No holds barred. No rules. It’s Friday, so we don’t have to stay on topic. We can talk about whatever we want today. We can even just make it up as we go along, which is what fiction writers do anyhow. Let’s see what we can stir up this week with our guest blogger, Cari L. Pedstelak (@audaciouswolf – http://audacityshewrote.com)
There’s a magical place on this amazing planet we call home—a place where one can literally feel Mother Earth breathe. Though it was discovered by humans at least 4,000 years ago & rediscovered by modern humans in the late 18th century, it is a place that still holds many of her secrets even today. This awe-inspiring place is called Mammoth Cave.
Located mostly in Edmonson County, Kentucky & officially established as a National Park in 1941, Mammoth Cave National Park is a sprawling 52,835 acres on the surface but, even to this day, no one knows exactly how many miles the twisting labyrinth & sometimes massive rooms with vaulted ceilings travel beneath the surface. Each year, a special expeditionary team of spelunkers & scientists explore & map a bit more of these passageways into the heart of this incredible system. To date, at over 390 explored miles, Mammoth Cave remains the longest cave system in the world.
I’ve been privileged to have visited this wonder of our Earth four times so far in my life. Each time, I find myself overwhelmed with even more emotion & awe than the last—especially when I’ve made the journey to share its incredible beauty with someone else & bear witness to their first reactions to my favorite treasured gem beneath our feet. The ever-changing landscapes, both subterranean & on the surface, ensure that repeat adventures to this epic wonder of Mother Nature are most certainly never reruns. I’m so mystified by the spiritual essence of the Earth that envelopes me whenever I’m there that, when I was seventeen, I even wanted to get married in the Domed Cathedral room.
I don’t recall how old I was when my parents first took me there on our annual family vacation, but I do know I was quite young. I was so inquisitive—overflowing with questions & a deep desire to learn that’s never left me—that the park rangers apparently really took a liking to me. They even allowed me hold a cave cricket gently in the palm of my hand, which is illegal today, & help them pull up a net/basket from the river that runs deep within the cave system to see if there were any blind cave fish or cave crayfish to show everyone on the tour & there were!
I recall being so giddy to be ‘helping’ the guides—to be learning about all these strange & wondrous-looking subterranean creatures up close & personal. Even as I write today, these memories still make my heart race with joyful excitement. I’m extremely grateful my parents gave me that opportunity for myriad reasons, but primarily because tours of the river level—I believe it’s called Echo River, if memory serves—were discontinued for the most part in the ‘90s due to the possibility of the boats harming the fragile aquatic creatures & ecosystem, so it’s something that I’ve been blessed to have done that no member of the general public nor I will ever likely be able to do again.
Mammoth Cave literally speaks to my soul. The breath of cool air gently caressing you as Mother Earth exhales her welcoming greeting while one strolls along the path toward the cave’s Historic Entrance on a sultry summer day, seeing the huge stalagmite & stalactite formations that have taken millennia to form from minute drops of mineral-rich water, the oddities of flora & fauna that have adapted to life in the fragile cave environment, or the eerie feeling one gets when the National Park Rangers take you down deep enough & then extinguish all the trail lighting so one can experience what complete total darkness feels like are just a few of the fond memories that flood back & make me smile when I think of trips to Mammoth Cave.
If I were asked to name one place I’ve been in my life that I feel everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime in order to connect with what I consider to be the heart of Mother Earth, herself, that place would be Mammoth Cave. Please tread carefully, go easy on leaving footprints, take nothing but photographs & memories for, in spite of all her enormous splendor, she is but a fragile piece of our environment that absolutely must live on for future generations to appreciate & love as much as I do.
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