Mammoth Cave, Lincoln Birthplace and Boyhood Home

After we told the Smokies goodbye, we headed for Knoxville, with a stop at the RV Wash on the way (manual, this time).

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We drove up to Knoxville, found a lovely Walmart to park in for the night, a McDonald’s for Chad to work in for a couple hours, and the kids and I headed for Mast General Store. My sister gave me a Mast gift card for my birthday and Mom and Dad wanted me to buy myself a birthday present there, so shopping we went! Fun, Fun!

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After a trip to Costco and a quiet night at Walmart, we were off to Kentucky. We stayed just outside Mammoth Cave National Park, near Cave City, in the Singing Hills Campground.

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We had a view of a nice little pond out of our windows, and there was a spoooooky old barn!

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Sweet Pea and I took the Historical Tour of the cave. It was FABULOUS! It was a two-hour, ranger led tour. This is the longest cave in the world, with 400+ miles of passageways currently explored. I asked one ranger if there is an idea of how many more miles there are. His reply: “Countless. We might not ever find the end.” Makes you wonder what’s under your feet?!

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Entrance to the cave. We experienced something really interesting. See the thin line of mist the arrows are pointing to? That was just a little flat cloud, hanging out over the entrance to the cave (down beyond the fence to the right). If we held our arms straight out in the plane of this mist, above it was warm and below it was cool, within a couple inches of movement.

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On the tour, we saw salt-peter mines from the War of 1812—it was mined for use in gunpowder. I guess when we declared war on the British we forgot they were supplying our gunpowder, and had to find a new way to provide it to the troops. The cave’s constant temperature and humidity and lack of wind and weather preserves the wood and other artifacts from so long ago. Of course, slaves were the primary source of labor, and they would have to work in these dark caves 12+ hours/day. After the cave became a tourist attraction, slaves were used as tour guides. One in particular, Stephen Bishop, became a guide in 1838 and was able to meet visitors from all over the country and the world. In the process, he became quite educated, learning to read and write and even learning some of several foreign languages along the way. He mapped over 20 miles of the cave and spent as much time as he could down there. His owner wrote in his will that seven years after his death, Bishop would be freed. When he was freed, what did Bishop do? Continued leading tours in Mammoth Cave. Sadly, he only lived one year after seeing freedom.

Thousands of years earlier, Native Americans mined the cave for gypsum. No one is certain what it was used for, but two thousand years ago, mining apparently came to an abrupt end.

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The portion of the cave we went through had tiny passageways, about 12-16” wide for your feet, knees and hips, some requiring visitors to bend over at the waist to duck through, many that required ducking down to protect our heads.

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And then there were HUGE rooms with domed ceilings.

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The picture below shows the entrance and exit to the cave. When we were finished with the tour and waiting to exit along this metal railing down a ways inside the cave, the tour line came to a stop. There was a major rainstorm happening outside, and the ranger was very urgently and loudly telling us all to choose to “make a run for it” and exit, or get back inside the cave, but to GET AWAY from the metal railing, because lightning could travel right down the railing. I’m thinking a CAVE isn’t exactly where I want to be with the amount of rain that was falling and had to go SOMEWHERE! Somewhere low! So Sweet Pea and I made a run for it, up all those steps and then a very steep hill back to the visitor center. We were drenched through and through when we got inside, and praying the whole way for protection from the lightning. At least the rain was warm—in Colorado we would have been popsicles by the time we got inside. Thankful for God’s protection!

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Went to a great ranger program on how to identify trees, kids earned another ranger badge!

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On the way from Mammoth Cave to the Cincinnati area (Creation Museum!!) we stopped at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace and Boyhood Home. This memorial was built in 1909, Lincoln’s 100th birthday, and has 56 steps, one for each year of his life. Inside is a real log cabin from the era of his birth, although it isn’t the actual log cabin of his family.

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We enjoy studying Lincoln, especially Sweet Pea, who did a research report and presentation and even dressed up like and portrayed him two years ago for a Classical Conversations class.

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His parents and their family Bible, probably the first written words Lincoln saw. Below, the Sinking Spring the Lincoln family used, and where Abraham’s first drink of water would have come from.

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At the Boyhood Home, near Hodgenville, KY, we got to wade in Knob Creek, where Lincoln played, and one day almost drowned and was rescued by a friend. Right now there are only a couple inches of water there, but the ranger said the creek can really get deep and flow briskly after rain.

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Another badge for the hat, and passport stamps!

Creation Museum, here we come!

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