Posts Tagged ‘caves’

Carlsbad Caverns Is the Only Cave You Need (Day 122)

November 17th, 2009 No comments

Here’s what sets Carlsbad Caverns apart:

  1. The caverns are, you know, cavernous. The underground spaces are gigantic. You expect to see rope bridges and dwarf miners in there.
  2. Tons of formations. Literally! But there are also a lot of them — more than in other caves.

I imagine the bats also set CC apart, but given that I didn’t go in summer or October, the heck with ’em. (Although I really like bats and feel like I have to go back again some time when they’re performing.)

(Because they eat their body weight in mosquitoes *every night*!)

(Plus they have sonar.)

At any rate, CC puts the other caves I’ve been to to shame. They seem wholly superfluous after Carlsbad.

And while Carlsbad with its self-guided tour would be the perfect cave for bringing your tripod and getting great photos, I don’t have a tripod with me, so my photos from inside the cave don’t do anything to show off its bigness and grandeur. OTOH, I’m guessing someone somewhere has posted some good photos on the In-ter-net.

carlsbad-caverns_entranceDescent into darkness.

carlsbad-caverns_meEvidence that I was there.


carlsbad-caverns_pillarsSee the water drips down and leaves a deposit behind and…

carlsbad-caverns_stalactitesReally, we’re just lucky water allows us to share the planet with it.

carlsbad-caverns_ladderAccording to the placard, climbing down the 200-foot rope ladder made some of the original researchers uneasy.

carlsbad-caverns_prisonWhere they keep visitors who touch rocks inside the cave prior to interrogation.

carlsbad-caverns_gift-shopIt’s like aliens landed inside the cave and set up a gift shop.

Self-guided tours are the best ever, btw. You go at your own pace and don’t have to feign interest when another guide tells you about how amazing rocks are. Echt stark.


Mammoth Cave: The Historic Tour! (Day 111)

November 6th, 2009 3 comments

The one tour you’re supposed to go on at Mammoth Cave is The Historic Tour. It’s the one that people have, historically, gone on. The history involved primarily has to do with the history of cave touring at Mammoth Cave. I’m not kidding.

But first, here’s a deer:

mammoth-cave_deer-in-leavesTired from a night of partying with the cave trolls.

And then this also came before the cave:

mammoth-cave_pardon-progressThere *is* no excuse for progress.

And *then* I went on the tour.

mammoth-cave_big-chamberIt’s called “Mammoth Cave” because it’s big (it’s the longest cave in the world).

mammoth-cave_fat-mans-miseryRemember that one Simpsons where they re-build Ned’s house?

mammoth-cave_graffiti19th-century graffiti artists had much neater penmanship.

mammoth-cave_chasmTarget practice for rock-droppers.

mammoth-cave_exitDaylight at last!

People on this tour had a hard time not standing on the rocks. OTOH, the guide stood on rocks, so why shouldn’t the tourists? The guide also said that the National Park belongs to *us* (as opposed to belonging to the government). I didn’t engage, but I really, really wanted to. Discretion and valor, etc.

Historical facts:

  • They mined saltpeter here for the War of 1812, also known as the Second War of American Independence.
  • Originally, tour guides were all slaves.
  • The slaves got to keep their tips.
  • One of the slaves discovered a whole lot of the cave.
  • You used to be able to take a boat cruise on an underwater river in this part of the cave (the tour guide was proud of having been part of the group that disassembled the boat pier and boats thereby putting an end to the practice).

Anyway. I saw wild turkeys near the deer, but they were skittish and thus the photo was blurry. The bobcat is still the best animal I’ve seen all trip. Although the turtle in Minnesota was also pretty cool.


Mammoth Cave, Inside and Out (Day 109)

November 6th, 2009 No comments

Mammoth Cave is in Kentucky.

It’s a nice enough park, definitely worth spending a full day. I spent two and a half, of course — but that was fine, I kind of needed to have a couple days of not driving 300 miles anyway.

Got there around noon, which gave me time to walk around the six or so miles of “hiking paths” around the visitors center. Then it was still only 2:30, so I signed up for one of the cave tours (“New Entrance” was the name of the tour — you can see how that would have enticed me).

Make photos go now:

mammoth-cave_campsiteMy campsite.

mammoth-cave_trail-trunksFall colors: past-peak.


mammoth-cave_styx-springsStyx Springs (there’s an underground river, you see).

mammoth-cave_looking-upThe bowels of the earth.

mammoth-cave_magic-glowThe NPS does a good job of setting up their lights, imho, fwiw, etc.

mammoth-cave_formationThe only stalactites in the cave.

mammoth-cave_cave-cricketCave crickets: the bottom of the food chain.

A few lessons learned from the cave tour:

  • Cave photos never work out. Maybe if you took a tripod (but the ranger won’t let you).
  • This part of the cave used to be owned by a guy who was jealous of the people who owned the other part of the cave and so tried to make his cave seem like theirs.
  • There are some really dumb people running loose in this world (I mean, just, not intelligent). “Which direction does water always want to go?” “South!” That wasn’t the worst.
  • All caves should come with friendly Filipina-Canadians — a shame they don’t have those in Kentucky.



Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, and Mt. Rushmore: South Dakota Tourism’s Holy Trinity (Day 49)

September 5th, 2009 No comments

I’m guessing many South Dakotans have never heard of Jewel Cave. It’s only the world’s second-longest cave supposedly.

jewel-cave_ascentDescent into Hell! (Er — *ascent*.)

jewel-cave_posingMe with two of the three Filipina-Canadians who kept wanting to take pictures of me for me. If only I’d known they were kind of cute… Oh well: it’s dark in the cave.

Three things I learned from Clint, our cave tour guide-ranger:

  1. Even though you don’t see any electrical wires in the cave, there are electrical wires going to all the lights they have set up.
  2. Jewel Cave is a “National Monument” because it’s focused on one feature (the cave), whereas Wind Cave is a “National Park” because they have stuff above ground, like bison and such. (And Crater Lake is a “Park” because…?!)
  3. No one ever considered using Jewel Cave as a fallout shelter, but it probably would have been a good one (this was my question).

From Jewel Cave, it wasn’t too far to Crazy Horse (20 miles?), the stone carving that — well, the photo tells most of it:

crazy-horse_statueAnd it’s only taken them 61 years to get this far!

The displays at the viewing center and marginally interesting museum make a big deal about the fact that this memorial will be much, much bigger than other memorials like Mt. Rushmore, the Washington Monument, the Pyramids in Giza. One crucial difference, of course, being that THOSE WERE ALL COMPLETED. Ah well. (Actually, I guess Rushmore was supposed to have all their torsos also, but whatever.) Maybe four or five more generations will get it done.

And then from there, it’s just a quick shot over to Mt. Rushmore!

mt-rushmore_cloudNo North-by-Northwest tours are offered.

mt-rushmore_flagsA flag for every state!

While I generally consider the carving of big granite mountains into the likenesses of dead white men a good thing, I don’t think the two on the right belong in the same living room as the two on the left. Heck, Abraham Lincoln presided over the greatest tragedy in American history (and people act like that was a *good* thing). All Roosevelt ever did was start the National Parks system. Seems like an appropriate way to honor him for that would be to name a national park after him. They did already? Well that should’ve settled it then.

IMHO, plainly.


Journey to the Center of the Earth: Subway Cave (Day 15)

July 28th, 2009 No comments

Heading north out of Lassen, stopped at the infamous Subway Cave:

subway cave near lassenIt’s not actually infamous.

Bullet points:

  • The last cave I was in was at Mittelbau Dora in Germany. I kept thinking this cave should also be a solemn tragic place, and so was probably much more reverent toward it than it deserved.
  • Subway Cave was the result of lava flows and slave labor never built V-2 rockets inside.
  • It was dark when you turned your flashlight off.


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