On a Tank of Gas: Mammoth Cave National Park and Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site

It’s day 2 of my friend’s visit and we’ve already done some great things (read about it here, here and here)  Today let’s pack a lunch, upload some good traveling music to your iPod (I’m thinking anything by Lorde at the moment), and take a trip to Kentucky’s two National Parks.  Get ready to hear about things like “Fat Man’s Misery,” passports, and 1800s graffiti.  So fill up your gas tank and travel through the back country of Kentucky for a scenic drive to these national treasures.

The deer that greeted us as we arrived at our first stop.

The deer that greeted us as we arrived at our first stop.

Let’s begin this adventure at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Planning for this almost a month out, I was pleasantly surprised at the ease in which I could research, reserve and pay for a specific tour through the cave system all on the National Park Service’s website.  And what a cave system it is!  Don’t let the entrance fool you.  Once you get inside you’ll be welcomed to a balmy 50 degrees (year round) and enormous openings.  With over 400 miles of explored cave,  this cave system is the largest known to man.

Mammoth Cave enterance.

Mammoth Cave entrance.

My friend and I opted to do the Historical Tour, which was 2 hours and 2 miles in length.  I wouldn’t recommend this tour for anyone who has difficulty climbing stairs (there are 5 flights of stairs to get out of the cave), small children or someone who is scared of tight spaces.  The first part of the cave is impressively large, but as you go further below the ground becomes narrower and tighter.  There is one particular 30 meter stretch that is not only narrow (think of having to walk side ways to get through) but also limiting in length from floor to ceiling.  It is properly named “Fat Man’s Misery.”  And if all 4 feet 10 inches of me has to bend down a little to get through I can only laugh, for this is payback for the all short jokes I have endured over the years.

cave1

1800s graffiti

There are multiple tours that you can take, and more variety in the summer months.  If you are a little daring the lantern tour might be fun.  You can explore the cave with nothing more than a lantern and a park Ranger leading the way.  While the Ranger that led our tour kept entertained us with jokes and pointing out graffiti left in the 1800s, the idea of a single oil lantern guiding my path isn’t appealing.

The park overall is beautiful, even for this time of year.  There is plenty of walking trails and camping locations to take advantage of during the warmer months.  But don’t count on the community of Cave City to be particularly worth visiting.  We were hoping to find a  quaint diner and had to settle on Cracker Barrel.  A while the pictures of different area attractions looked inviting online, the reality is rundown amusements that remind me of backdrops for a horror movie set.

The monument that houses Lincoln's birthplace.

The monument that houses Lincoln’s birthplace.

Last stop for the day is Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site.  This site is a quick visit, maybe an hour tops.  It’s a good place to have a picnic, relax a bit, and walk around.  The building preserves a replica of the log cabin Abe Lincoln was born in.  It is a large white monument that pays homage to Greek and Roman architectural styles.  The park Rangers were friendly and very knowledgeable.  The museum is well laid out and provides information for children and adults alike.  Watch out for the change in time zones (you’ll leap forward an hour), which might put a kink into your travel plans like it did ours.  This whole trip took us 12 hours between driving, cave tours and exploring Lincoln’s birthplace.

Finally, I am going to wrap this up talking about the National Park Service’s Passport program.  The concept behind the program is for you to get a  passport book and be able to document your visits to different National Parks.  It includes a map and information about different parks divided by region.  At both Mammoth Cave National Park and Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site there was a station available for you to stamp your passport book.  There are versions for both kids and adults for a small cost of $5.95 and $8.95 respectively.  Check out this  website if you wish to get more information or purchase one.

So what do you think?  Will you be taking this trip anytime soon?  Any suggestions for other possible tank of gas trips?

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2 thoughts on “On a Tank of Gas: Mammoth Cave National Park and Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site

  1. Pingback: Treasure Hunting at Miss Lucille’s Marketplace | Off the Installation

  2. Pingback: Making the Most of the Weekend | Off the Installation

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