Kentucky Landscape (above and below)
April 29, 2013
I thought the rain had prematurely and unfairly pushed me out of Tennessee on Saturday. The Smokies were spectacular, especially in the morning when the lush, fertile mountains poked their heads out from between the mist-shrouded valleys and the air was thick with days of precipitation. The higher peaks receded to more rolling hills and open valleys as I drove north and west towards Kentucky. I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, but the unceasing precipitation wasn’t being a gracious host. By the end of the day Saturday I was holed up in a small motel in Tazewell, about 20 minutes short of the Kentucky border. I had no intention of setting up my tent and going to bed wet.
By Sunday morning the rain had become stubborn. It appeared as though not even the southern police force of Tazewell, Tennessee, could use their persuasive powers to coax the deluge from town. I had intended to get an early start for my day’s destination, Mammoth Cave, in south central Kentucky. At 11 AM, check-out time, the rain was still falling in torrents. I asked for additional time from the hotel clerk. By 1 PM I resigned myself to another wet day on the road after examining the weather radar and realizing conditions weren’t going to change in eastern Tennessee for at least another 24 hours. My only escape was to ride north of the storm towards the border. I pulled on my rain gear, waterproofed my bags and set out in a steady rain.
In 45 minutes it appeared as though I was north of the worst of it. But a stubborn rain will remain stubborn. It spit on me several times throughout my 200 mile ride that afternoon. It was almost as if I could hear the clouds laughing each time they decided to give me another washing. Perhaps some of the rain was actually tears from the eyes of the clouds from laughing so hard at my consternation.
As I settled into a drier ride – albeit the few interruptions from my laughing cloud brothers – I started to shift my attention to the southern Kentucky countryside around me. And what a lush spring landscape it was – neon green trees sprouting and strutting their new leaves, muddy rivers overflowing their banks and pastured black and red angus calmly chewing their cuds as they lay on a patch of high ground seemingly holding no grudges on the encroaching water.
Below are a series of pictures from my ride across Kentucky on Sunday over the back roads from the Cumberland Gap to Mammoth Cave National Park, where I camped (dry!) the last two nights. Having settled into a nearly empty national park campground with birds chirping and the sun starting to peak through cracks in the clouds, I decided I’d hold up for an extra day and explore some of the 400 + miles of caves Mammoth has to offer. Incidentally, Mammoth Cave is so large (and growing due to volunteers from the Cave Research Foundation who discover new passages every year) that if you take the next two largest caves in the world and put them together, Mammoth is still longer. I took two guided walks totaling about 5 hours underground on Monday.
Early this morning – Tuesday – I started a two-day journey almost due west toward the Mississippi River and onward to Missouri to visit my good buddy, Jimmy Pierotti. Jimmy and I have spent many hours swimming the open waters of southern Vermont and New Hampshire. It’s been too many years since I’ve seen him. I can’t wait! Here I come, Jimmy Buddy!!
But for now, pictures of Kentucky.
Seemingly indifferent Black Angus find high ground from the rising waters of the adjacent creek.
Entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park
Deer and turkey were abundant along the back roads throughout the park.
I was forced to detour on an early morning ride to find food due to a ferry closing on the swiftly running Green River.
The swollen Green River – Kentucky’s longest river – after days of endless rain.
Park Ranger, Terry Davis, describes the various walking tours of the cave.
Entrance to the cave for a 3 hour lantern tour
A simple camp meal at the end of the day.
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