The Bluegrass State – Kentucky

On June 14, we moved to Diamond Caverns RV Resort & Golf in Park City, Kentucky.  Then, we went to Mammoth Cave National Park and hiked a few miles on trails which were a little steep.  Mammoth Cave protects the largest known cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of cave.  We didn’t go into the caves, and we just hiked above them, because the tours cost money and were sold out anyway.  It had been drizzly at first in the day, but when we got to Kentucky, it was sunny and hot, though it looked like it had rained earlier.

On June 19, we moved to Little Farm on the River RV Park, in Rising Sun, Indiana.  On the way, we went to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park and Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home at Knob Creek.  At the first place, there was a monument for Abraham Lincoln with 58 steps, 2 to represent the number of terms he served as president, and 56 to represent his age when he was assassinated.  There was also the Sinking Spring, which is a spring slightly lower than the ground, which the Lincolns would’ve used to get water when they were living there.  It was cold near the spring, probably because it was underground.  Abraham Lincoln was born here in his family’s log cabin in 1809.  In 1811, they had to leave Sinking Spring over land disputes and moved to Knob Creek (the second place that we visited).  Abraham Lincoln lived in a few more places later on his life.  He was our 16th president, and he is known for preserving the Union and abolishing slavery.  Abraham Lincoln, although born and raised on a farm out in the country, mostly educated himself and was able to become many things, eventually the president of the United States of America.  The second place, Knob Creek, had cabins, which we couldn’t enter, because of COVID-19.  The weather was humid and hot.

Chattanooga and Chickamauga – Alabama

On February 29, we went to Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park.  During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln found it necessary to take control of the small town of Chattanooga.  Why?  Because it is where four major railroads met, and if the Union captured it, they would be able to stop the Confederates from getting supplies.  At first the Confederates controlled the town, but when the Union moved behind them, the Confederates had to abandon the town.  The two sides fought at Chickamauga (a creek) and other places (like mountains) in the area in order to win Chattanooga.  In the end, the Union won control of Chattanooga.

We went to different visitor centers of the NPS site.  We also looked at where parts of the battle would’ve happened.

Russel Cave National Monument is a cave where artifacts detailing the lives of prehistoric cultures were found.  We walked along a boardwalk to the entrance of the cave, but we weren’t able to go into the cave itself.  A new type of arrowhead, the Russell Cave Arrowhead, was found here.

The Mount Rushmore State – South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

On September 28, Tanner’s birthday, we celebrated at home with presents and cake.  We moved that day as well, to French Creek RV Park in Custer, South Dakota.  That same day, we went to Jewel Cave and Devils Tower.

Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world, with over 200 miles of mapped cave.  We did not go into the cave, but the visitor center had displays and a map of it.  One name of a particular part of the cave caught my attention.  It was called Shelob’s lair (I am a fan of Tolkien’s works).

At Devils Tower, we hiked to near the base of the tower.  It was very tall, with super steep sides and long lines running from top to bottom.  The weather was cold and cloudy where we were.

September 29, 2019

The next day, we went to Badlands National Park.  The landscape was like a mini Grand Canyon, with layered rock, spires, canyons, and rock formations.  We took a few short hikes.

After, we went to Minuteman Missile NHS.  It was a museum about the Cold War and the U.S. and Russia’s  building of missiles.  We learned about how life would have been in America during that time, and there was a mock 20th century living room with a fake old TV showing how American children would have done bombing drills at school.

Then, we visited Mount Rushmore.  This famous landmark was completed by Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum in 1941.  The faces carved into the mountain are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.  Susan B. Anthony was almost added, but funds for it ran out.  We hiked in the park, and since it is such a popular tourist attraction, it was a bit crowded.

One thing I find interesting about the mountain is that there is a room behind the heads.  It is called the Hall of Records, and in it, there is a teakwood box in a titanium steel vault covered by granite.  Inside the repository are sixteen porcelain enamel panels, describing the construction of Mount Rushmore.  However, the Hall of Records is not accessible to visitors, so it seems a mystery to me.

Finally, we went to Wall Drug Store, a tourist attraction with gift shops, eateries, cool decorations, and other things inside.  We got some rocks and food from Wall Drug Store, and in the eating area, there was a really beautiful stained glass ceiling pattern.

October 4, 2019

We went to Wind Cave National Park, but didn’t go into the cave.  It contains about 95% of the world’s discovered boxwork (cave formations).  We learned about how Alvin McDonald used to explore the cave by candlelight for fun and then give tours of it.  He died at the age of twenty from an illness.

Crater Lake and Oregon Caves- Oregon

Crater Lake

On Mommy’s birthday, we went to Crater Lake National Park.  It was snowy and  cold.  We hiked Raven Ski Trail, since the road up to the lake was closed.  The trail was fairly steep and icy, because so many people had packed down the snow with their walking.  Fir and pine trees were all around us, sticking out of the snow, and I saw a small white and gray bird.  I would say that the trail was moderately challenging.

Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama erupted and exploded so violently that its top collapsed inwards, creating a deep basin – Crater Lake.  It filled with snow and rainfall over the years to make a 1,949 foot deep lake, the deepest lake in the US.  Since the only source of water to Crater Lake is snow and rain, the water is clear and very blue when reflecting a clear blue sky.

We also visited Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve in southern Oregon.  We just stopped by to do junior ranger books because there was an entrance fee to see the caves.  Usually, National Parks do not charge for seeing the park, but this one had a paid tour of the cave.  It was about 32 degrees outside (you can see the snow), and it started sleeting when we left.

Lava Beds National Monument (Caving) – California

Lava Beds

At this National Monument, we got to explore a variety of caves. The caves were formed by lava flowing, solidifying on the outside, and the middle draining.  We walked through long ones, short ones, icy ones, dark ones, bright ones, and confusing ones.  It was cold and wet, so there was snow, and in some of the caves, what I call “ice people.”  The “ice people” are formed by water dripping from a cave’s ceiling.  It forms an ice version of a stalagmite, with a slightly wider bottom and top, which makes it have a shape which resembles a human figure.

The first two caves we walked through were Mushpot and Indian Well Cave.  Mushpot was a short cave, with artificial lighting, a trail, and signs along the way (perfect for beginners and children).  Indian Well Cave was marked as moderate, but because of all the ice that covered the sloped ground, it was difficult and dangerous.  Going down was fairly easy – in fact, we made this a game for the next caves.  We would squat and gravity would pull us down the slopes, or we could push ourselves along in super dangerous areas.  Getting back up the one-way trail in Indian Well Cave was not easy.  We had to find cracks or dips in the ice, then drag ourselves up with the help of the “ice people” lining the path.  However, this cave was really fun for me because of the challenge and beautiful sights.

Cave Loop Road

Next, we drove on Cave Loop (a road with caves along it) and stopped at two caves.  Golden Dome Cave was first.  Named for its patches of gold-colored mats of bacteria on the ceiling, this cave was beautiful maze.  Passageways led in a figure-8 shape, making it easy to get lost.  I would say that this cave is moderately challenging.  Here’s a photo of a bacterial mat:

Blue Grotto Cave was next.  We climbed down a ladder then walked down the path, into a dome-shaped room.  The room was a bluish color, and I’m guessing that’s how the cave got its name.  We then walked back to the ladder, saw a passage behind it, and followed the long, slippery, icy path for a long time.

We had been walking for quite a while, when we came to a skylight with a pile of snow under it.  Some of us wanted to get out by then, so we all agreed to climb up the snow pile and out of the cave.  When we got out, we were in a field.  I and two of my brothers scouted the area ahead and came back to report that we saw a sign that read “Upper Sentinel” ahead.  We walked to the road, following the sign, then Daddy, the two oldest boys, and I walked to get the car.

Surprisingly, we had gotten all the way on the other side of the looped road.  My guess is that we followed a passage that led to part of Labyrinth cave, then we were just exploring Labyrinth Cave.  I’m glad that we got out when we did, because if my guess is correct, we could’ve gotten really, really lost.

Hiking, Mountains, and Caves – Arizona

Fort Bowie scenery

The day after moving to Fort Willcox RV Park in Willcox, Arizona, we visited Fort Bowie NHS.  It included a 3-mile roundtrip hike to the visitor center and ruins.  Fort Bowie, for a long time, was a place of military operations, and has ruins of old buildings that used to be there and interpretive signs.

wongs at fort bowie
Wong family at Fort Bowie

The next morning we went to Chiricahua NM.  It was established as a National Monument mainly to preserve the wonderful geological features, especially the rocks.

Sugarloaf Mountain Trail

Echo Canyon Trail

Though tired from the previous day’s hikes, we decided to hike at Coronado NM the next day.  They were short and in two totally different landscapes.

Windmill Trail

Coronado Cave Trail

Made a memorial because Coronado’s expedition passed by the area in their quest for the mythical 7 Cities, the place is mostly grasslands and hills, also with a small hidden cave.