Monday, November 28, 2011

Wal-Mart Confusion

Last night as Amy and walked into Wal-Mart I saw this table.

I assume that someone forgot to take down the sign...


-- Posted from my iPhone
(c) 2011 iWolff Ltd.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Big Underground

After we visited Abraham Lincoln's birthplace Amy and I continued on to Nashville.  However, since we'd had such an early start I figured that we could make one more stop at Mammoth Cave.  I'd been there years ago with my folks, but hadn't been back since, despite all the times I'd driven past on the way to and from Nashville.  It wasn't that long of a drive from Lincoln's birthplace, but it was a nice break to be able to stop and walk around for a while.  The roads were also nice on the drive to the Visitor's Center with quite a bit of forest on either side.

I made sure to stop at a couple of pull-offs to take pictures of the signs and enjoy the views a bit.  It reminded me of driving along the Colonial Parkway.

Once we got to the Visitor's Center we looked around for a bit, but there wasn't that much to see inside.
I did make sure that we both took pictures next to the sign, ;-).  Amy doesn't care for them, but I like to occasionally take stereotypical pictures like these.

All of the building area devoted to exhibits was under construction. I'm sure it will look nice when it is finished, but it meant that the only thing to look at in the building was the gift shop.
Though I have to admit that I did enjoy the central section of the Visitor's Center as it looked quite a bit like some of the National Park architecture out west.

After a bit we did decide to take one of the tours.  Years ago we took a tour, but I'm not really sure which one we went on all those years ago.  We missed the New Entrance tour (which seemed to focus on the natural aspects of the cave--including Frozen Niagara, which are the best formations in the cave), but took the Historic Tour.  I really enjoyed the historical aspects, learning about the different things that have been done in the cave over the years.  We gathered at Shelter A where our guide started telling us about the tour and then lead us down to the main cave entrance.  The below right picture is part of the roof of the shelter that I thought looked quite interesting.
I'm sure that he's used the same jokes frequently, but it was still fun to hear our guide explain the tour.

The walk down to the cave entrance was nice, even though the rain was drizzling.

I also took a video of the walk down the path.

The entrance of the cave looked quite pretty.  Our guide said that the water falling down is only that heavy a few times a year, but there had been plenty of rain recently.

During the War of 1812 the cave's owners rented a large number of slaves and used them to mine saltpeter--an essential component of gunpowder.  Ruins of some of the equipment can still be found in the cave since the environment (temperature and lack of life) discourages decay.
 I took a video of our guide explaining about some of the saltpeter mining.  Just look at the darkness of the video and imagine being underground, surrounded by the darkness, as you listen (though you can see a few things in the light).

After walking back the main passageway for a bit (and seeing some more leftover equipment from mining operations) our guide stopped us at another point.  He had a lantern which he employed after his college turned off all the electric lights.

I'm used to the dark when outside looking at the stars, but the complete dark of the cave is something different--the lantern also looked beautiful.  He told us about several of the early cave guides, many of which were slaves of the cave owners.  One of the most famous was Stephen Bishop who discovered several of the passages that we used.
"Stephen Bishop was unquestionably one of the greatest explorers Mammoth Cave has ever known. He was in his late teens when he was brought to Mammoth Cave in 1838. He learned the toured routes from white guides Joe Shackelford and Archibald Miller Jr. However, Stephen Bishop ventured beyond the toured areas and discovered many miles of the Mammoth Cave no eye had ever seen."You can read more about him at this site.
This video has slightly more light than the last because I pointed my camera at the lantern--so imagine you're in the cave and that tiny bit of light is all you can see.

After our next stop we turned down a side passage behind the Giant's Coffin.  This was where we started seeing graffiti from the 1800s.  Anything from before 1941 is historic, anything after that is illegal since it is now a National Park.  Click here for a historic stereoscopic image of the formation.
One of the areas that we went through was called Fat Man's Misery.  You needed to walk through with your legs close together and occasionally turn your body sideways.  Then at the end you had to squat down a bit as you went through the "Tall Man's Misery" section.  We kept hearing kids behind us convinced they'd come to the sections (we hadn't) or at least that we were in T-Rex Misery.
Did you know that there are restrooms in the cave?  I think I remembered from years ago that there is a lunchroom (they don't serve food, but there are picnic tables) deep in the cave, but there are also several restrooms.  I believe that they have drilled down for water and septic lines, but it is still interesting to see a bathroom in the middle of the cave.  The right hand picture shows one of the light panels that our guide used to turn on the lights in each new section that we walked into.
I thought the smoke lettering was even more interesting than what was carved in the walls.  It was apparently formed by taking candles and making the letters out of tiny circles of soot that collected on the rock when you stood underneath and raised the candles up.  Think of it as early dot-matrix printing, ;-).
Nearby part of the ceiling was made out of harder rock (chert) that Native Americans use to turn into arrowheads.
When we reached the lowest area of the cave that we were going to visit (level four) we came to an area full of benches.  Our guide explained that there had been wooden benches, but in a flood from the underground river earlier in the year they'd all been washed away and replaced with the current metal benches.  I did take a picture of both of us so I could say that I had an underground shot of us:

Our guide then proceeded to show us the high water mark from that flood and other floods--though some of the historic ones had definitely filled the chamber.  Then we headed into the next chamber where a large staircase had been constructed to take us back to the level that we started on so that we could go back outside.
 When we came out into the area we could see that water was falling (in the shot below my flash reflected off of the falling drops).
The upper levels of Mammoth Cave are largely dry, as there is a layer of harder stone above that prevents water from leaking into most parts of the cave.  This is why there are not many formations like stalagmites and stalactites as there are in other caves (like Carlsbad Caverns).  However, there was some beautiful flowstone in this area that I managed to photograph.

The entrance of the cave appeared to be quite bright after coming from the dimly illuminated cave.
This video shows the trip out through the entrance and up the steps.

I had to take a picture of the equipment that the NPS used to create lines--it is the same brand that we use at the Creation Museum, ;-).

On the way out I took pictures of the ferns and other plants alongside the path that were really beautiful.

There were also some small waterfalls that I had time to photograph because it wasn't raining and we weren't trying to keep up with a guide.  The bridge that we walked under (right picture) went from the Visitor's Center to the historic Mammoth Cave Hotel.
We're planning another trip back at some point where we'll take the New Entrance tour to see things like Frozen Niagara and other formations.

This album contains all of the above pictures, and a few more:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Prep

Thanksgiving preparations are coming along nicely. The main table is set.

Each place setting arranged with care.

The kids table even looks nice.

Perhaps some will be thankful if they remember to read their napkins.

The dressing is mixed.

The turkey has been fed (more charcoal added to keep the heat going).

The cranberry-orange relish made (kept in the jar last night),

And dished out.

And getting the plain cranberry relish ready.

The apple pies are even ready.

When will it be time to eat? ;-)


-- Posted from my iPhone
(c) 2011 iWolff Ltd.