CAVING AT MAMMOTH CAVE Mammoth Cave National Park,Park City, Ky.

Expedition Team:  Jacqueline Miller, Holly Miller, Dave Miller, Javier Riesco Gonzalez, Shane Miller, Justin Eller, Kei Haguchi

Expedition Dates:  2006 & 2012

Mammoth Cave is the longest recorded cave system in the world with more than 348 miles mapped and explored. It is three times longer than any other known cave and geologists estimate there could be 600 miles of undiscovered passageways. Two guides led our group each time on a 7 hour, 5 ½ mile exploration to little explored areas that regular walking tours do not go on.

THE EXPLORATION:  Our group was supplied thick coveralls, hard hats, head light, gloves, knee pads and a small pack for our lunch. We supplied ankle high hiking boots. Due to a cave fungus that kills bats, the National Park Service collect and wash the gear after usage to prevent the fungus from spreading. We descended 300 to 350 feet below the surface and spent the day walking, crawling, climbing, rolling or wiggling acrobatically through seemingly impossible openings or challenging climbs. We saw cave crickets, cave beetles and bats. On many rocks we saw charcoal autographs from the 1800’s and early 1900’s from early cave guides. There is a reason a person with a chest size of over 42 inches is not allowed to participate. You can get stuck. My hips barely made it through several tight holes. Many times the squeeze was so tight that you had to lay on your back, relax and control your breathing so that your chest sank enough to wiggle across long stretches. This trip is not for anyone who is claustrophobic. The exploration was starkly beautiful but physically demanding as everyone was pooped by the end. We all ate very well that evening around the campground campfire. Since photos were difficult to take, I included photos from previous trips in which we took our foreign exchange students, Javi from Spain and Kei from Japan.

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