When I was 9 years old, we traveled as a family to Jamaica. We went to some caves there, and all I wanted to do was explore them, but my mom (like me) is claustrophobic and doesn’t like heights, so we didn’t go. I think that desire to explore caves has stuck with me since then, since I wanted to go so badly and was unable to go. Well, now it was my turn, as a parent, to make this decision for my family – so we went!
Mammoth Cave National Park is the largest cave system in the world, with more than 400 miles explored. As we were driving up to the caves (which were a bit of a challenge to find since we used backroads) we kept seeing this sign. What does THAT mean?
When you visit, you have your choice of 13 different guided tours. We based our choice off of which one began next, which gave us the Historic Tour: 2 miles, moderate difficulty. I really didn’t consider how scary it might be, the temperature, or how long 2 miles underground would be. This is probably a good thing. Anyone who knows me knows I fear tight spaces and heights. These fears are amplified now that I have children. So, I placed Bryce in the Ergo (no back-carries allowed), and Richard held Lydia. Unfortunately, the dog peed on my Ergo (yuck!), but we didn’t notice prior to leaving for our trip, so I had to use Richard’s Ergo. And here’s the entrance into the caves.
What I wasn’t expecting was the temperature – it’s cold down there – which was perfect for me since my anxiety made me sweat a bit.Here are some random pictures. This tour led us 300 feet underground. Our tour guide told stories of slaves who led guided tours during the 1800s, extracting part of the rocks to make gunpowder during times of war, and how all they had was candlelight to guide them underground.
The scariest part of the tour for me was what our tour guide said was a 150-foot drop, right alongside the narrow staircase we climbed. I wish I had a better picture, but I was too terrified to look over the edge to take one, so here’s what I have. The idea of falling down there, dropping a child down there, accidentally letting go of any of my belongings – nothing shy of absolute horror in my mind. I still get the chills just thinking about it!
We exited here…
And took a family photo outside the caves.
If we go through life avoiding our fears, we will never know what we are capable of – I was absolutely terrified of going through portions of the cave – my heart was pounding, my breathing was way too fast, and my hands were shaking – but I did it! And more importantly, I learned from it…lessons I will take with me forever.