Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Camping and Caving continued...

Here we are on the bus ride to Frozen Niagara Cave at Mammoth Cave National Park. It was at the end of our camping trip so we were all a little worse for wear. 
The cave was very beautiful, with incredible formations carved and created by nature herself, however, these expensive walking tours did not compare with the great adventure we had exploring the many caves around our own campsite...
Here is a before picture of the "older" kids: Brittney, Breck, Garren Allen, Wesley Holt, Christina Holt, and Aubrey (and myself behind the camera), as we are about to go out on some cave explorations. Brittney decided to opt out since she ruined her only long pair of pants exploring caves the day before.
I was a little skeptical as Garren (notice his hand), and Breck climbed into the entrance of the first cave. Luckily, the opening wasn't too small, however...  
the kids failed to inform me of the "slight drop-of" once I was dangling inside!
I am still sporting the scars from that fall, but at least my camera was o.k.(here I am checking out my camera to make sure it didn't break in the fall)--at least I have my priorities straight!
Once inside the cave, it really opened-up, but was still quite dark. I caught the kids off guard as the flash of my camera went off right in front of them.
The kids said there were spiders crawling all over the walls, I thought they were trying to scare me and I told them good thing it was dark so that I couldn't see any. Just for giggles, I took a picture of the cave wall right next to me and this is what I saw as my flash went off (the spiders are way bigger in real-life!).
The other thing we discovered crawling all over the cave wall were cave crickets (left-hand side of the picture). I didn't even know there were such creatures until our tour guide from the Mammoth Cave tour, encouraged us not to look at, or touch the walls of the caves unless we wanted to feel crickets under our fingers. At this point I decided my proximity to a million creepy crawly things was too close, so I hastily exited the cave.
I was informed by the kids that the second cave we would be exploring (above) did not have as many insects inside, however . . .
as you can tell by Wesley's decent, the opening seemed a little tight and sketchy to me.
But as you can see, once inside, there was plenty of room for all of us, and, no creepy crawly things all over the walls...
Only bones! Tons of bones! From animals who fell into this cave, but never got out! I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get out of this cave alive myself!
Here is a picture I took of Aubrey as she was climbing out. Notice the steepness of the walls, now add to that lots of mud due to the fact that this has been one of the wettest months on record for the state of Kentucky, and you have a recipe for bones, from trapped animals (and possibly people--like me). Luckily, Wesley was behind me, and hoisted me up and out of the cave! 
Here was yet another cave Wesley decided to investigate for us. We watched and waited to see if he would come out alive...
Fortunately he did, but said the cave was underwhelming (probably not enough mud, drop-offs, creepy things, or bones), so we decided to take a little break from our explorations.
Here is the after picture of our caving adventures. I took this picture to show how dirty and treacherous our caving experience was, and how brave we all were. Who needs expensive, over-commercialized caving tours when we can find them ourselves! I know it was an experience I will never forget!!!
The "younger" kids felt left-out and wanted to explore the same caves. I then showed them the entrances, and explained that there were spiders, crickets, and bones in the caves. They decided to find some different "caves" to explore that weren't so  dark and "scary". I informed them that that was a very wise choice!
Here is one of those caves. They had a great time climbing through the rocks, and getting sufficiently dirty themselves. All in all, the caving experience was a fun one for everyone, and the perfect ending to a great Spring Break!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Camping at Cave City

The day after Brad and I returned from our whirlwind trip to New York, we went with some friends camping to Mammoth Cave for the second half of Spring Break.
The idea was to camp at a "secluded" spot where the scouts had camped the year before, not realizing that the owners had since put in a Zip-Line, provided Horse-back riding tours, Camping, Corn-hole etc. etc. At least we had water (a hose by the horses), and bathroom (one over-full porta-potty servicing all zip-liners, riders, and campers!
We all made the most out of our camping arrangements however, and enjoyed comfortable seating around the campfire,
and making good use of the camp-site owners' trailer!
We ate like kings and queens thanks to our great cooks (Brad, Mark, and Rex) who made gourmet breakfasts, wonderful barbecues, and a dutch-oven dinner which included dutch-oven cobbler (strawberry, cherry, blueberry, and apple) for dessert!
Veronica is getting ready to serve the food on our make-shift "kitchen table."
We had fun at night visiting around the camp fire, reading ghost stories, roasting marsh-mellows, and eating smores. Above, Brittney is getting a kick out of Merinda who just sat on a very sticky marsh mellow stick--one of the many things that can happen while roasting marsh-mellows, in the dark, with lots of kids, and sticky sticks lying around.  
No camping experience would be complete without an intense game of Capture-The-Flag, in the pitch dark, late at night. Rex is explaining the rules and showing everyone the "flags" (glow-sticks). 
Speaking of night, the other great thing about our campsite was its proximity to a large pond where tons of frogs and toads lived. It was an experience walking to the porta-potty in the middle of the night while the ground moved under your feet, and then hopped right out from under you!  
It is good to eat, enjoy each other's company, and share funny stories together around the "dinner table."
Because we were not quite dirty, sweaty, or smelly enough, we just had to play one more game of Frisbee Football before driving the two and a half hours home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New York City

For our 20th Wedding Anniversary Brad and I spent five days and four nights in Manhattan, NYC! My personal photographer, Brad, took this great picture in front of the Statue of Liberty.
Here we are on Liberty Island with a view of the mainland behind us. After taking a million pictures (we chose not to wait in a long line at the crack-of-dawn to get tickets to the museum and base), we went to Ellis Island, which I found very fascinating, and became one of my favorite places we visited during our stay.
Here, I am standing on the Staten Island Pier; behind me is the Financial District of Manhattan. One of the buildings on the left is where we stayed our fist two nights in NYC thanks to our friends' Jason and Brianna Griffiths. The building on my left is the National Museum of the American Indian.
Brad is posing (one of the few times I could get him to cooperate) by a touching statue of American Immigrants in Battery Park.
Here I am riding the "Charging Bull" statue at the New York Stock Exchange. (Brad's idea--I am glad that I am a better sport than he is when it comes to posing for pictures!). Other sites we visited in this area were "Ground Zero", City Hall Park, Woolworth Building, and Trinity Church. 
For this picture I got lucky, and snapped the picture just as Brad turned around. I couldn't figure out why Brad was getting so upset with me for taking pictures until after we returned home and realizing that I had taken 450 pictures over the course of our trip! We strolled along the Brooklyn Bridge, because that is what our NYC Frommer book suggested we do.
Here I am posing again on top of the Empire State Building. It really was an incredible site! We truly experienced NYC as we walked from the Financial District to the Empire State Building while passing through Greenwich Village, Washington and Union Square Parks, and Madison Square Garden.

Here we are returning from a beautiful carriage ride through Central Park. Even though it was terribly overpriced, it was something that both Brad and I have always wanted to do. We also got a hot dog, and warm honey roasted peanuts for memory sake.
At the Rose Center for Earth & Space we watched a star show in the Hayden Planetarium, and because I loved "Night at the Museum" so much, we just had to go to see all the sites at the American Museum of Natural History (I think the movie made it a little more exciting than it actually was). However, my favorite place in all of Manhattan was The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I could of stayed there for weeks, and still not experience everything I wanted to!
This is one of several billboards with Brad's name on them. They were so great, I just had to take a picture. I told Brad that the couple was a striking resemblance to us (not really)! When we finally got tired of walking we took the Subway. The highlight of the Subway: Grand Central Terminal, with its amazing architecture, marbled floors, huge chandeliers, and breathtaking sky-ceiling! And did I mention that the food there was really good too?
 Here I am at Rockefeller Plaza with a view of the Empire State Building behind me. Even though it's not as high as the Empire State Building (70-stories compared to 103 stories), the views are still amazing, with a better look of Central Park. Other sites at "30 Rock" included the famous Ice Rink, and NBC Studios. We stayed at Midtown Manhattan for our other two nights and appreciated the convenience to window shopping on Fifth Avenue and other intriguing sites such as Trump Tower, the NYC Public Library, Chrysler Building, Radio City Music Hall, and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
And of course, you couldn't go to Manhattan without experiencing Time Square. We walked through it at night and saw filming of a new TV series, as well as screaming Harry Potter fans waiting for some kind of movie-star about to walk the red carpet (we did't stick around long enough to find out who). Speaking of Harry Potter, we also had the opportunity to see a Broadway Musical--How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Hirschfeld Theatre. The cast included Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), John Larroquette (his Broadway debut), and Anderson Cooper's voice (he was the narrator). We loved it! Who knew that "Harry Potter" could dance and sing so well? The show quickly became Brad's favorite thing to see or do in NYC.
We had a wonderful time in NYC, and I couldn't think of a more entertaining thing to do for our Anniversary! Thank You Brad for providing such a wonderful experience--I love you, and look forward to another wonderful 20 years together!!!