Just over 200 miles and a few feet below the surface from our house lies the largest cave system in the world. Located near Bowling Green, KY is Mammoth Cave, a National Park and World Hertiage Site. Just ten minutes from Mammoth Cave is the Mammoth Cave Jellystone, which typically ranks among the top family campgrounds in the country.
This wasn't our first visit to Mammoth Cave National Park, our first visit was an epic camping fail. In late winter of 2016, about six weeks before we bought our Cricket, we'd planned a weekend camping and caving trip. We drove to the campground late on Friday night, arriving about 10pm. We pulled into our site and began to set up the pop-up for the night as the temperature dipped. As we took the cover off, we discovered a problem: the inside of the pop-up, the mattresses, carpet, gear, everything -- was soaked. Apparently our cover had failed and we didn't notice before heading out. In hind site, our response was not very rational. We drove the pop-up home, got to bed after 2am, got up early to drive back to Mammoth Cave for the tour we already reserved, explored the park and area for the day, and drove back home that night.
This trip was much smoother. We arrived at Jellystone Mammoth Cave Friday evening. We had a back-in water and electric site; these sites were used for small campers and tent campers. Behind our site was a dry creek bed; a fun playground for the kids and a good shortcut to the campground's amenities. During our stay we took advantage of everything Yogi and friends had to offer: we watched Yogi Bear cartoons, fished, jumped on the bounce pillow, played putt putt golf, went to the splash pad and both pools, rode the water slide many times, and went to the playground. We also took part in organized activities, including the limbo contest, hey hey hey ride, arts and crafts, and the flag ceremony. There is also basketball, beach volleyball, a tot playground, arcade, and games in the Ranger Station. Beyond all of this, there is more work being done. The owners are building a swimming lake with a beach, a new Ranger Station, more campsites and bathhouses. With this level of amenities, activities, and expansion underway, the Mammoth Cave Jellystone earns the title of resort.
Although the campground is a destination, Mammoth Cave National Park is the star attraction. Having toured three of the six longest cave systems in the world in 2016, including Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, and Mammoth Cave during our failed camping trip, we decided a cave tour wasn't necessary. We attended two Ranger talks, The Lures of Caves and Wildlife Above the Cave. Both programs, as always, were very well done. Ranger Fish taught us something new about many familiar animals that will further open our eyes during our hikes in the Midwest. We also completed the Junior Ranger program and explored the impressive visitor center.
Mammoth Cave and Jellystone Mammoth Cave combine into a great destination. During what is traditionally uncomfortably hot and humid, our early August trip was just warm enough for water activities during the day paired with a hot campfire and no a/c in the Cricket at night.
As the summer starts to wind down, our longer trips do as well. However, that means it's late summer and fall weekend camping season - we think we can do a couple trips a month. Next up is as different from Jellystone as we can find - the Cricket is headed to an Army Corps campground paired with one of our favorite annual festivals.
Shane and Jessica
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