Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

In about 1959, I went to Mammoth Cave with my family, I was 12 and fascinated by caves. Not long afterward, my short interest span made me forget about them. In 1997, my wife wanted me to go with her to see her mother in Virginia. I had been thinking of going back to Mammoth, so I said I'd go to Virginia, but wanted to stop at Mammoth Cave on the way. Janet called the Park Service to get an idea of what trips were offered. They have several 'tourist' trips, lights, paved pathways, etc., but during the conversation, the Service mentioned they had a 'Wild Cave' tour. Knowing me, Janet said that sounded like what we were interested in, so she booked the trip. The requirements were that you had to be 15 years old, not mind getting dirty, and have some boots with ankle support and light-colored soles (so not to mark the formations). They provided the helmets and lights. The Park Service bills this as the most strenuous ranger led activity in the National Park System. It was about five miles underground in about six hours. We ate like starved dogs at dinner after the trip. It was strenuous, but tons of fun. We really got the caving bug after Mammoth.

Bryce Leach
The above photo was actually taken the second time we went to Mammoth. This is Bryce Leach, the guide who took us on our first trip. He made it a lot of fun.

Mammoth Cave
Just before going into the cave. Janet had admitted being scared and ready to bolt.

mammoth

Janet in a tight spot, eight or nine inches clearance

birth canal
Ric, coming out of the 'Birth Canal'

.Canyoning
Janet straddling, or 'canyoning' a twenty foot drop onto rock. It's hard to believe they take people they don't know on this trip.

Brent
Brent, Janet, and Ric

You can tell by the look of the gear this is from our second trip. We met Brent in the parking lot. Most of those doing this trip are total novices with none of their own gear. Brent saw us in the parking lot getting some cave gear out of the car and introduced himself. We have done some other trips with him since.

Birth canal
Janet going into the 'Birth Canal.'

Carbide
Janet and 'Carbide Chuck,' Chuck DeCroix.

Out
After the second trip