Down, down, down; it was a long way down.

We do very much enjoy exploring country roads, so as we bid a fond farewell to the Green River ferry, we took a short cut on Joppa Ridge Road. It was dusk, the road was gravel/dirt, and Scott’s estimation from our trusty Mammoth Cave National Park map was that we should hit the highway in about two miles. We wound over and up and around and down, and sure enough, Joppa Ridge Road spit us out by Joppa Church (Baptist, built in 1900) on Highway 70 exactly 2.1 miles later. My Hero is really good with directions and distances.

From there, we once again passed a mysterious sign for “Cedar Sink Road Pig” and continued on to our hotel in Bowling Green. Note to self: Fairfield Inn Bowling Green beats Courtyard in Paducah, hands down. Not only was the carpet dry, the breakfast there definitely was something to write home about. Between the two of us, we feasted on waffles, fresh pineapple, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and salsa, cantaloupe, sausage, orange and apple juices, and the best poppy seed bread I’ve ever eaten. Truly a breakfast of champions.

Back at Mammoth Cave for our 11:00 AM “Domes and Dripstones” tour, I was a bit troubled when our ranger guide (Ashley, not Holly) informed us that this 3/4 mile tour would involve 500 steps. Wow. The two-mile “Historic” tour the day before had featured an upward set of 155 steps, and while I had been proud to manage those at a slow but steady pace – without even stopping to rest on the landings! – the thought of doing three times as much gave me pause. Had me concerned. Filled me with dread. OK, the truth is that I was really worried.

Needlessly, as it turned out. 500 was the total number of steps, both up and down, and after the first very narrow 288 down, the rest were scattered throughout the tour. I was again amazed at HOW MANY folks they put through on a tour – typically about 100 – and how efficiently it all works. As we had done the day before, we (I) had chosen to be at the front of the pack, one, because our guides had said that slow movers should be at the front and fast walkers at the back, and I’m a slow mover, especially with stairs, and two, because I don’t hear as well as some, I love a good tour guide, I love to ask questions (we know where Josiah gets it!), and I learn the most when I am up close and personal with the guide. Ranger Ashley did not disappoint, and since we had to wait several minutes at each stop for the whole snaking line of folks to make their way to the benches, we got to ask her extra questions and get extra explanations – a real bonus.

Scott and were again amazed and intrigued by the ENORMOUS size of the cave, the amazing stories of early explorers and guides, the “candle-spotted” ceiling autographs of visitors over a hundred years ago, and the absolutely unbelievable work that had been done through the years to engineer and install all the staircases, walkways, railings, benches, and lighting that allowed us to tour the cave. And of course, our wonderful experience at Mammoth Cave just re-kindled Scott’s desire to go spelunking – in the wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering, exploring sense of the word. Personally, I am not a wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering kind of a girl, although I do love my own style of exploring – in a car or on a trail – but I’ll happily send Scott on a wild cave experience, cheer him on, pray for his safe return, and afterwards do his laundry and tell him how brave he is. = )


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