Friday, September 2, 2016

A Hike at Mammoth Cave, 8/30/2016

After touring the cave yesterday, we wanted to spend some time exploring the park on the trails near the Visitor Center. First, though we stopped to see the train display that is located on the left after the Post Office and before the Visitor Center.

In the 1800s, this part of Kentucky was still considered the American West. By 1859 the Louisville & Nashville Railroad connected the two cities. By 1886 a spur line was added at Park City (previously known as Glasgow Junction) to Mammoth Cave that was just 8.7 miles long, but represented a dramatically improved travel option in comparison to the rugged roads in the area. The small 04-2T-type steam engine pulled just one wooden coach that was both a passenger and baggage car. 

We parked at the Visitor Center and began our hike on the paved trail to the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave. From there we continued through the woods on the Dixon Trail. We came to the Dixon Cave where there is a dual level overlook deck to view the Dixon Cave. Here are views of the entrance from both levels.

The cave is designated as an Indiana Bat Hibernating Cave (home to this endangered bat species). Therefore, the cave is closed to all visitors. A bat-friendly gate enforces the policy, keeping humans out and allowing bats free access. Dixon Cave is a constant 44 degrees which is perfect for Indiana  and gray bats. 

About a million years ago, a rare sinkhole collapse cut Dixon Cave off from Mammoth Cave creating two separate caves where there once was just one. During the same geological event, the Historic Entrance (shown below) to Mammoth Cave was created. 

We continued along the Dixon Trail to the Green River Bluffs Trail through the forest. There are multiple dry stream beds and streams that flow into the Green River. 

Visitors to Mammoth Cave arrived at this location on the Green River by steamboat from Evansville and Bowling Green in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The steamboats  provided upscale accommodations, meals and even entertainment. 

From the Green River Bluffs Trail we continued into the River Styx Trail. We saw where the river flows into the Green River and followed the wooden boardwalk to the point where the river exits Mammoth Cave. The River Styx is a semi-subterranean waterway that flows at the lower levels of the cave.

We met this lovely family of four at the overlook to the River Styx. They enjoy our National Parks and Monuments as much as we do and have visited many of the same ones that we have. We spent some time learning more about them and shared some of our own RV lifestyle experiences. Their two daughters were delightful and also very knowledgeable about the parks they have visited. It is wonderful to see families spending time in the great outdoors! 

We continued on the trail, chatting with them, as we made our way back to the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave. It was so stinking hot and humid out, that we decided to end our hiking adventure for the day to return to the comfort of our air-conditioned motor coach! 

For additional information about Mammoth Cave, its tours, campgrounds, hiking trails and more, check out their website.


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