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TRAIL TIPS


by larry rice


Between Two Worlds Experience Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park.


MORE THAN 2 MILLION PEOPLE visit Mammoth Cave National Park each year. About 500,000 of them come for a guided tour of the mysterious underground frontier—the longest cave system in the world with more than 365 miles of known passageways. The rest of the visitors explore the park’s more-familiar surface world. They get to enjoy the 52,830 acres of pit-marked, rolling land that harbors rare plants, the largest virgin forest in Kentucky, an unusually diverse aquatic ecosystem in the Green and Nolin rivers, and wildlife—deer, raccoon, beaver, red fox, coyote, hawks, owls, and wild turkey, to name a few. With 85 miles of aboveground


hiking trails in the park, your troop or crew will have plenty of opportunities for backpacking before probing the dark and silent labyrinth below. Find the best hiking opportunities on the north side of the Green River, the slug- gish waterway that divides the park. One particularly noteworthy route:


the Good Spring Loop Trail with a side trip to McCoy Hollow, a 12-mile trek ideally suited for a weekend getaway. The well-marked trail winds up and down oak-covered ridges, along pebble-filled streams, and through quiet hollows laced with small caves and waterfalls. This is the Kentucky that Daniel Boone would have seen. Scattered sinkholes and limestone outcroppings help you understand, and appreci- ate, how the worlds above and below are closely intertwined. Four designated camp-


sites are spaced along the route; all have a nearby


36 S COUTING ¿ MAY•JUNE 2011


water source, except McCoy Hollow. At night, with the whip-poor-wills and barred owls calling, the ghostly hills and hollers can seem downright spooky at times. However, if you hear strange, scratching noises and growls in the dark, don’t worry too much. You won’t find bears here, but rac- coons can present problems if your camp isn’t clean. When you’re finished exploring the park’s surface realm, it’s time to go underground. Fourteen miles of trails in the cave are maintained for 16 different ranger-guided cave trips. If you’re going to do only one spelunking excursion, try the three- and-a-half-hour “Introduction to Caving Tour.” It’s described in the bro- chure as “a good choice for families who want to learn and experience the


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