Friday, June 19, 2015

Southeast Road Trip Day 5

Day 5 dawned bright and early in the Mammoth Cave Campground.

It was a cereal for breakfast day.  We had packed a few single serve boxes of cereal and small tetrapack boxes of milk.  We just opened the cereal bag and poured the milk straight in.  During and after breakfast, everyone finished up their junior ranger booklets
Then we packed away most of our things:
And made our way towards the showers.  Not before stopping for Sedona to say hi to a snail though
The showers here are behind the camp store, next to the post office
They are supposed to be $3 for 10 minutes, but I found the last stall in the women's showers worked without any tokens.  I'm not sure if it was broken or if the timer was only running when the water was running and someone before us had left almost the full 10 minutes on the timer.  But all the girls in the family took a free shower by turning off the water while soaping up and only having it on when it was needed.  We gave the two tokens we were going to use to someone who was in line to buy some.

With gloriously clean hair and new clothes, we headed back over to the visitor's center
There are numerous cave tour options, and most of them just weren't going to work with Secora.  All of us except Josh deal with a little bit of anxiety over the whole "I'm underground and lots of rocks are on top of me" thing anyway, so 3 hours underground is pushing the limits of "enjoyable" for us.  Luckily, since they were on their spring schedule, there was the option to do the Discovery Tour, which is a short, self-led tour through a main section.  Controlling our own time table was perfect.
Cave entrance looks like a cave entrance.  I know caves have cooler temperatures, but this thing was blasting out cold air.  I was hoping we could see bats leave the cave at night, but it turns out that's specific to the Mexican Free-Tailed bats we have in Texas and that are at Carlsbad.  The species of bats at Mammoth roost in the forest.
I'll be honest, Mammoth Cave is a little disappointing after visiting Carlsbad Caverns.  The rangers had some interesting history to share though and it's neat to see

As we expected, it wasn't long before the girls were ready to head back to the surface.  Next stop was to turn in junior ranger packets

We packed up the tent and headed towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Here's the thing though, we were gonna get there really late.  And we were still kinda traumatized by the experience of being stuck at Montgomery Bell because we arrived so late.  And I'm somewhat addicted to national parks passport stamps.  And since Josh was driving, I had time to look at maps and convince him we should really go to Cumberland Gap National Park instead.

We were somewhat surprised to find these huge floodgates in Pineville, KY.  We've since learned a bit about the flood wall and major floods from the Cumberland river (pictures from the 1977 flood are horrific)
The realization that we were gonna get to go through a giant tunnel perked everyone up.   The Cumberland Gap Tunnel was built in the 90's to replace the "mountain massacre" surface road that had an accident rate six times higher than similar highways.

You actually cross a state line inside the tunnel, so we moved from Kentucky, back to Tennessee
And then as soon as we rounded the bend on the exit, we were in Virgina (another new state!)
We stopped for a quick picture before going into the campground.  Something Secora shouted many times on this trip...."wait guys! I have little legs!!"
There was no where to prop the camera, so I just took the picture of everyone else
Cumberland Gap campground was AWESOME.  One of my favorites on the trip.  The volunteer was nice and helpful, telling us which loops to avoid since they were filled up with boy scouts.  We stayed in loop A and the sites are close together, but also isolated.  Trees are in between every site.
This was our scariest dinner of the trip.  Frito pie, made with shelf stable ground beef.  I figured it'd either be inedible, or we'd all get sick, or we'd all be "rip n' ready" in the tent all night
It was awfully convenient.  No campfire needed tonight, just throw the whole pack in boiling water, then take it out and open it (pour over fritos in a bag, add some cheese....voila).
This stuff was actually really good.  Don't let "spicy" scare you.  I actually didn't notice that before I bought it and worried the girls wouldn't eat it.  It's not spicy at all, just has regular taco spices for flavor.  We all liked it and no one got sick or had any other unpleasant GI reactions.  I would definitely take this on a backpacking trip.  Heck, I'd even buy it to have on the shelf at home for a quick dinner.

After our dinner, we had time to head over to the amphitheater to listen to an interesting talk about long hunters.  I liked this guy's talk specifically because he mentioned at times, "now some historians may disagree with me, but here's what I think".  I appreciate when someone lets you know they've veered away from evidence and into opinion.

At the end, everyone got to check out the clothes, tools and furs
Secora was ready to replace her sleeping bag with the beaver fur
The only drawback to this campground was the giant asp that hunted Josh all night.  Well, I now know it was a harmless giant leopard moth caterpillar, but at the time we thought it would sting.  Josh knocked it off the outside of the tent after the girls went to sleep, then it crawled over to the picnic table where he was sitting.  Then we went to bed and before long it was back on the tent, right by Josh's head.  And that thing was LOUD.  It was like something out of a horror movie with the scratching sounds right by our heads.

A big plus to this campground that I kinda wish I knew the day before: huge, free showers.  There's a giant room you get to yourself with a bench and hooks at one end:
 And the shower, including a handheld (which would have been so much easier for washing Secora's hair), at the other end.
All that space would have made it easier for me to help all the girls get clean and get dressed without dragging clean clothes through communal shower floor ickiness.  Oh well, live and learn.  Next time around, shower day will be at Cumberland Gap.

We settled in for another night under the stars (and giant caterpillars) so we'd have the energy to spend Day 6 at Great Smoky Mountains!

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