Sunday, November 05, 2006

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD























Mammoth Cave National Park Campsite: After three days of cold rain, last Thursday dawned bright and sunny. Hubby stuck his head out the door and proclaimed it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And it was. (Our neighborhood consisted of 111 campsites, 110 of them empty!) We wished we would have gone on the cave tour on Wednesday when it was raining so we wouldn't have had to waste 2 hours of this beautiful day, but since we didn't we would go this morning.

The cave tour was okay. It's not a very beautiful cave, but it is impressive because it's the longest cave in the world. Over 350 miles of passages have been explored. Our tour was 2 hours and listed as strenuous. Right inside the entrance we entered a deep shaft - 300 stairs seemingly straight down a narrow crooked shaft. We eventually arrived at the bottom of the steps and a comparatively level walkway. We scrambled across the boulders, 250 feet below the surface for the next hour. Fortunately getting back up was a much more gradual climb, but it was a good workout.

We emerged back into the sunshine and decided to go on a drive after lunch. Hubby ploted the route based on the name - Ugly Creek Road - and we checked with the ranger to make sure it was a good plan. She had never driven this road, but said she always had wanted to, so she enthusiastically gave us her blessing.

The first part of the ride was on a normal 2 lane highway through the golden leaves of the hardwood forest. Soon we came to a sign that read: Road ends in water 1 mile ahead! Sure enough - the road ends at a river where you drive unto a small ferry that is attached to cables which guide it to the other side. From there it was only a couple of miles until we turned onto a much narrower, but still paved, road that snaked along the hill, up and down and around, through the trees of every shade of gold, rust, bronze, and orange.

Then we came to a dirt road, single lane width with no shoulders. The trees grew very close to the road and the entire roadway was covered with leaves. Not much traffic had been through there lately On the left side there were park boundry signs posted on the trees every so often, but on the right side were crudely hand printed signs stating: POSTED or NO TRESPASSING or KEEP OUT. I wasn't going to disobey those warnings!

This narrow dirt road, not much larger than a hiking trail, proved to be just the place to spend a beautiful sunny afternoon. The steep hills with sharp 90 degree turns kept hubby on his toes, and we stopped several times so I could take pictures of the sun shining through the trees on the winding roadway ahead of us. On the top of one hill we came across a small graveyard and we stopped to look at some of the old tombstones. We found several graves of Civil War heros, and we wondered why the graveyard was so far away from any visible church. Then again, a church from over 150 years ago wouldn't necessarily still be standing.

At one point we crossed Ugly Creek on a small cement bridge which was not much more than just some cement poured over the rocks to make a solid spot to cross the creek. We passed an old crumbling shed in a small clearing and saw a sign pointing to another graveyard. Otherwise it was trees, trees, and more trees, with some of them on our right side still warning us to KEEP OUT. And we didn't touch one leaf on that side!

All too soon our adventure was over and we arrived back to the highway where we would shortly take the ferry back across the river. We concluded our day with a roaring campfire and warmed over chili for supper. Yes, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

PS: We missed you, mom! You would have loved this adventure.

PPS: The Echo Trail looks like a super highway compared to this road, Molly!

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