U.S. National Parks

Maine or Bust 2022: Miles of Passageways

With over 365 miles of surveyed passageways, geologists think there could be 600 more miles yet to be charted throughout the cave that lies below Mammoth Cave National Park. Known as the longest cave system on earth, it has been explored off and on for the last 4,000 years. The national park offers a selection of below ground tours for curious visitors. Reg reserved the 2-hour Gothic Tour, allowing us a taste of what the ancient explorers found.

A flight of stairs led us down past a dripping waterfall and into the historic entrance of the cave. Our guide led us a mile through several passageways, pointing out some artifacts dating back to the War of 1812 and telling endless stories of historical significance. Ancient graffiti covered the ceiling, left by 19th century explorers who created their names with soot from their candle flame.

The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail runs 16 miles from the park visitor’s center to the town of Park City. We rode about 5.5 miles before turning around…not bad for our first ride of the year. Sections of the mostly crushed rock trail made for a bumpy ride while the plank bridges created a much smoother path.

Getting to the backcountry area of the park required a short ferry ride across the fast-flowing Green River. We had the Big Hollow Loop trail almost completely to ourselves. Recent rains had left some slick, muddy areas. Downed trees lay across the trail in a few spots, requiring us to climb up and over.

Two full days to explore the park was plenty for us. If you want to take advantage of several different cave tours then three or four days might be better. Either way, Mammoth Cave National Park is definitely worth the stop. Now, on to West Virginia…

Categories: Maine or Bust 2022, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maine or Bust 2022: A Thunderous Kentucky Welcome

We arrived at our Singing Hills RV Park campsite early in the day, so we had a free afternoon to explore Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park prior to our scheduled cave tour the next morning.

After a securing a park guide with map, and armed with a couple short hike recommendations, we each gobbled down a mammoth hot dog and left the busy visitor’s center. The promise of wild flowers led us to a short hike to see where the underground River Styx exits, spilling into a muddy pond that flows into Green River.

Back at our campsite, Mother Nature had plans for our evening. You might remember awhile back I mentioned my fear of tornadoes. As we were making dinner, my phone began whining like a miniature air raid siren with a voice shouting ”Tornado warning! Take cover now!” Fortunately, I had my warning radius set far wider than necessary and the danger zone was a safe distance away…but not so far away that we avoided the storm. A bank of black clouds quickly covered us, bringing winds that shook our trailer, thunder, lightning and torrential rains. A pretty crazy night!

Categories: Maine or Bust 2022, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Travels With Minnie: America’s Newest National Park

Recently added, New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia is our country’s sixty-third national park.

Although the day was gray and misty, holiday crowds were out in force at America’s newest national park. Chris picked us up and we made the hour drive southeast to the Canyon Rim Visitors Center near Fayetteville where we managed to squeeze through the crowds for a look at the New River Gorge Bridge.

The steel span arch bridge opened in 1977 and stretches 3,030 feet across. The 1,700 foot long arch earned the bridge the distinction of being the world’s longest single-span arch bridge, a spot it held for 26 years.
The New River is one of only a few rivers that flows south to north. Above is the view south from the bridge.

We had time for a short hike along the Endless Wall Trail. The Wall rises above the New River and is a popular spot for climbers. Since we were walking along the top of it and not inclined to get too close to the edge, we couldn’t fully appreciate the sheer drop off that gives the trail its name.

Categories: Travels With Minnie, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The World’s Tallest Trees


No trip to northern California would be complete without a chance to stand beneath the world’s tallest trees.  Our first stop was the Lady Bird Johnson Grove where we walked one of the most popular trails in Redwood National Park.  We arrived early, just as the fog was lifting…and parking was still available.

Coast Redwoods can live more than 2,000 years and reach 360 feet in height.

Our next stop was just up the road to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  In addition to numerous hiking trails, herds of elk are a popular attraction and are often be seen grazing throughout the large meadows alongside the roadway.
We were not so lucky with the elk, but we saw plenty more majestic redwoods as we hiked through the forest.

Categories: California, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s a Grand Canyon

There was not a cloud in the sky today as we gazed over the rim of Grand Canyon.

It’s impossible to capture the vastness of the Grand Canyon with a simple photo. However, that has never stopped me from trying! Wandering the Rim Trail, we worked up an appetite and soon found refreshments in the El Tovar Hotel restaurant (be sure to ask for a table with a view). We wandered through the Hopi House (below right), built in 1904. The gift shop showcases Native American arts and crafts.

As we headed back to the parking lot, were reminded of our last trip to the Grand Canyon 13 years ago. Our sons were all well into their teenage years, and we wanted one last family adventure before they all headed off in different directions. The 2-day mule ride down to Phantom Ranch for the night, while not easy, remains a grand family memory.

We posed for a family photo on our 2006 mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Categories: Road Trips, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Crater Lake Detour

Our weather this past week has been positively springlike and today promised us more of the same…a perfect day for a Sunday drive. We climbed in the truck and Reg aimed uphill. Our sights (and appetites) were set on lunch at one of our favorite mountain area restaurants.

But then I said, “Let’s go to Crater Lake.” And so we did!

This was our first winter visit to Crater Lake National Park. Fortunately we didn’t need a cozy fireplace to warmup today since the lodge is closed for the season. Without snowshoes we had to settle for wandering along the plowed village road, peeking at the lake when we could.

Since we detoured from our original plan, lunch was a casual affair at the Village Cafe. While we ate we eavesdropped as a park ranger spouted statistics to a family of first time visitors:

Crater Lake is the deepest lake (1,949 feet) in the United States. Deeper than Empire State Building stacked on top of Seattle’s Space Needle.

Because of clouds, fog and bad weather, winter visitors have only a 50% chance of seeing the lake. (We felt lucky!)

No streams flow in or out of the lake. Water level remains constant due to precipitation, evaporation and seepage.

Today’s drive opened our eyes to just how close we live to this beautiful National Park. Winter, summer, spring or fall…this is a detour we’ll be sure to take again!

Categories: Ashland life, Road Trips, U.S. National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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