx needed to clean and modernize the structures and landscaping. Still it’s a unique experience and I’m glad we had the one night – definitely worth a stay if you are in the area.
The next morning was spent getting to and then exploring the cave. It’s pretty much an imperative to make reservations ahead of time, even though the tours are very large – about 120 people were in our group and the tour was sold out. The Park itself is quite beautiful, with a sinuous main drive leading to the Visitor Center, where the tours meet. If you don’t want to take one of the longer tours, there is a Discovery Tour that leaves right from the Center into the Historic Entrance and allows for self-guided (and self-timed) exploration. We opted for the Domes & Dripstones Tour, which includes the entirety of the Frozen Niagara as well, about 2 hours of walking and climbing. This is a great tour in that it features the 3 stages of cave life – entering through an active area, where water continues to expand the cave, a central “middle-aged” area, dry and unchanging, and finally into the “death” of the cave, as stalactites and stalagmites slowly fill in the open space. While the tour was both beautiful and educational, my only complaint is the general “Disneyfication” of the cave – too much light, too many handrails, too much flattened path. Almost bland in its cleanliness; the only way to make it less strenuous and “safer” would be to have trams drive through. There is an option to take a more hardcore tour with small passageways, mud, and water, which we definitely would consider if we were to return.
We decided to take it easy on the way home and stopped in Indianapolis at a hotel, spreading the driving over 2 days. SO much easier, haha.