Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mammoth Cave, KY

The first stop on our trip this summer was Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.  We had visited Mammoth on our first big out west trip and had fallen in love with the programming (above and below ground) and with the campground.  Since it is only about nine hours from us it makes a great first stop.

The last time we went The Boy was too young to participate in the special ranger program for kids called TROG (short for Troglobite - critters that live both in and out of caves).  We were so excited about this program that we registered in February as soon as the summer schedule came out.

The first day of driving was beautiful - it was sunny and clear.  It's always so exciting to set out on a big trip, and the mountains of Western VA and KY gave us a good chance to see how the trailer brakes were working, and to see how the engine worked with the transmission cooler (we'd decided to add those two devices to our current Subaru Outback instead of buying a new vehicle).  En route to Mammoth we decided that the hitch was too low, and that The Woodsman would spend part of the day when the kids were doing the TROG program in Bowling Green getting and installing a new hitch.

 After a quick supper we headed off to a ranger talk about technology used in the cave from prehistory until now.  We always learn so much from the ranger programs, and this one was no exception.  The ancient peoples explored much of the cave using only reed torches.   Then the guides took over using candle and then gas lanterns.  Now of course there are electric lights and battery powered headlamps.  An illuminating program to be sure...

It was a very hot and humid night, and in the middle of the night the power went off which meant that the generators that power the hotel kicked on - and they were very, very loud!  I am a light sleeper which meant that I had a very restless night.

The next day we took an early morning tour of the "New" Entrance  (Domes and Dripstones Tour) and saw some formations we hadn't seen before.  The Frozen Niagara formation was really beautiful.  But, overall, we decided that we enjoyed The Historic Tour more since there was more variety of formations and history of the cave.

After a quick lunch we tore the camper down and sent The Woodsman off to fix the hitch.  Then, in the afternoon the kids headed to the TROG program.  I was so tired that I did one of Farmer Dan's tricks and took a nap on top of the picnic table.  Then, because it was so hot and humid I took advantage of the natural air conditioning flowing out of the cave, and sat at the mouth of the cave until I was cold.

All suited up and ready to go
The Historic Entrance- a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.
I heard the kids before I saw them.  Their excited echos floated up out of the dark.  I couldn't wait to hear about this adventure.  As soon as I saw them I could tell that TROG had not disappointed them.  The rangers that lead their trip were great with kids and took them in places of the cave that the regular tours don't get to see.  Two highlights were belly crawling through "the worm hole" and seeing the remains of an ancient Native American sooty hand print on the wall.

We ended our day with a ranger campfire program (our favorite reason to stay inside the parks) called "Bat Chat" where we got to listen to the Bats using a special tool that brought bat sonar down to a level that human ears could hear.

That night we had an adventure of another kind.  Let's just say, there's a reason I carry a bucket, rags, Clorox wipes and Lysol.  Hello sleepless night number two.  On the up side, if there were going to be sick kids thank goodness it happened above ground and not deep in the cave - that would have been a disaster.

Day three of our trip found us leaving Kentucky with an early morning start as we began the push across the plains and into the mountains.  One of the commitments I'd made to myself before leaving was to make sure to walk for at least 45 minutes a day.  So, even though I was tired, in the early morning before the rest of the crew was awake, I headed down the River Styx trail to find where the river exits the cave and to see the Green River before leaving.  It was a peaceful and meditative close to our time at Mammoth.

 As we were driving, we made plans to return to Mammoth again soon.  We love it too much to wait until our next major trip west, and because it's so close we enjoyed knowing that we'd be back underground again soon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Fun 2014

I love October.  It has to be one of my favorite months - we've had so many wonderful activities going on, and there are still a few more before winter arrives.

Mountain Craft Festival, Somerset PA


Shelling Corn
 Daddy Daughter Camping at Trout Pond

The Girl learned how to make mountain pies herself.
 Dad and Kid hike on Old Rag, Shenandoah National Park

These are the same kids that complained all summer when we hiked!  Amazing!

The last long hair picture for the boy- it's now much shorter, and I'm much sadder.
 Applesauce and Woodcutting Party

My cousin and her girls were able to join us.  Perfect Day!

The middle child keeps up a running commentary the whole time while working - love it!

We lucked out this year and got Honey Crisp Apples - maybe the best sauce we've every made.

Every Christmas The Woodsman gives Farmer Dan a coupon to bring in his winter's supply of wood.  What a guy!

Cousin love

Beside herself with joy - wish we saw this sweet boy more often.
 Family Campfires

What have you been up to?