Mammoth Cave National Park and Bowling Green
After our mostly frigid stay in Indianapolis in late winter, we decided to head south a little. I needed to be in Nashville anyway for a retreat I was attending, so we thought we’d stop off at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky on the way. The warmer weather and abundance of things to see and do did not disappoint!
We stayed at the Diamond Caverns Thousand Trails in Park City for a week. It was a great park. I won’t get into it here because, besides the blog post, we also did a campground review on YouTube. It was a great base camp for all the local attractions and less than 30 minutes to Bowling Green with more things to do and some of the stores we need for our groceries and the cats’ food.
We arrived on a Saturday and decided to do some of the Mammoth Cave tours on Sunday since Brian had to work the rest of the week, and we were leaving the following Saturday. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the tour list until Sunday morning and we’d already missed the one we really wanted to do. By the time we got ourselves in gear and ended up at the visitor center (11am), all but the Discovery (self-guided) tours were full.
Learn from us…even though I’d checked a week or so earlier and had seen that they had several tours running every day (and noted some weren’t running for another couple of weeks), I didn’t check the times for the day we were going and I didn’t reserve several days in advance. We were there in late March, which was someone’s spring break. The campground wasn’t packed full, but the visitor center sure was. So, absolutely, without question, no matter what time of year, plan ahead and reserve your preferred tours at least a few days if not a couple of weeks ahead.
Anyway, we did the self-guided tour that Sunday, which was cool because we could take as long as we wanted. They also had Rangers at various points outside and inside the cave to answer questions. That tour only gets you into the Rotunda and Audubon Avenue – a small portion of the entire cave system, but we did learn a lot. There was an old salt peter mine they’d partially excavated and some native items displayed. Mostly, it was ‘just’ a cave. If, like us, you can’t get into any of the other tours; I’d definitely say do the Discovery Tour. If nothing else, you can say you’ve been in Mammoth Cave and that’s awesome. If you’ve been in other caves and have the opportunity to do more than the Discovery Tour, I’d certainly go with the other more in-depth tours.
This was also the first cave I’d been in that had lighting. All the other ones required flashlights or lanterns. I liked that it allowed us to see better and to take photos without the flash. This was the same as the Lost River Cave tour we went on a few days later.
The Lost River Cave had tours up until 5pm while we were in the area and it only takes about 30 minutes to get there from that campground. Brian was off at 4pm each day and we needed to head into town for groceries, so we took one day and drove into Bowling Green. This time, we made reservations a couple days in advance and I’m glad we did! Even arriving on a weekday at the last tour of the day, it was busy. We have a video of that tour as well, though that’s only part of it. When the tour starts, you walk with your guide down a short hill while they talk about the history, stopping off next to a portion of the Lost River that’s above ground. Our guide told a story about confederate soldiers diving in and never returning, which is how the Lost River got its name – because of the lost people. After about 20 minutes, your guide has you grab life preservers (no one to the date of our tour had ever fallen in according to our guide) and loads you onto the boat. From there, it’s about 30 minutes of the underground river/cave tour. That was a totally unique experience for us and it makes me want to do more!
From there, we went to a decent dinner at a local steak restaurant. We’re finding that steak houses are about the best places for us to eat out now that we’re eating ketogenically. For those who don’t know, we’ve both lost about 4 to 5 inches around our waists since we started eating keto (about 8 weeks at the time of this post.) We’re very happy with the lifestyle change and loving our increasing health!
A couple of days after the Lost River Cave tour, we decided just to go on a hike around Mammoth Cave National Park. I found some trails on the Mammoth Cave NP App that connect to form a loop from and back to the visitor center. The app worked better for me than the other big trail finder websites. For those want an easy to moderate hike, essentially, you take the paved path across the back lawn of the visitor center past the white cabins. Keep going on Campground Trail and turn right onto Amphitheater Trail past the new and old amphitheaters. Turn right onto Whites Cave Trail and stop off at Whites Cave when you get there. You can’t go in, but it’s a nice spot to take a quick break and check it out. When you get to Sinkhole Trail take a right onto it and, again, stop off at the sinkhole. It’s not such a big deal, but it’s a nice trail. Sinkhole will lead you to the Heritage Trail, and turning right will take you back to the Visitor Center. If you want to add some time, you can turn left onto Heritage Trail and go to Sunset Point. There’s also a small graveyard just past that area. For a longer overall hike, you can take any of the four or five trails that take you farther out even to the Green River. Check with the Visitor Center or an online trail website for more information on those. It took us about two hours to complete the loop. Of course, that included stopping to take lots of photos. 😉
We stayed at the Safe Harbor RV Resort while we were in Nashville. We were right on Priest Lake for two weeks and it was beautiful! We loved staying at the resort and would absolutely go back again and stay longer.
Our first full day in Nashville, we decided we’d better get out and see something since I was going to be at a retreat for six days through the next weekend. That day was going to be our only full day together to explore the area before we headed further east. We ended up going to the Parthenon, which was way cooler than I’d expected. It’s at Centennial Park near Vanderbilt and a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Greece. Because the original has had some serious damage over the centuries, they actually recreated parts of it based on writings and other found evidence. Other parts were created by molds of the original sculptures. It truly was amazing to see and walk through. Inside, is Nashville’s Art Museum and upstairs is a full replica of the statue of Athena from the Greek Parthenon. It blew my mind! I’ll show a photo or two here and more in our Instagram and Facebook page, but you just won’t get the full effect unless you’re standing right in front of her.
Unfortunately, I caught a bug at my retreat and ended up not well enough to go out again while we were in Nashville. We didn’t even get any footage of the resort, so there won’t be a video review. I will, however, do a quick review on our blog and in the major campground review apps in the near future.
We really enjoyed our visits to Kentucky and Tennessee, and will be returning to Tennessee in a few weeks to see Chattanooga and Memphis. Coming up next is Asheville, North Carolina!
Be groovy, friends, and remember to live your journey…