Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hiking Mammoth Cave National Park

How deep is Hunts Sink, Monroe Sink? What direction does the Green River flow? What are the features of Karst Topography? This and other questions would perplex my Earth Science students as they peered intently at the topo map. Some would get a magnifying glass and count the depression contours, some would text their friends for the answer, when I turned my back, and some would simply roll their eyes wondering why anyone would care.
So after thirty years of teaching, and asking these questions I had to hike to Hunts Sink and stand at the bottom. The ranger, at the visitor center didn't know it by name but did know of a double sink near an elevator entrance. He showed us the topo map and told us it was ok to drive down the road, marked official vehicles only, and so we did.
Morel mushrooms were starting to pop up, and as it was legal to pick them in the park, we carried an official park approved mushroom gathering sack. Starting down the sink hole I found a morel!. Poison ivy was everywhere, leaves of three let them be, and the hike was quickly blocked by fallen trees,(the area had a massive ice storm in January). Renita decided to stay at the crest and I continued down towards the bottom smelling the pungent and rich aroma of rotting logs and forest soil. The bottom was blocked by debris and so I turned and took a picture of Renita far above, (Can you see her, she's wearing a black sweatshirt?).
We hiked other places, Sand Cave,(pictured), the Historic Entrance, the Echo Springs Trail. Each were special in their own way. On the Echo Springs trail Renita found groups of butterflies swarming each other in a spring mating ritual. May apples formed circular patches on the Forest floor and Jack in the Pulpits stood proud, their large pistil standing white among the green flower. I was reminded of how lucky I was to have a Dad that taught me those plants while hunting morels in Iowa"s forests,(the area brought back memories of growing up in Northeast Iowa).
Returning to the vehicle we watched as a truck rode the ferry, before returning home tired but sated for the day with new and beautiful images in our heads. Oh, and if you think I am going to tell you the answers, that's not what teaching is all about! Find out for yourself. Clear skies

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