You’ve now seen all 415 miles of cave

Ian Guerin
Sep 5, 2018 · 4 min read

Anna —

This morning I woke up and headed to the visitor center at Mammoth Cave National Park. I stayed in the park’s campground last night, so it was not too much of a difficult time getting there on time for my 9:15 check in.

I had a lot of time today to reflect on my New York City ultimate career. While I thought during college that it was only going to be a college thing, it took a lot of really great turns after college. I started playing frisbee as part of the NYC greater community, and got to meet people such as yourself. It’s hard to confront the thought of (physically) leaving that community. A lot of the friendships that I formed took a lot of time, and micro hangout sessions, and really getting to know really great people. It’s not until you’re in a cave, with strangers, with no opportunity for conversation, that you realize how lucky ou are to have a strong community around you. Even if it is something as stupid as sitting on each other’s shoulders whenever presented the proper opportunity.

We walked four miles underground, at some points up to 300 feet below the surface. The tour was called Grand Avenue, which takes you up and down three “mountains” inside of the cave. The ranger promised us a grueling trek, but it was more than manageable. Considering there was a 72 year old fellow traveler, I’d say the warnings were perhaps a little overblown.

Some cave shots, with a cool gypsum formation on the bottom left

Parts of the trail were really beautiful, and parts of it just felt like the line of an amusement park. I came at the tail end of Labor Day, which probably accounts for some of the crowd, but it really did detract from the experience, having another 79 people down in the cave, making constant quips about there being no windows, or the sun being too bright. Maybe I just wasn’t in my brightest of moods today in order to fully appreciate it all.

The blurry entrance to the cave, around 260 steps down into the ground

I will say, the coolest part of the hike was the Frozen Niagara section. A lot of the cave features have very sensational names like the Grand Canyon and Lover’s Leap, but this one was pretty well named. I especially like that it is still growing, or is still active. There’s a hike that just takes you to Frozen Niagara, so maybe that’d be my advice to anyone who may visit.

The frozen falls of Niagara

Right before we left the cave the ranger gave our group a really unique experience. Once we had all take a seat on a bench in one of the main gathering places, she, along with the other ranger, turned off all of the lights. It is very dark down in a cave with no lights on. With everyone holding their breath, it is also very silent. Incredible how much light her cigarette lighter created. It’s not so impossible to believe that people first entered the cave with nothing but burning sticks to guide their way.

One of the coolest things I learned was that the cave is mapped to be about 415 miles long, but there are constantly expeditions of people pushing further into the cave. Although I don’t quite understand if under water caves contribute to the length, or if they only officially count the “dry” cave.

My homies coming to check in

Yours —

IAN

Noted:

  • It took me until the end of the summer to get stung by a bee for the first time since, I don’t know, childhood
  • This is my first paid campsite without free showers; what’s more surprising is that there are drinking water spigots and toilet houses with water / electric

notes from wherever me and the van gogh

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