Wandering around Mammoth Cave National Park (and seeing enormous freakin’ spiders.)

A bit of a departure from my usual sketches and illustrations today, since I took a day trip up to Mammoth Cave National Park for some hiking.

I was a park ranger at Mammoth Cave for a few summers (and autumns, and winters, actually)  while I was in college, and I’ve got a serious soft spot for the place.  These poor pictures really can’t do the place justice.

The air today feels like a different planet compared to only a week ago…there’s almost a a hint of Fall to it, though the sun is still pretty high and warm.   The trail I’m on in these photos is Turnhole Bend, one of my favorite views of the river from up above.

As the year gets cooler, I’ll probably be in Mammoth Cave quite a bit more, so at least once a month or so, I’ll try to upload some natural goodies.  Even as out of shape as I am ( there’s a lot of, um, hills in the park, obviously) I really, really needed this today.  Its weird how just being out there for a few hours can really hit that reset button.  I’ve kind of made a promise to myself that I’m going to try and get out to the park once a week and breathe some green.  Maybe next time I’ll post some pictures down by the river.

PS: all these photos are massively embiggenable if you click them.

Mammoth Cave National Park is not the biggest park in the country, but its definitely got some impressive sights. And that’s not even getting into the cave itself. I don’t like to brag, but well, its kind of a big deal.


This whole area is a prime example of karst topography, meaning its nothing but caves, sinkholes, and so on. This is because of the limestone layers laid down about 350 million years ago by a shallow sea. Carbon Dioxide mixes with water to create a very weak carbonic acid which very slowly eats away the calcium in the limestone, leading to geological hijinks like caves and stuff.  Mammoth Cave is a little different from the rest of the area because of this massive shelf of sandstone which changed the geology a bit, allow the cave to grow to over 360 miles long.  

There’s a lot of drama to this kind of landscape. Extreme ups and extreme downs. The cooler air in the bottom of sinks like this (air coming out of the cave is much, much cooler…almost cold…in the summer) can lead to weird varieties of plants and flowers you don’t see elsewhere in the area. Also..when you see the spider in this picture, you’ll poop a hammer.

Life finding a way, I guess.



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