Employee of the Week at Lost River Cave and Valley
For the 2011 summer season at Lost River Cave and Valley we are highlighting a different individual staff member each week who work hard while doing all sorts of tasks for our non-profit organization. Be it mastering boats in strong currents, sweeping dirty floors, keeping visitors safe and happy, landscaping our 68 acres, or managing school groups, all our employees work hard in order to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly throughout each week. With all the many jobs our employees handle, this summer, we decided to show our appreciation through a weekly recognition.
his week at Lost River Cave, we are recognizing 23-year-old Andy Horvath. This is Andy’s second summer working at Lost River Cave, and he’s also a senior studying environmental health science at Western Kentucky University. Andy is originally from Elizabethtown, but he moved to Bowling Green for college. He found out about Lost River Cave through a class when he visited for water quality testing. “It was interesting finding out about the unique hydrology of the Lost River Watershed,” Andy said. “While we were at the cave LRC Geologist Annie Holt came out to the class and told the teacher there were tour guide positions to be filled.” Andy took the initiative and got the job, and he plans on trying to stay at the cave for as long as he can until he graduates next spring. After he graduates he hopes to get a job in the field of environmental studies. “Most people ask how I got the job because a lot of people want the job,” Andy said of his current position. He said he also tries to incorporate his major with the tour.
“I talk about how actions affect the water and other parts of the environment even if you aren’t thinking about it.”
Andy hopes to work outside of Kentucky after he graduates, but he says he will definitely be back to the bluegrass state. Lost River Cave appreciates Andy’s dedication to environmental issues along with his hard work for two summers in a row.
Q & A with Andy
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? This is a really interesting place to work.
Most memorable moment during your time here? When my boat went out in the cave, and we had to tie the boats together and give a joint tour. The visitors enjoyed it too!
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? Meeting the people from different areas and interacting with visitors.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? It was a tour that I gave to a couple from Texas in power wheelchairs. They had interesting questions and comments, and their wheelchairs didn’t slow them down one bit. The woman sounded just like Luanne from King of the Hill.
One recommendation of another place for visitors to check out while in BG and also while in KY? I’d say in Bowling Green Jackson’s Orchard and in the surrounding area Shanty Hollow, even though it’s not really a tourist attraction. Shanty Hollow is a small rural lake with about 2 miles of trails and pretty good catfish fishing. It’s a serene quiet rural lake. It’s right on the line between Butler and Warren County.
Favorite rock? Limestone? I’m not geology, I don’t know about rocks.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? Sheepbutt rock!
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? Spend time on the nature trails, because the cave tour is not all that is offered.
This week at Lost River Cave the employee of the week is originally from Somerset Kentucky, but he’s lived in Colorado and traveled far and wide, from Mexico to Hong Kong. Nathan Hendricksen is 31 years old and has been working at Lost River Cave since May of 2010. “It looked like an interesting job, and I liked being outdoors and I wanted to get away from the restaurant world.” Nathan said of his feelings when he started at the cave. Before Lost River Cave he worked at an Italian restaurant in Colorado, then waited tables in Lexington Kentucky and eventually ended up in Bowling Green. “My wife and I moved back to Bowling Green to be closer to her parents,” Nathan said of his move.
Before working in the restaurant industry Nathan worked as a missionary based out of Colorado Springs where he was able to travel to Mexico, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Later he traveled with his roommate through Asia touring everywhere from Bangkok to Singapore. He and LRC cashier Emily Hendricksen have been married since 2008, and on their honeymoon they traveled to London. Now, along with being a guide, Nathan just finished his third college degree in art education from Western, and he hopes to be certified to teach by the end of the summer.
Nathan plans on staying at the cave until he gets a teaching job in Bowling Green. With his travel and hospitality experience Nathan is an excellent asset for the visitors at Lost River Cave and we are happy to get him out of the restaurant industry!
Q & A with Nathan
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? It seemed like a fun environment, everybody got along and most of the folks who are here enjoy the outdoors as much as I do if not more.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? I enjoy giving tours, driving the boats, talking to people, making corny jokes about this and that on the tour, just giving people information and helping them to enjoy themselves.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Probably at the beginning of last May. I started right after the flood waters receded and spent my first two weeks shoveling mud with a snow shovel.
Most memorable visitors you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? I have a couple who came in last year and they ran a horse farm. They were on their honeymoon and they asked me to take a picture of them but their camera battery ran out so I ended up taking a picture with my iphone and sending it to them through email, and it was memorable because a week ago I had them again, and they brought their kids with them and they remembered me. They said they were going to come back with different kids next time. Apparently they have a whole bunch.
One recommendation for another place for visitors to check out while in BG and also while in KY? I send everybody who asks to Diamond Caverns. I think it’s a beautiful tour and it doesn’t take too long. Other than that, for here in Bowling Green I’d recommend Chaney’s Dairy Barn.
Favorite rock? The mummy lying on its side in the cave.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? There’s a portion in the tour where I talk about Ripley’s believe it or not. I tell the whole big story about the blue hole and then at the end I say “believe it,” and then I let the visitors say “or not.”
Any last bit of advice for any visitors reading this? Come early to get your tickets!
Anthony is 27 years old and has been working at Lost River Cave since March of 2010. His wife Candice works as a cashier at the cave, and she was the one who told him they were hiring guides. Before working at Lost River Cave, he was working as a call center representative and was not enjoying it. Anthony will be at LRC through the end of the busy season and then he will begin his career as an officer in the United States Marine Corps in October.
Originally from Louisville, Anthony grew up here in Bowling Green. He has a bachelor’s double major in sociology and psychology and a Master’s in experimental psychology all from Western Kentucky University. He married Candice four years ago, and their anniversary just passed. Anthony was originally hired as a guide at Lost River Cave, and now he works on maintenance. When LRC started construction on the side of the gift shop, staff was needed through the winter season. Anthony has a background skill set in construction, so he made the switch. “Justin wanted me to be the third maintenance guy,” Anthony said of his new position. “I kind of miss giving tours because I’m a people person, but I enjoy maintenance more.”
LRC appreciates all the different jobs that Anthony does for the cave, and we wish him the best of luck in the Marines.
Q & A with Anthony
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? I thought this will be fun.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Getting to use the 60-foot lift to clear rock off the front of the cave entrance.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? I like working at the same place my wife works, and I like getting to do something different ever day.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? Veterans. They are always my most memorable. I tend to tell folks my career plans. When I’m on tours and I get a lot of really good after-tour conversations with active duty military or retired veterans.
One recommendation of another place for tourists to check out while in BG and also while in KY? Jackson’s Orchard for Bowling Green they have the best locally grown produce and it’s just a fun environment. From my hometown side of Louisville if you are passing through going up I65 you need to stop in Okolona and get an ice cream cone from the Dairy Delight. My Uncle Billy used to walk my brothers and me there and back when we stayed at my grandparents’ house every summer. The Dairy Delight was just a half mile away. Ah, childhood memories.
Favorite rock? Sandstone because you can feel the actual makeup of the rock in the texture.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? Oh Lord, I’ve told so many. I really like the pillar joke but any time I get to dingbat a fellow tour guide, it makes the tour so much more fun.
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? If you are on vacation try to relax and enjoy yourself, your tour guide will seem so much funnier when you do so.
This week at Lost River Cave we are recognizing Jordan Jennings. Jordan just turned 21 and has worked at Lost River Cave since the summer of 2010. Before becoming a guide at Lost River, he was working at an oil change shop, and he whole-heartedly welcomed the shift in careers. His brother Justin Jennings (now maintenance supervisor) introduced him to LRC.
“I took my brother’s tour and fell in love with the place,” Jordan said. “I heard they were hiring for the new season, so I jumped on it and got the job.”
Jordan loves the cave and plans on staying as long as we will keep him. He eventually wants to go back to Western Kentucky University as well. Lost River Cave appreciates Jordan’s hard work and is happy to have him back for a second season!
Q & A with Jordan
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? I was scared to death just because it was a new environment, and I wasn’t used to people being nice to me. In my previous line of work it was really hard to find people who are nice to you. It was easy at Lost River Cave.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Probably when I was helping (maintenance man) Colby burn the burn piles in the back lot. It was a fun day. We were burning all the trees, so it could be turned into the prairie. After they went through with the bull dozer knocked down trees, we got to set it on fire… The people reading this will probably think I’m a pyro.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? The atmosphere, not only in the gift shop and back offices, but also the people love working with everybody. I love working with all the people including the tourists.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? I didn’t get my first tip until about two weeks into giving tours and it was from a couple from Hawaii on their second honeymoon. For their tip they gave me a little stuffed beanbag monkey that said I love you on it. They are probably the most memorable, and I still have the monkey.
One recommendation of another place for tourists to check out while in BG and also while in KY? I’d probably say Diamond Caverns just because I think it’s one of the prettiest caves I’ve ever seen with some of the prettiest formations. They have interesting formations. Every formation is different, and they have a vast variety. The corvette museum is pretty cool, but you should check out the plant itself also to see the corvette get made from stage one till the final product.
Favorite rock? Flint
Favorite corny tour guide joke? Stalactites and stalagmites grow together and they form what are called columns or pillars. You know why we don’t call them pillars in Kentucky? Because we sleep on our pillars.
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? Don’t tip the boat tip the guide!
The people who work at Lost River Cave come from a variety of backgrounds and participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities. The employee of the week this week is guide and supervisor Steven O’Nan, and he is no exception. Along with working at the cave, Steven is training for his first triathlon and also owns his own Martial Arts Studio in Bowling Green. Steven first began working at Lost River Cave in 1999 when he found out about the job through a friend. “I was a WKU student at the time, and it was way better than flipping burgers,” Steven said. He opened the Martial Arts Studio in 2005, and came back later to work a Lost River Cave again to make ends meet. Steven got married in 2006, and had his daughter, Emma in 2007.
“My wife will be a teacher in whichever town she gets a job,” Steven said of his future. “I’ll go as well and open a Martial Arts Studio wherever she goes.”
One of his favorite memories at Lost River Cave is hiking through the valley with his wife before they got married.
Lost River Cave is grateful to Steven for his time and hard work at the cave and wishes him the best of luck in the future.
Q & A with Steven
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? Well I had had my first impression before I started working. It amazed me how big the entrance was, and that it was tucked right underneath the highway.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Proposing and getting married in the cave.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? It’s the fact that I get to re-experience the wonder of seeing the cave for the first time through other people’s eyes.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? The guy that kept asking me how long it took to pour the concrete ceiling in the cave.
One recommendation of another place for tourists to check out while in BG and also while in KY? I’d have to say the little country roads in southern warren county. My wife Tammy and I rode our bikes past this field of wild flowers and it was just gorgeous.
Favorite rock? fossiliferous limestone
Favorite corny tour guide joke? I guess it would be the one I started : now for our customer satisfaction survey, if anyone has any complaints about the tour stand up now and tell me about it. I ask it while we drift under the low entrance rock.
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? Try to see nature through the eyes of a child.
This week at the cave, cashier Candice Atchley receives our recognition. Candice is 27 years old and has lived in Bowling Green since she came to Western Kentucky University in 2002. She’s originally from Madisonville and a Kentucky native. Her husband, Anthony Atchley has been working at Lost River Cave for the same amount of time. Candice is enjoying her time at the cave while making plans for her future.
“I just graduated with my Masters in December, and Anthony is going into the Marine Corps in October,” Candice said. “I’ve started my own business since I’ve been out of school, so I hope to expand on that, especially since we’re going to be transitioning to being a military family.”
Further down the road, Candice hopes to start a family, and go back to school for her doctorate. If you are interested in checking out her entrepreneurial endeavors, check out her website of hand crafted greeting cards at http://www.thosethreewords.etsy.com.
– Alex Morris
Q & A with Candice
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? I think it’s an undiscovered part of Bowling Green. A lot of people don’t even know it’s here. We get people who come here who say “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never been here.” I think my impression was the same; I hadn’t been here until I applied for the job.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? I have a lot in common with the people that work here. We get along really well, and the people that you work with can make any job a lot better. I also enjoy taking advantage of the park and taking my dogs here and of course the Lost River Cave Running Club. There’s lot’s to take advantage of.
Most memorable moment during your time here? The big crazy flood we had last year, it looked like something you would see on tv. I’ve never seen anything like that in real life – all the boys out there on their kayaks. If you just looked at it today you wouldn’t even realize it had been like that.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? Well I see a lot of characters, but, today, we (the cashiers) were complimenting a guy on his arm tattoo, and then he turned around and ripped off his shirt to show us his whole back piece.
One recommendation for another place for visitors to check out while in BG and also while in KY? In Bowling Green, if you are here in the fall you have to go to Jackson’s Orchard for their Pumpkin Festival. I’ve gone every year since I’ve been here and it’s the best place to get your Jack-o-lantern, peaches, apples and fried peach pies, and it’s all local! For Kentucky you’d have to go to a local restaurant near Land Between The Lakes, it’s called Patti’s and they are famous for 2-inch-thick pork chops, but the real deal is the pie. They have meringue that’s 6 inches tall.
Favorite rock? Is an emerald a rock? This is coming from the English/sociology/folk/women’s studies background. I’m not a geologist like a lot of the folks here so I’m going to go with emerald because it’s my birth stone and it’s in my wedding band.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? the pillar joke! What’s the difference between a column and a pillar, I don’t know about you, but I sleep on my pillar, I think it’s awesome because it’s so bad and it’s so country. The fact that people actually laugh at it makes it funny.
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? I would say whenever you go back home, take advantage of things in your own community that you don’t usually think about. Some people in Bowling Green don’t take advantage of things in their own community, be a tourist in your own town, take advantage of what’s around you.
June 20 – June 26 – Recognizing David Kem
This week Lost River Cave recognizes supervisor and guide David Kem. David, 29 years old, first moved to Kentucky in 1992 after living all over the country and the world with his Military family. He received his Undergraduate Degree in biology from WKU and is now completing his Masters in Ecology at the same University. In the past, David has worked as far away as South Dakota where he was employed as a fire effects monitor for the National Park Service Northern Great Plains Fire Management.
“I returned to Bowling Green in 2010 and spent last summer as a guide at Mammoth Cave National Park,” David said. “Now I have indefinite plans of staying at Lost River Cave.”
David first started working at Lost River Cave in the summer of 2008, and the staff welcomes him back again for another great season.
Q & A with David
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? My first impression of Lost River Cave was that it had changed dramatically in the years since I’d seen it last. Obvious improvements had been made to both the cave itself and the surrounding area.
Most memorable moment during your time here? My most memorable moment would have been walking into training 2008 and meeting so many others that shared my interests in nature and in caves.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? My favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave is meeting interesting people from around the world and having the opportunity to educate them on karst resources and the amazing wildlife that inhabits the cave.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? I really enjoy having visitors that have been to other caves of the area and being able to relate my tour to their experiences in other places.
One recommendation of another place for tourists to check out while in BG and also while in KY? While in Bowling Green I would recommend catching a Bowling Green Hotrods game; the new minor league franchise here in town has a brand new stadium and offers a great time for an affordable price. While in Kentucky, I would certainly recommend a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. The historic tour at Mammoth Cave offers visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of iconic cave guides such as Stephen Bishop and learn the history of a cave that’s been offering tours since 1816.
Favorite rock? That’s a geologist question. I prefer trees, and I like the Kentucky Coffee Tree.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? After years of giving tours, I try to avoid the corny jokes that are popular with cave guides everywhere. Instead, I like telling folks about the immanent collapse of the cave and letting them know that they have at least 25 minutes before that happens.
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? Try to see as many caves as you can while you are in the area. Every cave is unique.
June 13 – June 19 – Recognizing Laramie Stone
Nineteen year old tour guide, Laramie Stone, is this week’s employee of the week recognition. Lost River Cave is Laramie’s first job, and this is her second summer here. She is currently an undergraduate at Western Kentucky University studying biological anthropology.
“As long as I live in the area, I would like to work at the cave,” Laramie said. “I’ll probably get my Masters at Western and hopefully get my Doctors at a school with an anthropology program.”
Ultimately Laramie would love to have a job where she can analyze human bones and build ideas of what they looked like when they were alive.
Q & A with Laramie
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? I thought it was a really interesting place. Just working at a cave and getting to go inside it and explore it everyday and tell people about the environment was awesome.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? Getting to work outside every day.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Probably the river cleanup we did last year. Tour guides and maintenance got in the river in their tennis shoes and dug around for trash in the riverbed.
Most memorable visitor you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? A group of people came up to me at the end of the tour. They said this is a great tour, we had fun, and we have guests in from England. You got them to laugh, and nobody else does that!
One recommendation of another place for visitor to check out while in Bowling Green and also while in KY? It would probably be the other caves, Diamond and Mammoth, all the other caves around here.
Favorite rock? Classic
Favorite corny tour guide joke? What do you call a fish with no eyes? A FSH
Any last bit of advice for any tourists reading this? Pay attention and take care of the natural parks and the caves and the lakes and the forests around you. It’s very important that we keep them healthy. Without them we are in trouble.
This week’s recognition goes to 23-year old supervisor and guide Nick Lawhon. This is Nick’s 3rd year at Lost River Cave. Originally from Gallatin TN, Nick is currently attending WKU for his Master’s in Geosciences.
“My ideal job in the future would be either to work as hydrologist for a government agency or to work as a city hydrologist for a city of 150,000 people,” Nick said. “I wouldn’t mind to stay at Lost River a year or so after I finish my masters, but I would like to get out into the world before I forget it all.”
Nick first discovered LRC when a hydrology class led him to the blue holes. The water was too high for them to measure, but they hung around and Nick asked about a employment. A few weeks later, he got the job.
Q & A with Nick
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? This is a really great place with a lot of potential We have some really great things here. I realized more and more after the first month or so. Now we are starting to see some of that potential being realized.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? Aside from the fact I get to say I drive a boat in cave for a living, it really is the environment. I’m a caver and an avid outdoorsman, and getting to work outside in places I would normally just go to for fun is a really great thing.
Most memorable moment during your time here? Just last weekend the cave got a call from William H. Natcher elementary school saying that they had a large snapping turtle on their playground, asking if we could do anything about it. Since a 20-lb snapping turtle on a playground posed a significant threat to kids, we decided to go get it. I picked him up and released him on our property. As I was holding him by the side taking him to the water, I slipped, dropped the turtle about a foot from my leg. I don’t think I moved faster in my life, but the turtle was okay and Nick was okay. We’ll call it a good day.
One recommendation for another place for visitors to check out while in BG and KY? While in Bowling Green, I would have to recommend the Corvette Museum because I’m a car guy. For Kentucky in general I would have to say the Rock Castle Wild and Scenic River. It’s a roughly 20-mile stretch of absolutely pristine wilderness bordering the Rock Castle River between Pulaski and Laurel Counties. It’s some of the prettiest land I’ve ever seen in my life; plus there’s also significant class four white water.
Favorite rock? Got to go with limestone. My favorite chunk of limestone is the wishing rock in Lost River Cave.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? And at this point if you did not enjoy your tour please stand up and tell me all about it.
Any last bit of advice for any visitors reading this? If you come to LRC you are obviously at least a little interested in preservation of natural places. Try to get involved with other organizations which are doing similar things, whether it’s volunteer hours or a part-time job. Organizations like us can use the help, and it makes you feel good when you do it.
May 30 – June 5 – Recognizing John Clark
This week’s recognition goes to 19-year-old tour guide, John Clark. This is John’s second summer at Lost River Cave and Valley, and unfortunately his last week working for us. John will be joining forces this summer at the Mammoth Cave National Park. He will be giving five different types of tours there including the Frozen Niagra tour and the Historic Tour. He was hired through the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP), a program offered by the government designed specifically to help students find jobs. In his future, John hopes to go into ecological research and become a professor.
“If I don’t become a professor and I want to do ecological research, I may be looking at a career with the National Park Service,” John said. “This is a great way to get started with them and network with the park service in order to build my resume.”
Lost River Cave and Valley wishes John the best of luck at Mammoth Cave and with his ecological endeavors. We hope that even if he’s not giving tours, he won’t be a stranger.
Q & A with John
When you first started working, what was your first impression of Lost River Cave? I remember it really seemed to have come a long way since the last time I’d been there. The last time I was out there was when I was in grade school and there hadn’t been as many of the improvements they have now – they had built a dam, expanded the nature trails, and added wetlands. There was a lot of growth.
Most memorable moment during your time here? I always think about right when I was hired. It was during the flooding last May. LRC Geologist Annie Holt took me down as far into the valley, or as close to the cave as we could get. We were maybe a third of the way down the hill, and the valley was completely filled with water. At that point, I was wondering if they were actually going to need me as a tour guide for the summer after all.
What is your favorite thing about working at Lost River Cave? I love seeing all the wildlife that’s around, and I enjoy interacting with the people too.
Most memorable tourist you’ve met or come across while working at the cave? I would have to say, this year, there was a guy at the cave who had a picture of his pet raccoon with him. He started to talk to me and another guide about how much he liked raccoons. We had no idea why he liked raccoons, and he started pulling out pictures on his iphone of him and his pet raccoon.
One recommendation of another place for tourists to check out while in BG and also while in KY? I always recommend Diamond Caverns to people because they have a lot of the really cool formations, of course I recommend Mammoth Cave because they have so many different choices for different types of tours depending on where your interest is. The Corvette Museum is also a really cool thing to go to for here in bowling green.
Favorite rock? My favorite rock is definitely not the new one that popped up the cave this year.
Favorite corny tour guide joke? Oh gosh, I tell so many of them… I have to say the “blue-shirted dingbat” joke. That one usually gets a good response.