Thursday, April 22, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Russell Cave National Monument

I hope that you'll consider joining me each Friday as I share the field trips we've enjoyed as a family or as an organized group. I'd love to see where you've been and what you're learning!

This week the National Parks are offering Entrance Free Days. In honor of this amazing deal, I've decided to share one of the many National Parks that we have enjoyed visiting in the past.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, this may sound familiar. It was posted on my original blog.

We finally had a beautiful day with no rain in the forecast and decided that we’d head outside and take an educational field trip and save the book work for the rainy days that we’ll have next week. We chose to visit Russell Cave National Monument to learn about prehistoric peoples. This cave is unique because it offers one of the longest and most complete archeological records in the eastern United States. The cave was first excavated by the Tennessee Archeological Society and later by the Smithsonian Institute with financing by the National Geographic Society.

The site was discovered to have been used much like a nomadic hotel by Native Americans, who mainly occupied the cave during the cold winter months and moved on in the warm weather to hunt and farm in other locations. Russell Cave was established as a national park by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, after the land was donated by the National Geographic Society to the American people.

Our visit began in the Visitor’s Center which also has a small museum exhibit telling the story of Russell Cave and displays some of the artifacts uncovered in the excavation. We also watched a short 8 minute movie that told mainly about the excavation process and the formation of the cave.

Next, we took a short, easy walk to the cave. Of course the kids beat me to the cave opening as I had to stop along the way and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The entrance to the cave was shrouded in mist and looked very enchanting. My son commented that the area could have been used in a Lord of the Rings movie. Although the entire cave is 7-10 miles in length, only the mouth of the cave is assessable to visitors. My children didn’t mind this since they were aware of that fact prior to our arrival. Had they found out once we were there that they wouldn’t be exploring the recesses of the cave, they would have been very disappointed.

After viewing the cave, I thought it would be fun if we'd go on the nature trail. My daughter was not a happy camper. She thought it was too hot to hike and yes, it was a rather warm 80 degrees or so, but the trail was wooded and there was a slight breeze. We soon discovered that the trail pretty much goes up, up and up. Every time we thought we’d made it to the top, we turned another corner and there was more trail to climb. My daughter was so upset, that we finally decided to turn around and head back down, although that was not an easy feat. It seems that heading down was tricky because the trail is paved and moss covered, making for a slippery combination along the shaded part of the walkway.

Chelsea fell first with Joshua also slipping when our overzealous puppy yanked a bit too hard on his leash. Then, Chelsea fell a second time and since Nickolaus was walking closely behind her, he actually stepped on her as she went down! Now my poor daughter is really unhappy and feels tortured since she didn’t want to go on this walk in the first place and what does her mean mother do to console her? I took a picture of her! How awful is that?

The walk wasn’t a total waste, along the way we saw lizards, butterflies, and even a sinkhole. Thankfully, we concluded our hike with no further mishaps and arrived back at our vehicle drenched in sweat. We couldn’t get back to the camper and bath house fast enough!

On the hour drive back to home base, we discussed our day. On a scale of 1 to 10, they gave our trip a 9 for most tortured experience ever due to the hike- did I mention this hike is not a long hike? On a scale of 1 to 10, they gave the outing a 6for fun, though they agree it could have been higher, but they had to factor in the torturous hike. On a scale of 1 to 10 for educational value they rated it a rather low 6, but that may have been higher if a Ranger would have accompanied us to the cave, or if their would have been a presentaion going on. They may want to visit again with my husband, but would not drive an hour to see it again. So, there you have the official take of the day from the Traveling Prater kids! Be sure to stop by our fan page on Facebook, I'll be adding a few more pictures of our day.

On a side note, while we were there we met a really nice man from Seoul, Korea. He told me that he and his wife are touring the U.S. and will be stopping at each state. They have gone to many of the National Park sites. They have 20 states and 3 months to go. How neat is that?

Interesting tidbit: Russell Caves is located near Bridgeport where Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto and his crew chose to enter into what is now Alabama in June 1540.

Thanks for joining along on our trip this week! Now you can link up and share your own and please don't forget to tell others that you are a part of Field Trip Friday so they can get in on the fun!

For those of you who have participated, don't forget to snag this awesome button that Adori Graphics created just for you. Isn't it cute? Just don't forget to link it back here so Field Trip Friday can continue to grow! Until next week...Happy Field Trippin'!


  1. Just saw this from MBC Homeschool Hideout. I have to tell you that you are living MY DREAM life! My husband would never live on the road in an RV. Me? I would do it TODAY! lol. What a fun blog. I'll live through you then. lol. Your children are very blessed to have so much at their fingertips. I pray the Lord grants you traveling mercies and all the joy His creation has to offer. :)

  2. Richelle, Thanks for such a sweet comment! Of course, the prayers are always welcome too!:)


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