Sunday - 9.3.00

Kurt woke me up about 6:00 AM because some damn noisy deer had awakened him. He pointed out to me a doe having breakfast right outside the tent window - only about 15-20 feet away from us. She was wagging her tail incessantly in a warning fashion. It wasn't but just a few moments before a second deer arrived on the scene. The two kept us up for the next half-hour clomping around in the underbrush. They were really neat to watch though.

(Click for more pictures)

We both got up around 9:15 AM, broke camp and hiked back to the Jeep. Free camping again - we saved $13.00 and miraculously didn't get in trouble. Thanks National Park System! The first thing on the agenda for the day was obtaining gas. Afterwards, we found the visitor's center (right next to the gas station). We discovered we weren't the only ones at Mammoth Cave this weekend. We also discovered that we needed to obtain tickets for a guided tour in order to see any of the caves. Trouble was all the tours were nearly booked for the day at it wasn't even 10:00 AM yet. After viewing what tours were still available for the day, got in line to purchase tickets for the Discovery tour (a simple easy tour). Kurt ran back to the Jeep to retrieve more money from the Jeep since there was a ticket fee. I stayed in line for the tickets. When I finally was called to an open desk, the Ranger told me two tickets had just been returned and were available for the Historic Tour. Luckily, this tour started in 45 minutes. The Ranger explained that it was one of the two most popular tours of the caves. Kurt finally made it back with our money and we were able to obtain the tickets. We quickly changed shoes and got an extra shirt out of the Jeep. As we were waiting for the tour to begin, we browsed the park brochure; in it we discovered that the second camp ground we hunted for the previous night was indeed closed and that camping in backwoods is by permit only - oops.

Historic Tour

The tour took approximately 2 1/2 hours and covered a distance of over 2 miles. The lowest point in the cave the tour descended to was 360 feet below the surface. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave in the world; a sprawling 336 miles of corridors have been discovered and more are uncovered every day.

(Click for more pictures)

We went through a variety of caverns, from very large (Mammoth Dome was 180 ft high) to very, very small (Fat Man's Misery and Tall Man's Misery, where you had to stoop and walk sideways).


Our guide also informed us about the history of the caves; artifacts have been uncovered indicating man was using the caves as long as 4000 years ago. Oddly the cave was not used from about 2000 years ago until the late 1700's. Overall, the cave tours was excellent - Kurt and I want to go back and try one of the more advanced tours. (Wild Cave - a 6 hour long tour requiring a helmet, lights, kneepads and full hiking boots.) After the tour we decided it was time for lunch and a swim (baths). We found a lake just north of the park called Nolin River Lake. We had a hard time finding a beach so we made our own at the picnic area. We ate our sandwich leftovers and took a swim (without waiting an hour of course). The water was a little green but very clear - you could almost see your feet.

Some kids were jumping off the fishing pier so we decided to join them. Pretty cool - it was about a 10-foot jump off of the railing. It was fun jumping, but climbing up the pier was a little tough. We each jumped 2-3 times and then swam around a bit more.

(Click for more pictures)

We swam for a total of about 40 minutes and we felt a lot cleaner than before the dip. We got back in the Jeep and cruised on over to Henderson, KY. Here we found yet another Wal-mart. Kurt needed a few more T-shirts and boxers. The natives still talked funny even though we were only about 15 miles from Indiana.

We continued on into Indiana about 20 minutes later. We stopped at a truck stop to look for magnets (you're welcome again, Denise) but alas, they didn't have any. We did notice that the natives all of a sudden didn't have much of an accent. Full of disappointment at our fruitless magnet search, we turned on to I-64 and left Indiana and entered Illinois. We drove on to Mt. Vernon, IL, for Dinner. Kurt and I were looking over the selection of restaurants and discovered another Mexican Diner. Kurt graciously agreed to endure Mexican cuisine again, so we ate at El Racherito. Amazingly, we discovered yet again a menu suspiciously similar to El Cazador back home. Once we ordered, the waiter delivered our food with incredible speed (just like El Caz). Coincidence? We don't think so. The Mexican Mafia is alive and well and smuggling illegal immigrants into our country to serve us Mexican food fast and hot. Seriously most of the sauces and cheeses were identical in all three restaurants. They all feature 25-30 combo platters and 4 vegetarian platters. They also have their "house specialties" (identical) and a definitions section on the menu. The employees also always wear black pants with white shirts or embroidered polo shirts in all the restaurants. Creepy…

With all this weighing on our minds we set out for St. Louis. We ended up finding a cheap Motel 6 in Caseyville, IL. We made sure we were still outside of scary East St. Louis though. We checked in and took real showers and went to bed around midnight. (Day 10)

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09.25.2000 -