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10/8/2020 – 10/11/2020 Mammoth Cave National Park

Auburn to Florida: August through October 2020

Dates:10/8/2020 – 10/11/2020

Highlights: Hiking

Campground: Singing Hills RV Park and Campground. Cave City KY

30A E/W; dump station; quiet park; Unique check in where the pleasant owner said she doesn't allow profanity. OK – I wasn't planning on being profane, but you never know. She then invited us to join them for church service. Then l felt bad for my sarcastic thoughts.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Due to COVID, all guided tours into Mammoth Cave are closed except for a self-guided tour. Due to our health concerns with expected poor ventilation and lack of crowd separation (though masks were required), AND our concern for the number of steps going down into the cave, I gave our tickets to a very grateful young family who didn't have advanced tickets (absolutely necessary). There were plenty of good hiking trails that we were able to do so we felt no loss. We had read in numerous reviews that while Mammoth is the largest cave system in the world (over 365 miles surveyed so far), it is said to be not as breathtaking as some of the others we have seen such as Luray.

The geology and history of the area is quite fascinating. Limestone deposits beneath the current land surface were created from sediments of a shallow sea 350 million years ago. Rain water seeps through the ground eroding the limestone beneath the stronger cap rock. The underground water flows forming the underground river Styx and pocket caves. Often water collects on the surface and collects. The seeping causes a funnel effect that increases over time allowing more water to collect and flow. The farms in this vicinity are covered with these depressions. Eventually a sink hole will form – sometimes creating access to this underground labyrinth.

Sand Cave.

Mammoth Cave became one of the earliest and biggest tourist attractions in America following the war of 1812. Admittance was through private ownership. Other enterprising souls sought additional caves to cash in on the tourist trade.

Overlook over Sand Cave

Floyd Collins owned Crystal Cave to the northeast of Mammoth, but it was too far for most of the tourists. He found Sand Cave that was closer to Mammoth and the tourist money. On January 20, 1925 he descended alone into the cave, but on his way out he kicked a rock loose that pinned him 60 feet below the surface. Relatives found him the next day, but could not extricate him.

2/3/1925 An electric light was strung to him to keep him warm. Jacks and crowbars failed to extricate him. The National Guard arrived to control the huge crowds that were forming as newspapers around the country reported the growing tragedy.

2/4/1925 Another collapse cut off contact with Floyd. By 2/8/1925 ten thousand people had gathered.

For a total of 12 days volunteers worked 24 hours a day to sink a rescue shaft. On February 16, 1925 a 12 foot lateral reached Floyd. He had already died.

The trail to cave is an easy, short flat path from SR 255. The cave itself looks like nothing more than an overhanging rock ledge formed by one of the numerous sink holes. The history and the walk make it worthwhile.

Sand Cave

Crystal Cave. After learning the story of Floyd Collins we were enthusiastic about seeing his house and his original cave. Also, a park ranger informed us that it was her favorite trail – long enough for a work out (2 miles one-way), but flat and easy. The path is a maintained grass and gravel road, which was beautiful indeed.

The road ends at Floyd Collins' house and a separate building he used to sell tickets from and serve his customers. An unmarked path between the two leads to the cave.

The Collins House

Ticket building. The path to the cave is to the left.

The cave faces opposite the trail, so you must walk down a very short but steep and slippery path. I thought this was extremely cool! Winding hand placed rock steps bring you to the metal door of the tunnel. It looks like something out of the Hobbit or a mystic temple of doom in an Indiana Jones movie.

River Styx and Dixon Cave Trails. This loop leads from the visitor center and passes the opening to Mammoth Cave.

Entrance to Mammoth Cave

The first part goes down continually to an overlook where the River Styx empties out of the side of a ledge. One has to imagine that this small trickle of water connects to the massive Mammoth cave uphill from your location.

River Styx emerging from beneath Mammoth Cave

The path continues a little further with the Styx flows into the Green River.

The green River trail follows the river for a short way before going up switchbacks to the Dixon Cave trail.

Switchbacks on Green River Trail

Dixon Cave is basically a a sink hole between Mammoth cave main entrance and the river. It provided another access to Mammoth Cave before a collapse separated them.

Dixon Cave Trail

Turnhole Bend Trail is a short loop with an obstructed view of the Green River and a couple large tree-filled sink holes. There's a moderate rise in elevation to start. Info signs describe two large sinkholes.

Signs of an old road crossing trail

Surrounded by an unnamed sink hole on Turnhole Bend Trail

Cedar Sink Trail. A 1.8 mile trail out and back.

Several sections of hills or stairs with gradual 40' elevation changes. In a clockwise manner, a loop trail brings you to a metal staircase 60' down the side of the sinkhole's rock ledge to a view of its' cone depression.

The trail continues inside the sinkhole giving a dramatic view of its' scope. After Turnhole Bend, I was unprepared for the size of Cedar Sink. While the former was about the size of our old cul-de-sac, Cedar Sink would have swallowed up that with the houses and the road going to it. It was also about twice as deep.

Logs collect at the funnel of Cedar Sink (from viewing platform shown in next photo)

Water flows from left to right towards the funnel

A viewing platform sits atop this ledge

Climbing up 70' of additional stairs brings you to the top of the southern edge of the sinkhole with a viewing platform. Just before the top of the stairs there is a side walkway to a cavernous overhang.


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