We took off for a long weekend and went down to “Cave Country”, the area around Mammoth Cave National Park. We started with a visit to the big cave. It’s a different cave experience than Carlsbad, but one thing is for sure – this cave is HUGE. It is GIGANTIC. It is absolutely MAMMOTH. After a couple of hours of wandering through vast, literally cavernous, underground rooms, looking over into yawning chasms, and climbing along towering walls of rock, they show you a map of where you went, and how little of the cave you actually saw.
Ranger Dave here was our guide. At one point he was showing us the remains of an early nineteenth century saltpeter mining operation in the cave. It seems that the mining of saltpeter in Mammoth Cave was crucial to the production of gunpowder used by Americans in the war of 1812. After the war, though, it became cheaper to import saltpeter from overseas than dig it out of Mammoth Cave, and the business ended. There were two young men behind us as this was being explained to us.
“What’s saltpeter?” one asked the other.
“I don’t know. I think it’s spelled salt pewter” was the reply.