Interesting things for day 2 started shortly after we went to bed. I heard Tippy go into her Aunt L.’s room. A few minutes later she came into my room and put her paws up on the bed. She is NOT allowed on the bed at home, but, assuming that L. had let her on her bed, I went ahead and told her she could hop up. She slept there a few hours and then got down and went back to the couch for the rest of the night. In the morning, I found out that L. had not let her on her bed. Tippy knew how to play me. LOL
After we got up, I took Tippy out for her morning constitution. She was better with the elevator, but still a little unsure. She definitely enjoyed all of the new smells. There were several other dogs in the hotel and we saw some in the apartment complex next door too. So, plenty of reasons to leave a little “pee mail.”
Aunt L. and I decided to leave Tippy out of her crate while we went down for the free breakfast, just to see how she would do. We heard her whining as we walked down the hallway, but I don’t think it lasted very long. By the time we got back, she was sleeping on the couch and seemed really relaxed. Because she did so well, I left her out of the crate when we left for the day. I did leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so the maid wouldn’t come in.
You know the old saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men…..” Well, that applied to us this day. L. had to go to work and I had planned to take the 10:00 a.m. Domes and Dripstones tour, go back to the hotel to take care of Tippy, and then go back for the Onyx cave tour at 2:30. L. had told me that it took 30 minutes to get to the park from the hotel, so I took a shower, got ready, took Tippy out again, and left at 9:30. When I entered Mammoth Cave Visitors Center into Google Maps, Mary Ann (that’s what I call the voice that gives me the directions – from Gilligan’s Island) told me that I would reach my destination in 40 minutes! Humm. That’s not good.
I drove like a bat out of hades to try to make it. But, alas, I was late. I met L. at her office and she arranged for me to take the next Domes and Dripstones tour, at 11:00. Since they were an hour apart, we assumed the tour would last an hour and I’d still have time to go back to take care of Tippy. Well, you know what assuming does? Once I had the ticket, we found out that the tour was actually 2 hours long. With the drive being 45 minutes, that would mean that I would not have time between tours to go back to the hotel. I decided that Tippy would be okay, especially since I was able to leave her out of her crate, so went ahead and took the tour.
Before we got on the bus to ride to the entrance, the guides warned us that if we were claustrophobic we might want to consider a different tour. I am slightly claustrophobic, but decided to go ahead. How bad could it be? She told us that those who were nervous about it might do better either toward the front or the back of the line. I opted for the rear. The area that was iffy was at the beginning of the tour. I didn’t get any pictures of that, as I was concentrating on going down the stairs and being calm. There were some really narrow passageways, where the walls were within inches of your head on both sides. Fortunately, they were all a fairly short distance before it opened up again, so I just waited until the people in front of me were through and then went. That way, I didn’t have to stop in the closed in space and I did fine.
We were allowed to take pictures inside the cave, but were not allowed to use the flash. Since I only had my cell phone, my pictures aren’t the greatest, so forgive me for the quality.
Here is the entrance for this tour. It had been excavated/blasted out by the owners of the land before it became a National Park. In order to try to help mitigate the impact on the cave system from having outside air enter from a non-natural opening, this was an air-lock of sorts. Only a few people could go in at a time. Once they were in, the outside door was shut and then they were allowed to open an inside door and enter the cave.
There was only one chamber that contained a lot of the normal stalactites and stalagmites. This is because the Mammoth Cave system was formed by an underground river and a layer of sandstone covers the area. That layer keeps water from seeping into, and dissolving, the limestone which is what forms those structures.
I took the bottom, right picture after we had stopped for a lecture. I was trying to show how large the chamber was. When I turned around to join the rest of the group, I accidentally starting walking on the wrong side of the hand rail, so was on a forbidden part of the cave! Yikes! I figured out what I had done about the time the tour guide told me I needed to get on the other side. He was really nice about it, thank goodness.
There are actually several animals that live in the caves, besides bats. The only ones we saw were a couple of spiders and these cave crickets that were near the exit of the cave, which was a revolving door.
I ate a snack and charged my phone battery while I waited for the second tour.
It turns out that the Great Onyx cave is NOT a part of the Mammoth Cave system. They believe it is completely separate, having not yet found a passageway that connects to it. Exploration of this and the Mammoth Cave system is still ongoing today.
I didn’t realize that the name of the tour was literal until we arrived at the cave entrance and one of the guides started getting the Coleman lanterns out of the cabinet and lighting them for us to carry. Every 4th person had to carry a lantern to light our way. There are no artificial lights in this cave.
It was very cool and very unexpected. It did create a wonderful ambiance.
We learned that, prior to becoming part of the national park, both this and Mammoth Cave were privately owned and competed for tourists. Tourists were given souvenirs from Mammoth Cave, like pieces of the formations, and they were allowed to write on the cave walls. However, the owners of Onyx Cave understood the treasure they had, and did not allow anyone to touch the walls or any of the formations. Because of this, Onyx Cave is very pristine, appearing much as it did in the 1800’s.
Ms. Lucy, the owners wife, was in charge of tourism in their cave. She named the formation in the bottom right picture “The Nativity.” I didn’t really see it. Do you?
There were some awesome gypsum formations. The guide shined a flashlight on them so we could see them better, but it made it hard to get a good picture.
The formation in the first picture looked like feathers hanging from the ceiling, or, as some of the tourists said, it looked like shag carpet. The bottom right one is called Ms. Lucy’s Orchid. It was beautiful. The bottom left is something called heleitites. They are a distorted form of stalactite – looking somewhat like a swirl of spaghetti or a twig. Scientists have no definitive explanation as to why they form.
The speed of dripping water, that has dissolved some of the limestone layer, determines how fast the stalactites and stalagmites form. As seen below, when the speed drastically speeds up for some reason, it can drill holes in stalagmites that had already started forming.
Of the two tours I took, I enjoyed this one the best. There were many more interesting structures to see. I wouldn’t mind going back to the park so I could take some of the other tours that are available.
It was around 4:30 p.m. when we got back to the visitor’s center. I really was concerned about Tippy. How had she gotten along? Had she whined all day? Did she bark at noises outside of the door? Had she “done her business” in the floor?
I hurried back to the hotel. All of my worries were in vain. She was sleeping on the couch and nothing in the room had been disturbed. She was, however, ready to go outside for a potty break and a nice long walk.
The second day came to a close with lots of lovin’ on Tippy. Her Aunt L. has her spoiled.