Rad Road Trip: Boulder, CO to Mammoth Cave, KY + the first week at Mammoth Cave

Rad Road Trip: Boulder, CO to Mammoth Cave, KY + the first week at Mammoth Cave

Hi! My name is Anjali Velamala (un-juh-lee vel-uh-ma-luh) and I am a cave and karst assistant at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. I am a rising junior double majoring in environmental engineering and applied math with a minor in art practices at the University of Colorado Boulder. I am so excited to be a Mosaics in Science intern this summer and can’t wait to share my experience with y’all!

University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 05/07 7:14 AM: Anjali, not having left home, is already tired of driving.

Fun facts about Anjali: I have 24 junior ranger pins and patches from road trips around the U.S. I eat most savory food with Cholula hot sauce. Back at home I have 23 plants in my room.

I drove to Mammoth Cave in three days. Here are some important statistics:

Vehicle: Black 2014 VW cc

Miles: 1,225

Average mpg: 27.9

Cows seen: around 2,653 (estimated)

Best podcast(s): Work, Play, Rest by TED Radio Hour

Theme song: “Sweet November” by SZA

Biggest change: The grass is green and they don’t use sprinklersvery different from dry Colorado. 

  • Gas station, Sutherland, NB 05/07 2:09 PM: Anjali acquired an ice cream bar at Ozzie’s I-80 gas station and is enjoying it in the grass near a stream.
  • Missouri Welcome Sign, MO 05/08 8:03 AM: Anjali just arrived in Missouri and poses at the rest stop after an early morning start!
  • Museum of Illusions, Kansas City, MO 05/08 10:37 AM: Anjali takes a selfie.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Louis, MO 05/08 3:24 PM: Anjali’s favorite piece from Gala Porras-Kim’s exhibition, Correspondences towards the living object. A wonderful placeAnjali loved the St. Louis art district.
  • Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO 05/09 9:23 AM: View from the top of the Gateway Arch.
  • Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MO 05/09 10:21 AM: Anjali is very happy after receiving her 24th Junior Ranger pin at Gateway Arch National Park; she takes a selfie with the pin and the arch above her.
  • St. Louis street, St. Louis, MO 05/09 10:35 AM
  • Rest Stop, IN 05/09 11:52 AM: Anjali drove through the southernmost tip of Indiana. This was her last stop before Mammoth Cave.

I arrived at my new home at Mammoth Cave on Monday, May 9th around 5. My apartment was quite dusty as no one had lived in it for a few months, but after a few hours of cleaning and unpacking, it felt like home!

Home, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/13 9:43 PM: Anjali reads A Geological Guide to Mammoth Cave National Park by Arthur N. Palmer on her living room couch.

Home, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/13 9:41 PM: Anjali is in her clean apartment living room, giving her self-timer camera a big thumbs up.

I went to work at the Science and Resource Management Office the next morning. I did training for bat counts. To do a proper bat count we use one person with night vision goggles and a clicker, one night vision video camera with infrared lights, and one thermal infrared video camera. The videos from the special cameras are looked at later to count two more times to ensure the most accurate count of the bats. Tuesday evening we went in the field and did a practice count; we went to a smaller cave and saw about 50 bats.

Dynamite Rock Cave, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/10 7:22 PM: Anjali, another intern, and the scientist in charge of bat monitoring are checking the thermal IR camera while waiting to start the bat count at 19:45.

On Wednesday I toured Mammoth Cave National Park with my supervisor. I also did a fire extinguisher training that we helped set up. Thursday we went out in the field to get data from a water quality instrument. On Friday I went with a group to look at the graffiti in the caves, we focused on the Native American work and any signatures from 1812-1941.

Visitor Center, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/11 11:49 AM: Anjali learns from the local firefighter chief and fire science professor how to put out a fire with a virtual fire setup with laser extinguishers.

Bylew River, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/12 1:23 PM: Anjali pulls out a water quality instrument ready to download the data, replace the batteries, and put it back for another month of collecting data. There was a crawdad in the instrument; it did not bite Anjali.

Labyrinth, Mammoth Cave, KY 05/13 11:04 AM: Anjali crouches near a drop off in Mammoth Cave on a field trip looking at historic cave graffiti.

I will be working on a variety of projects this summer including some I lead myself. I am so excited for all the things I will learn at this internship! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next post!

  • Cranston Warden
    Posted at 01:28h, 07 June

    Super cool! Seems like a fun trip and congrats on not getting pinched by that crawdad! I used to play with crawdad’s near where I grew up all the time! Did you know that they have 8 pairs of legs? 4 are used for swimming and the other 4 are used for walking! Pretty neat, huh?

  • Joseph Zigman
    Posted at 05:21h, 07 June

    That’s an impressive amount of cows seen….must have been easy to keep track though considering your song and podcast choice 😌 you’ll have to tell me more about this internship when we’re back in Colorado, it sounds sick!

  • Sheylda
    Posted at 09:19h, 10 June

    Appreciated the podcast title recommended for a long trip!