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Camping in Mammoth Cave National Park...again

For Thanksgiving 2019, Sasha and Julia brought the whole family back to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Thanksgiving was LIT this year. And by that, we mean that it was lit by lights only until 5 pm and then lit by the festive atmosphere from 5 until bedtime. Because we spent Thanksgiving outside at the Mammoth Cave National Park campsite, and the sun goes down real early.


Krista and Julia were going to go to the campsite Wednesday evening, but we had 1.5 million things to do, so the whole family left early Thursday morning instead. We got to the campsite by 9:30 am, just in time for the domes and dripstones tour of Mammoth Cave. We took a short snack (organic apple + organic peanut butter) break before the Gothic Avenue tour.


The first and third images above were on the domes and dripstones tour. We saw plenty of carved-out holes more than 100 feet tall, created by the reaction of carbonic acid and limestone. The second image, taken on the Gothic Avenue Tour, shows guests' names burned into the ceiling by guides offered bribes. Guests also built monuments made of flat rocks to themselves once writing was banned. The third picture shows a translucent cave cricket, evolved as such because pigment is useless without light.


Both tours are dope, but the second tour was especially dope because the tour guide, Ranger Gillespie, is a super badass tour guide. He tells the best cave stories, and he’s really good at it. For example, he told us how miners working in a cave in the 1800s found a woman inside with a necklace made of fawn bones and wearing animal skins. They moved the woman from one cave to Gothic Avenue so people could visit her from all over the country. Turns out the woman had been dead for thousands of years and was mummified in the cave due to the perfect conditions. Called the Fawn Hoof mummy (pictured below), she was lost by the Smithsonian some time in the 19th century, which is very lame. Leave it to Westerners to desecrate a prehistoric woman’s grave and then lose her body.


Thanksgiving dinner at Mammoth Cave was next level. Matt made chicken beforehand, and we reheated and charred it (hello, heterocyclic amines!) on the fire. Julia made stuffing with GF bread, and Deb made cornbread in a cast iron directly over the fire. We also put potatoes and sweet potatoes in tin foil to cook in the fire, but they weren’t ready for the meal. We forgot the cranberry sauce, but we did wolf down some paleo pumpkin brownies and apple crisp. There was cider and kombucha. Everyone ate on camp chairs, and it was phenomenal.


There is something indescribably delicious about food cooked over fire. The heat, the smokey flavor, the primal connection to our ancestors—which was extra felt on this trip because we toured caves in which prehistoric man lived and died and whose only adulteration is the addition of smooth rock and dirt in the form of walking paths. Absent from this Thanksgiving were the excesses of modern civilization and the impending pressure to rush to the stores to snatch up deals for soul-sucking technological crap. In their places were hikes, games of Yahtzee (Julia was robbed), and cozily watching The Knight Before Christmas while snuggled in the Tepui.


It rained on this camping trip like 80% of the time, but everyone was happy regardless. Being outside with real air, the sounds of the forest, the most biologically diverse river in America, and the ground covered with leaves renewed everyone's spirits and helped us detox from our regular lives.


The Green River is one of the most diverse river systems in the US.


Hiking in Mammoth Cave National Park in the fall.


Family selfie while hiking the trails around Mammoth Cave National Park.

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