Mammoth Cave: A National Park Gem

National parks and monuments are not to be missed and some are backpackers’ dream destinations, so we veered north from Nashville to explore Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. What did we find? Enough to fill three days. The ranger-led Gothic Tour took us below to walk two miles of the 365 miles of cave, more than twice as long as any cave in the USA. If you time it right, you might be offered a rare boat tour on an underground river. A free ferry took us across the Green River after a roadway sign warned us that the road ”ends in water.” The road across the river leads to a web of wilderness trails for backpackers; permits for overnight trips are available in the visitor’s center. We walked several trails, including the Big Hollow Loop.

We pulled our hybrid bikes out of our trailer to try another park feature: the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail, a packed-gravel path that includes many short (some steep) climbs. We rode to two of the 77 cemeteries in the area, reminders of times more than a century earlier when the narrow-gauge railroad transported people and supplies to communities built around the growing popularity of the cave network. Another great national park, but without the crowds that frequent some.

The Katy: America’s Premier Rail Trail

Good fortune greeted us on Missouri’s Katy Trail today. After we rode our hybrids on the prettiest, most shaded section from Rocheport to McBaine and back, Katy granted us an exclusive interview.

Question: How did you get your name?
Katy: I wish it was more romantic, but I am named after the stock exchange symbol of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad. It was KT. Hope you like it!

Q: How long are you?

A: 240 miles. I am the longest hiking, biking and equestrian trail in the United States.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a trail?
A: Fame. People from all over the world come to see me. It all started when I was inducted into the Rail Trail Hall of Fame.

Q: How can people meet you?

A: Easy. I almost stretch across the entire state. I start in Machens and go west to Clinton. But some people first see me in Clinton. People also meet me at 26 trailheads.

Q: Could I share a compliment?

A: Why sure.

Q: You may be mostly compact rock, but you are almost as smooth as pavement.

A: Aw, thanks. Actually, I hear that even from riders with road bicycles. I think wider tires work better, though.

Katy: May I ask you a question?

Go right ahead.

Katy: What are your favorite things about me?

Let me think; there are so many. You are mostly level and there are great views of the Missouri River. You pass through places with food and rooms if I want to spend the night. I even passed a beer garden today.

Katy: Stop! You’re making me thirsty!

Previous rail-trail posts, with photos by Sue (as always):

Make Tracks on the Best Rail Trails in America. (Review of guidebook)

The Ohio Rail Trail: What a Ride!