Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I Dream of Caves

It will probably come as no surprise to you, since I’ve written and will be releasing a novel called Sinkhole, that I love caves. It has long been a dream of mine to visit the massive signature caves in Kentucky appropriately dubbed Mammoth Caves.

This summer my dream came true. We planned a road trip to Kentucky, and as with all road trips there were fantastic, fascinating, freaky and downright dreary situations--well, maybe not dreary, just moderately annoying.

The first leg of our journey took us around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to the foot of Erie in Cleveland. In Cleveland we holed up in a hotel with this view within the block.

Cleveland Indians Stadium—luckily, or unluckily in certain people’s opinions, the Indians weren't in residence and no game was playing at the time.

Creepy Cemetery—make sure you always situate yourself near one on a vacation.
Since it was Saturday night, and we were in the heart of Cleveland, what else would you do but traipse down the street in your tourist attire, walk the twelve blocks or so to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and look over your shoulder at every other mystery stalker at your back.
Well, we finally arrived at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it, conveniently, closed just as we entered the doors. Time to trudge back twelve blocks, and it was rather hot outside.

The next day we headed for the caves in Kentucky. I opted to drive through the major cities on this day: Columbus and Cincinnati. I have no problem driving through cities (not in them, mind you), but Cincinnati took me by surprise. We crested a hill, peered over the side towards spectacular towering office buildings, immediately sped downward into a tunnel, veered sharply left and climbed onto a bridge that landed us squarely, or obtusely, in Kentucky.

This was the view while ripping through, I mean driving serenely through the city.

Finally we arrived in Kentucky. This is what Kentucky looks like:

Rolling hills with very few streams and rivers, but a number of these:


I would explain the geology to you, because it fascinates me—limestone base rock with a sandstone cap rock, but my guess is it might become dry, so I’ll let you read about it here.

So within . . .

we were first introduced to the local wildlife:
Wild turkeys
Not Kentucky Fried, mind you, but probably taste delicious dipped in batter, or simply roasted. Yes, I guess I was getting hungry at the time.
Then we ran out of road. . .

Really should have paid attention to the signs.

Our hotel was phenomenal. I’m reminded of residence life in university. Yes, the quarters were that tight and the beds were that hard. And the staff was . . . well, not exactly friendly. The only hotel in town, indeed.
But who cares, because we were there for caving, not five-star luxury accommodations. But before we embarked on our first cave tour, I thought it wasn’t too much to ask for a little fresh/not fried food, possibly some fruit. What? No fruit? Yep, nothing but apple slices, morning, noon and night. (I know this isn’t a fruit story, but there is a point, I swear.)
The next day it was time for the Historic Tour from the only natural entrance in the longest cave system in the world. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Creep hole


Remember the Dome Sinkhole above. This is what lies beneath.


Yes, there were a number of tight squeezes that were appropriately named.


On our way out the temperature differential was a tad drastic: 55° F to 110°F, enough to fog up your glasses.

After Tour Number One, we explored a few trails above ground in the balmy temperatures. At one point we came upon Sand Cave (actually I mapped out the route and made sure we grabbed a glance at this unspectacular cave since I did include a little story within the story about Floyd Collins and his demise in Sinkhole).

Where Floyd Collins met his untimely end.

While hiking, and sweating, in the lovely scenic national park, we were also discovered by curious wildlife.

Day Two included a trip to nearby Diamond Caverns, which don’t actually contain embedded diamonds, but something far more spectacular.

Cave creations

And a few people gawking at Cave Creations

The next day we opted for the strenuous cave tour: 4 miles underground, 4 1/2 hours, 1% of the Mammoth Cave system. One day I plan to return and explore the other 99%.

Tight Squeeze (not really, but awesome S formations)

That's a cave, man. Yes, contrary to the evidence of flash photography, it was dark.


Lunch in the Snowball Room. Note the snowball formations above our heads.

Frozen Niagara
Frozen Niagara Ceiling

The next day we headed back to Cincinnati, where this time I vowed I’d actually stop and get a real view of the city . . .

And check out the local wildlife . . .

Ignoring the fact that we were entirely landlocked.

Sometimes you should be careful what’s behind you, though.

Our last day of road trip activity took us back to Cleveland, where we were determined to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Of course we did find the local wildlife here rather fascinating. . .

And we came upon this steamer ship that I just couldn’t resist, although it was 110°F in the shade, or in the hold. Wilting, but still an absolute joy to discover, two football fields in length.

In the good old U S of A.

And yes, we made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where . . . they wouldn’t let us take pictures, except for this one.

After walking around downtown Cleveland in the worst heat wave of the decade, I realized I preferred to see the Hall of Fame from this vantage point.
Air conditioned Hotel Room
It was a long trip, so we were lucky we caught a few of these along the road:

Mmm. Coffee. Or preferably, at the time, Iced Cappuccino.

A fabulous trip, all things considered. We arrived home after seven days without fruit and I went a little overboard.

Ontario Fruit, nothing like it, along with a few of those Mexican bananas. Did you see the wild blueberries? Did you see the Kahlua and Baileys? Well, you know, we did cross the border.

And about those tacky T-shirts and souvenir cups that you shake your head at?
Couldn’t resist.

But the best is yet to come, because I can relive the adventure when I read and watch all of these . . .

 Did you really think I’d leave without books (and DVDs)?


Jim said...

Sounds like an awesome cave adventure.

I used to love visiting Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana when I lived there. Lots of fun "cave creations", perfect destination on a hot day because of the temperature drop. Plus. . . LEARNING!

Secondly. . . you have a bad link. When I attempted to learn the geology of sinkholes it just took me to, which, since I was logged in as me (and who else would I be logged in as) just took me to my own blog. And I was unable to teach myself anything that I didn't already know about sink holes.

1) They sink.
2) They are holes.


Deborah Jackson said...

It was fantastic! Can't get enough of caves.

I think it would only take you a day of travel to get there, so it's worth a look sometime. Perfect when it's this hot out, too.

Thanks for pointing out the link issue. Now fixed, I think. The area is fascinating because it's pocked with these sinkholes with very little surface-level waterways. Water breaks through the cap rock and seeps underground, continually carving out new caves. Very cool.

Boris said...

You and your family must have had a ball. Maybe when my girls are a tad older. I think the 3 year old would give us some trouble :)

Deborah Jackson said...

There were some shorter tours, but they'd still be a bit much for young children. Actually it was perfect with teens, because for once they weren't complaining :)