Road To 50 Part 34: Kentucky

Bluegrass, valleys, cities and caves all signify Kentucky’s allure.                       

mammoth cave national park
Mammoth Cave National Park. PHOTO Rishi Patel

Kentucky is a state whose recognition comes from multiple factors. It’s home to the famous Kentucky Derby, it started KFC, and the absence of a professional team does not lessen natives’ spirit for the talented basketball programs of the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats. I have passed through here many times but in August 2019, my family decided to explore the Bluegrass State further by paying a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Diverse Landscapes

Kentucky
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Sometimes I am plunged into the heart of valleys with thick green forests in the distance and intimidating sharp silver rocks right next to my car at several mile intervals. Other times, I can see the sun shining on a perfectly plowed lush green field with bales of hay rolled up. This defines Kentucky’s stark landscapes, it’s amazing to see what a state offers if you take the time to drive through its various parts. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken the Bluegrass State as a rocky valley type of place, but I guess I learn something new everyday. Driving through pure green fields and rolling hills in one state makes me appreciate how every part of this country is unique, and how much diversity America offers.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth cave national park
Mammoth Cave National Park. PHOTO Rishi Patel

With about 400 miles of caves to explore, Mammoth Cave lived up to its name and is a national park for a reason. I could not believe my ears when I heard the tour guide say this was the longest cave system in the WORLD. Yet, what was more mind-boggling was that humans have barely explored this entire system.

Walking through the Frozen Niagara Cave Tour felt like the heat from outside decided to stay out there. It was quite cool in the dim cave, but I basked in it. The cave we explored had an intricate design. All the digging it must have taken to create a path for humans to roam through was simply an astonishment in itself. As I walked further inside, there were jagged rock carvings on both sides with some pillars hanging down to create an eerie portrait, like the fangs of a carnivorous animal. The rocks felt dry and rough on the edges. The ceiling was in fact very low at points, leading our entire group to crouch through the mysterious system. As we crouched forward, the atmosphere was ominous while I didn’t know what lied ahead. I could feel drips of water on my shirt coming from the rocks above, careful so I didn’t hit my head along the fang-shaped pillars hanging down.

We approached a massive opening in the cave with super high ceilings and enough space to hold a social event. There were railings present with some spots opening so I peeked down. Immediately nervous as there was a pitch black abyss into who knew where. Above me were amplified, pale versions of pillars that looked like you could play piano on them from an awkward angle. Interior lighting made the rocky formations appear in light yellow, sometimes almost like a villain from a TV show taking a flashlight in their faces – laughing.

The highlight of the tour was the Frozen Niagara section with elaborate walkways though the cave that led us down a row of stairs to red lighting which illuminated different pillars. The mixture of vibrant color and hanging red ice shards were interwoven so perfectly as suspended pillars that surrounded me on all sides made me feel like I was locked in the true heart of a cave. I was thrilled, buried in a true underground adventure. I had never explored a cave of this magnitude before, this mysterious yet extravagantly design by nature will always be a long-lasting memory.

Rishi Patel

Contributor

Rishi Patel's passion for writing is almost as great as his passion for traveling. Traveling remains the utmost favorite hobby and pastime for Rishi, which has led him to visit 47 of the 50 U.S. States and he cannot contain his excitement as he tries to reach the milestone of visiting all 50.

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