mammoth cave national park

One of our annual trips is an easy drive out to Fairfield Glade, TN for a few days with Greg’s side of the family, and this year we combined it with a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park in KY. Our 4th national park, in case anyone else is counting.

We drove out toward the Smoky Mountains on Sunday August 23, and stopped to picnic at Big Creek. Greg really wanted to hike a few miles out to Midnight Swimming Hole, but at 35 weeks pregnant I asked for a raincheck on that one. Hopefully the swimming hole hike will happen on the way out to next year’s reunion. It’s described as “one of the most scenic and beautiful natural swimming holes in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” We stayed closer to the Big Creek picnic area this time, a short walk from the parking lot. Greg and the kids took off their shoes and splashed around while I got lunch ready.

Our time in Fairfield Glade is always enjoyable. It’s an absolutely gorgeous golf area with a lot of fun family activities. This year we paddled around the lake in a giant duckling paddle boat, visited the pool a few times, had some great Mexican food, took a family pontoon boat ride, and hiked around the neighborhood. We also found a movie that was filmed in the area and watched it together! (Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper; a black & white film from the 40’s about the most highly decorated soldier of WWII.)

One of our days in TN, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north toward Kentucky. We were headed for Mammoth Cave, but when we saw a sign for the Alvin York State Park, we couldn’t resist a quick detour. Sergeant York’s original homestead, as well as his local church + cemetery, have been turned into a Tennessee state park, complete with a visitor center modeled after a “general store” from the same time period. We stopped, visited the York house (which was locked), and then hiked to the cemetery to see Alvin York’s tombstone. I grew up watching the movie with my family, so it was pretty cool to see real places from the story! Highly recommend if you’ve never seen it.

Back on the road, we reached Mammoth Cave around noon. After a quick lunch, we arrived at the Historic tour entrance for a safety briefing before entering the cave. It was about a thousand degrees outside but mid-50’s inside. Eva has a cute habit of guzzling water on road trips and then overflowing her diaper, but this time I didn’t have extra shorts for her, so we bundled her in Greg’s jacket and started our 2m walk around the cave. I’m not big on caves but it was interesting to contrast this one with our visit to Luray Caverns earlier in August. Luray is a “wet” cave (with stalactites and stalagmites formed by slowly dripping water) but Mammoth Cave is a “dry” cave. I think the idea is that a huge underground river formed the cave long ago. It felt like being in a subway station, without the train track.

The most eventful part of our cave tour was when I started having sharp Braxton Hicks contractions every few minutes. Greg & I both briefly panicked as we pictured getting lost underground and having the baby there! I ended up skipping the second half of the tour and waiting for everyone on a bench. Thankfully we made it out and back to Fairfield Glade.

Not our favorite park but we were happy to check it off the list!


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