After several months of anticipation and anxiety, I did it. I survived the Wild Cave Tour at Mammoth Cave National Park!
The Wild Cave Tour consists of over six miles of cave exploration in six hours. Jon and I decided to do the tour with our friend Jenni, her husband, her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend. Jenni and her husband had to back out nearly last minute because they found they are expecting a baby! So excited for them! They decided to still make the drive to Mammoth to do some exploring and hang out.
Before the tour started, the group was brought together to be informed about White Nose Syndrome. White Nose is known to cause death to bats. Apparently, not a lot is known about it. In order to protect the cave, all Wild Cave Tour participants were required to wear Mammoth Cave provided jumpsuits and our boots had to be scrubbed down before and after the tour. Our group was bused over to a cabin where we were suited up and prepared for the tour. We then boarded the bus again and made the short trip over to the cave entrance.
To say that I was nervous is an understatement. I am an active person, but I am not comfortable in small places. I get kind of claustrophobic. While Jon had been on the tour before, he could not really prepare me for it. Every Wild Cave Tour is different. It never follows the same path.
The tour started off fairly easy enough. A lot of crawling and trying to lift yourself up through tight openings, but it was manageable. Within minutes though, I was already profusely sweating just from the physical work. Before I knew it, we had made our way to the Snowball Room. There is actually a cafeteria style lunch available in this room. This is the only point during the Wild Cave Tour where you have the option of turning around. If the first section proved to be too much for you, you could bail at this point. One person in our group decided to leave.
After the lunch break, we started off on the next leg of the tour. Very quickly, the tone of the tour started to change. Our trip just happened to be right after the massive flooding that hit Nashville this year. Many sections of the Wild Cave Tour were flooded. Our tour guides did not know which sections were flooded. They would try to avoid the sections they assumed were flooded only to find more flooding. They said that it appeared to them that this flood had caused water to be in sections of the cave for the first time in hundreds of years. They also said that in all probability the water will remain there for years to come. The water started off ankle deep, but quickly progressed to the point where it was up to my stomach. For reference, I am 5’4″ tall. We also had to crawl through sections with standing water. No pictures as I didn’t take my camera with me. After discovering the water, it was probably a wise decision.
It was rough! You couldn’t see the ground below you because of the water. With each step, you had to be careful as you did not exactly what was below. I hit my shin really hard on a rock that was under the water. The jumpsuits were also not very helpful in this situation. My jumpsuit was rather large on me, so it proved to be difficult when I would try to climb. It was soaked with water and weighing me down. I pushed through it though and made it to the end.
Jon and I camped at Mammoth Cave that night. We had just purchased a new tent, so we were pretty stoked to get back to camp and set it up for the first time.
Worse than the tour itself was the pain I experienced the next morning. When I woke up in the morning, I felt like I couldn’t move. Jon had to literally help me sit up. I was covered in bruises, especially on my arms and legs. We got ready and headed over to the hotel at Mammoth Cave National Park for breakfast with our group. Just sitting was painful.
If you had asked me then if I would do the Wild Cave Tour again, I would have emphatically said no. Now though, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. It feels good to know that I survived it.