Monday, April 20, 2015


Our camping weekend did end up hosed by weather - it was nice Friday night and Saturday, but then forecast to rain and / or storm Saturday night into Sunday morning. Since breaking camp in the rain blows and everyone we had planned to camp with had already bailed days before, we pulled the plug on camping plans on Thursday night. After the kids were in bed, we briefly debated some options and then booked one night in the hotel at Mammoth Cave National Park and a pair of cave tour tickets for Friday afternoon. After this trip, I'm feeling a bit sheepish that we've lived less than three hours away from a national park our whole lives and only visited once. I had only been there previously for one cave tour and was happily surprised to learn that they have miles and miles of really nice trails as well as several campgrounds and ranger-led activities. The park itself is free and kids under six don't need tickets for any of the cave tours, so other than the hotel and the slightly overpriced on-site restaurant, the trip was pretty cheap. We did shell out for a National Parks passport book for each of the boys, plus the set of regional stamps that included Mammoth Cave. I would love to send them into adulthood with a healthy number of passport stamps in their books.

We drove down Friday right after lunch, visited the museum / exhibit area of the visitor center, went for a short walk, and then went on our cave tour. It was about an hour long and Elliott happily walked the whole thing, though I wore his carrier on my back just in case. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and then took the boys on a stroll along the Heritage Trail, a boardwalk that ran right behind our room. On Saturday morning we hiked for about an hour and a half. The terrain was rugged enough to feel exciting but not so bad as to be exhausting, and it was very pretty. The trails were very nicely maintained and not at all crowded, despite the park offering a bunch of free activities as part of National Parks Week. We were really impressed with the park and really happy with our decision to visit. Nico completed three activities in a Junior Ranger activity book and got a certificate and a little badge to bring home. As part of the free weekend, they were offering self-guided discovery tours of the historic part of the cave, so we did that after our hike.

We debated staying another night, but the rain the next day meant we wouldn't want to do any hiking, and Nico had been invited to a school friend's birthday party on Sunday afternoon, so we opted not to stay. We left the park after the cave tour and drove to Cave City, which is pretty much a tourist trap that sprung up to occupy park visitors, I'm pretty sure. Our purpose there was to take the boys to Dinosaur World since Nico is finally going through a dinosaur phase. (As a lifelong dinosaur lover, I am quite gleeful about this and feel that my time has finally come as a parent.) We spent a fortune on this venture, but it was worth it. I don't think Nico walked one step inside the park - everywhere he went, he was bounding or galloping or running, pointing and exclaiming and shouting about the dinosaurs he saw. MB splurged on mineral panning tickets and the boys got to sift fossils out of a big bin of sand (the sand was easily Elliott's favorite part). We left as the park closed for the day, slightly sunbaked, very sweaty, covered in sunscreen and a little bit of dirt, feeling great about our little weekend adventure.

Waiting to board our bus to the cave. "Cave! Go inna cave!"

Working on his Junior Ranger nature scavenger hunt. We found an impressive number of items, including a toad and a snake.

Reading:  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Playing:   the radio, surprisingly often lately

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