At one point today we managed to travel over 50 miles in less than a minute!. I’ll explain that later.

We started our morning from the Cosby Campsite at Smoky Mountain National Park around 7AM local time. This allowed for us to hit the road by 8AM after a short breakfast and the necessary “camp chores” involved with getting our tent and other amenities back into the car. It’s becoming somewhat routine now that Nicky and I have had to deal with the prospect of impending thunderstorms these past two nights. I hope this bodes well for our future marriage. God knows I’d be fine living from a backpack. Nicky on the other hand…

She exclaimed many times how wonderful this park was and even compared its beauty to that of the Adirondacks in our home state. I’m inclined to agree that it was certainly a wonderful park, but the ADKs certainly hold a close place in my heart.

 

Our next destination, with a brief stop at a Waffle House which neither of us had been to before, was Mammoth Caves National Park. Home to the longest cave in the WORLD, we almost thought attending a tour would be impossible. During the aforementioned drive, we tried to secure our reservations for a tour. After browsing the available ones for today online, it seemed as though all were booked up. Thankfully, a call to their office left us feeling confident that space would still be available for a 2pm timeslot.

I hung up the phone and realized we were a 2-hour drive away and approaching 12 noon with questionable traffic ahead; how would we make it in time?!  

 Luckily, just then, we crossed our first time zone of the trip and watched our clocks fall back 1 hour. Whew! We would arrive in Mammoth by 1pm with time to spare, only to stop for a brief photo in front of the sign at the visitors’ center. 

  

The place was packed. Why? Outside it was 90 degrees, 80% humidity, and otherwise a normal day in mid-July in central Kentucky. Underground it averaged a temperate 54. You do the math. 

The tour was incredible. Even Nicky thought so, and she had been here just a month prior. We took a slightly different tour than she did; we took the domes and dripstones tour that leads through living, dead, and dormant caves. The deepest we were was 254 feet below ground and although the lighting was dim, we managed to snap a few pictures while still appreciating what it must have been like to discover this immense wonder.

     

    

 Part of what made the tour so great (in my opinion) was the back story and history provided before even entering the cave. Our guide’s family has been guiding tours of this cave for 5 generations. His great, great, great grandfather came to America a slave and was leased to the family that originally owned the cave. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that anyone with that depth of connection to a place can provide context and a level of appreciation one never thought possible.

On a lighter note, today is a big day. Today we get to sleep in a bed for the first time in over a month. 

It’s been more than 4 weeks since packing up our mattresses and sending them off to California, but tonight we are staying at the house of our uncle and aunt (on Nicky’s side). We also have free run of the kitchen, with wine, and a shower. A SHOWER! But the best of all is a bed. Glorious full size bed with clean linens and zero smell of camp smoke. 

We arrived at about 6pm (local time) and were promptly greeted by Sassy, an adorable but very old tabby cat. Her eyes sure tell the story of 19 long years.

  

The plan for the night is pretty loose; get some laundry done, hang out in air-conditioning, maybe grab a bite and find the leaking point in our inflatable mattress. Tomorrow, we hunt for diamonds!

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