Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mammoth Cave to Illinois

Mammoth Cave to Indiana 4/11/11

We got up pretty early this AM and decided to go on an 845 cave tour. We had seen the dry part of the cave on our historic cave tour yesterday, so today we did a wet part.

The Frozen Niagara tour is short but has a lot to see and has an interesting history.

Mammoth Cave had been a private operation for over 100 years by 1920 when an enterprising person described as an oil man, realized that the cave tours were covering land not owned by the historic tour operators. He managed to surreptitiously map the caverns and bought up adjoining land. He then threw dynamite down a sink hole and blasted a new hole into the caverns. After some exploration he set up a new entrance and built a new hotel and put up billboards calling himself the New Mammoth Cave.

It is amazing to think of people paying the equivalent of $60/person in 1924 to take really dangerous tours. Now there are steel guard rails and steel stairs. Then, forget guard rails, rickety wooden stairs and ladders were what you got for you and your children. People took more chances. And of course the risks you took were your own responsibility. Sort of like skiing now days.

We saw a lot of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and different types of flowstone. We looked into the bottomless pit and also saw the tiny Crystal Lake where people used to climb down to on wooden ladders and ride around in on a tiny boat. The Frozen Niagara was a spectacular tour for little effort.

The weather report was for rain to start at noon so we decide not to camp in Mammoth. It is a pretty campground but has no electricity. We drive on through Kentucky on Scenic route 70.

The idea is to camp at Lincoln State Park in Indiana. There is a historic farm in the area where Lincoln lived from age 7 until he left home. Too rainy to visit today, but little chance of rain tomorrow. At least we have electricity here in this picaresque campground. We could always go to Holiday Village in the town of Santa Claus on the other side of the intersection. Probably not.

Lincoln's Boyhood 4/12/2011

The weather was nice today and we spent the day going around to the various sights around Lincoln State Park that celebrate the boyhood Lincoln spent in Indiana.

In 1816 when Lincoln was 7 his family moved here to a 160 acre claim near Little Pigeon Creek. We visited the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial including the visitor center museum and movie and the Living Historical Farm. The farm had just opened up for the season and was very enjoyable.

We walked around the Col Jones Home. The Col owned a general store where Lincoln worked. It is still closed. The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza was quite impressive.

We walked around the Little Pigeon Primitive Baptist church where Lincoln's sister and her husband are buried. While I fixed lunch William walked up to see Nancy Hanks, Lincoln's mother, grave site.

Lincoln stayed here 14 years. We are camped in Lincoln State Park for 2 nights. We keep changing sites as the RV sites are very uneven. This place is probably packed with people in the summer time.

But it could use a bit of TLC and grader work to level these sites. They offer water and electricity implying that these sites are for RV's. But they are crooked and sloping so it is hard to even roughly level our RV. But we have a nice view of the lake where we are now.

The lake and a ranger cabin, now used for boat rentals, were a CCC project. Reminders from state to state of all the work the young men of the CCC and WPA did in the 30's to fix up our national infrastructure.

New Harmony Indiana 4/13/2011

Just outside Cynthiana, Indiana, I spotted a small clump of headstones on top of a knoll with a large pile of slash next to it piled for burning. No road to this small pioneer cemetery and now no trees to shade the graves. Just cornfields right up to the stones.

As we head west William looks for sights to see along the way. And he picks out New Harmony, Indiana.

They are having Heritage Week, now stamped on my hand. We start at the visitor center for an orientation by a docent and a film. The town is gearing up for their bicentennial in 2014.

In the early 1800's a group broke off from the Lutheran church in Germany and their leader Rapp preached that the end times were near and they should live and work together. They first went to Harmony, Pennsylvania. But they needed more land so they bought 20,000 acres along the Wabash river in a place they called New Harmony. In a few years of hard work they transformed a dense forest into a prosperous town with many industries and surrounding farmlands growing grains, hemp, orchards and vineyards. They exported much of their goods and decided to go back to Harmony, Pennsylvania so their distribution would be better. The sect gradually died off after they espoused celibacy. Like the Shakers.

The town was sold to Owen who wanted to promote scientific study and education. Although he only lasted a few years the people he imported went on to found the Smithsonian Institute.

The town is considered a place where people come to seek spirituality and they have a famous roofless church.The grandparents fountain with William

We have a bit of time to go around to a few of the craftspeople. We see redware pottery making, soap making, rope making, felting and bee keeping and then it is time to leave.

We head out of town and cross the bridge to Illinois. It is a toll bridge, one dollar toll. I think they should pay us to drive on it. It looks to be in terrible shape as the pavement is rutted and the whole thing is covered with rust.

We spent last night in a state park in Illinois at Carlyle Lake. Now we are at Aunt Alice's. She has great internet in her new house.

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