Today we are off for a tour of Gap Cave with Ranger Lucas (part-time ranger and a full-time college student) and he was a delight. We could tell that he loved his job; he had lots of stories, jokes, knew the history of the cave and really made it fun for everyone.
“If you’re not havin fun, you’re not on MY tour.”
His specialty is civil war battlefields and he pointed out where civil war soldiers of both sides had signed the walls of the cave. Neatly inscribed in an almost inaccessible part of the roof was the name of a prominent confederate general. Al insists that this was done by an Aide valued for his penmanship and willingness to crawl through bat xxxx for the sake of his efficiency report.
Sometimes I think he was trying out his teaching techniques when he would throw out questions and then wait for one of us to answer. Stump the tour, but we had Al along and only once was he able to get us.
This was about a 2 hour tour through 4 levels of the cave (over 180 steps) with the usual stalagmites, stalactites and other formations you would expect to see. We were treated to several kinds of bats hanging around -- not a cave tour without them. Yes, I took a lot of pictures, but they are just not very interesting after the fact….they look like a lot of blobs dripping.
Al’s favorite part: It seems that before the park this cave was called Cudjo’s Cave and owned by the local college. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The ticket booth was across the busy “massacre road” from the cave and the scariest part of the tour was crossing the road to the cave. When the park service took over, they replaced the rickety wooden steps and railings and took out the electrical cords running through the water in the cave. (Now it is all NPS –- stainless steel railings and safe steps throughout.) BUT, when the college gave it up , they KEPT the water rights. Now the water that forms the cave is collected, and bottled by Coca-Cola as Cumberland Gap Spring Water.
“Yeah, they filter out the bat guano and run a little ultraviolet through it, and it’s on sale for 99 cents a six pack.”