We arrived at the Visitors Center. We had actually checked in on our first visit, about 36 hours prior. We had our tickets, so, we just went to the "gathering/starting" place. We entered the caves via the historic entrance. It is an easy walk down that hill, not so easy coming back out! SIGH You'll have to trust me, it was wicked coming back out.
We had booked what they call the "Gothic Avenue Tour". On the brochure it is described as: 2 hours, 1.5 miles, 230 total stairs, elevation change 140 feet, difficulty: considered moderate. Features hundreds of candle-smoked signatures and monuments of stacked limestone.
Photography is allowed, but no flash and no tripods are allowed either. So, many of the photos were just a blur, many pixelated. A few were pretty good. I'll share some of each here. The photos for the most part are just as they came out of the camera. No color enhancements were done in prep for posting. Auto enhance really did not change the photos. So, other than size, here they are, au natural.
Entering the cave via the historic entrance, somewhere around 130 steps up and down. I did not count them. Like I said, down is easy.
This will give you a bit of an idea of how tall the ceilings can be. Of course, because these are caves, sometimes the ceilings were much lower and sometimes, much higher.
Including this less than stellar photo to show you a "kids" only tour leaving the caves. My grandtwins have done this tour. The current "kids" only tour is called the Trog. It includes spelunking, belly slides through the cave! They suit up in overalls and the lighted helmets are provided. Almost 3 hours and 1.5 miles of kiddie fun! Ages restricted to 8 to 12 years. These youngsters were all marching along at a great clip, waved at us, and really seemed to have enjoyed their adventure.
Ceiling writing with candles. In the high places they would place a candle on a stick. There is one example of a name written backwards, they used a mirror - - and got the mirror image on the ceiling!
Same area, more names. Really, lots and lots of names. The Ranger had stories about some of them.
Our National Park Ranger guide and our tour group and some stalactites.
Closer view of those stalactites.
Writing on the ceiling and large columns and monuments. The monuments were collections of the rocks found in the caves, laying on the floors. If my memory serves, the Ranger said the stuff on the floors, those rocks, had been on the ceilings and had fallen, many, many years ago. They had to clear some to make "walkable" pathways, so, monuments and walls and such were the result.
Monument, walls of rock.
Same monument and more signatures on the ceiling.
Now, those of you who have been reading Reflections for some time may remember the photo the phone took and self posted to Facebook. This is NOT the same photo. This is what it looks like deep in Mammoth Caves when they turn off all of the lights. Black. Could be the same photo that the phone took. But, it is not!
And, this is what it looks like with just a lantern lit. After looking at that first photo, can you imagine being in these caves and loosing your light source? Ewww. Just ewwww!
This photo depicts some fairly realistic lighting that we experienced during our tour, much darkness, some lighting, a stalactite, walls of stone. The ceilings were not real high in this area.
The end of the Gothic Avenue Tour. This photo does not reflect how deep this next area was. Or how large.
We had a slow walk/hike in. The walk out was much faster as we had used up a good part of our 2 hours allotted for the tour. I was at the end of the line of visitors leaving, I was moving a bit slower than the young ones. I am a bit more careful on rough surfaces since the December 2013 and the" two for one step" incident. Add darkness to the mix, and yep, I end up at the end of the pack. This photo is really pixelized, but, it does show, the large size at this particular area of the cave. The lights on the stairway at the back of this photo were quite pretty. If I could have stopped trotting to take the photo, it might have been better.
And, there are the stairs, from darkness to daylight, just about 130 steps between the first to the last. Huff Puff.
We stopped at the top of the stairs to rest. Then, we had to tromp up that hill. We were thankful for each and every bench along the way. Yep, we stopped, and used em all!
All in all, we were quite pleased with our tour, we got in, we saw, I managed a few nice photos, and we got out and lived to walk and talk about it.
The cave tour was our last major stop of our tour home, except for my research days in Fort Wayne. Next I will return to posting about THE Tour, THE Encore'. Really, I will.
* By the way, if you are a descendant of N. White and E. Ford who visited the caves in 1837, their romance is well sourced, right there on the ceiling: