Mega History, Mega Fun

MEGA-CAVERNAlthough the heat of summer leads many to the nearest pool in order to cool off, there’s an alternative here in Louisville that will keep you just as refreshed without having to fuss with towels and sunblock. Louisville Mega Cavern, a massive underground recreation site,  stays unseasonably cool in the summer and offers  its visitors the coolest of physical activities.

Constructed in the early 1930s, Louisville Mega Cavern was formed by more than 40 years of blasting at the site of a limestone quarry. Over the years, that blasting has attributed to the cavern’s enormous 100-acre size that extends underneath all 10 lanes of what is now the Watterson Expressway. By 1989, private investors saw the cavern’s potential to serve as a large natural storage facility and bought the cavern for that purpose. Portions of the cavern still serve that function.

MEGA-CAVERNSince then, however, the site has become a serious tourist attraction that boasts a host of fun underground activities such as an intricate ropes challenge course, a bike park, a tram tour, a zip-line course and space for private events. Around the holidays, there’s also a beloved Christmas lights show.

When I arrived at Mega Cavern, I didn’t know what to expect. I only had time to participate in one of the activities, and I was pretty open to anything. When general manager  Jeremiah Heath suggested the underground zip line – officially called Mega Zips – I mildly panicked.

The truth is that I have a slight fear of heights. It’s nothing debilitating, and I’m always able to overcome it the few times it comes up. But to deliberately put myself in that situation did cause me to pause for a moment. After logically working out that people go on zip lines every day and live to tell the tale, I talked myself into it. Not to mention, it did look like a lot of fun.

MEGA-CAVERNIn order to participate on Mega Zips, you must be at least 7 years old and weigh between 55 and 285 pounds. Pregnant women are not allowed on the course, and all participants must sign a waiver. After signing my waiver and being weighed, I met with my group and one of my guides, J.T.

Young and knowledgeable J.T. led us to a station where our other guide, Johnmark, was waiting for us. Together, they talked us through putting on our gear and made insightful conversation along the way, something at which both of them excelled. In fact, even as my gear was finally secure and I was on my way to the first leg of the course, I was entirely at ease, which I’ll have you know is very unlike me. As we walked into the cave and the surface became more and more of a distant memory, I never once felt unsafe.

For those who have not been on a zip line before, the idea is that you wear a secure harness – complete with several ropes, clips and carabiners – and “zip” along taut steel wire across great distances using an apparatus with a handle called a trolley. On Mega Zips, the guides set up all your equipment for you, so you are not responsible for clipping yourself to anything or setting up your trolley at any point during the tour.

MEGA-CAVERNThe course consists of six zip lines and two challenge bridges. The zip lines vary in distance and inclines, with each one having something unique to offer. The first course is the “Bunny Course,” which gently introduces those going on the tour to some of the finer points of the activity such as how to carry yourself and how to tuck your legs.

I found myself relaxing more and more with each course and wanting to jump the gun a little when we got to the course’s longest zip line, which is the same length as the Titanic. It’s also worth mentioning how fast you can get on these things. Of course, it depends on your weight and the incline of the line, but I was told that in Mega Zips, you can reach a speed of just over 40 mph.

The challenge bridges are fun detours that test your balance and coordination and offer some variety in between lines. Whoever designed them decided to have the “Indiana Jones” theme music pipe in while you walk across them, which made my nerdy heart smile. Sadly, the second bridge leads to the final leg of the course. While I was sorry to see the end, the last line was built for competitive racing between people in the tour group, so the best was indeed saved for last. I ended up narrowly losing to our guide Johnmark, a saddening defeat but an absolutely thrilling end to an already marvelous expedition.

My Mega Zips group consisted of children, their parents and a few lone-wolf adults, and we all had a blast. If you’re looking for a totally safe but nonetheless stimulating adventure, I heartily recommend testing your mettle at Mega Zips at Louisville Mega Cavern. VT

Louisville Mega Cavern is located at 1841 Taylor Ave. For more information, call 502.855.6342 or visit louisvillemegacavern.com.