Friday, July 12, 2013

we did NOT go to carlsbad caverns

day 9 of the cross-country moving adventure.  (see here for day 7.  day 8 was spent driving.  nothing to see, folks.)

i had been telling everybody that we were planning on going to carlsbad caverns.  that didn't throw anyone off; we were driving through new mexico and seeing natural wonders, so it made sense.  until, of course, steve and i actually looked at the map and i realized that the caverns i had planned for us to visit were in tennessee, not new mexico.  diana was pretty upset with me because she had read all about carlsbad caverns in her new national geographic kids magazine about big-deal places to see.  i promised, with my fingers crossed, that we would find some bats.  because, you know, bats.

where we did go was to cumberland caverns in mcminnville, tn.  it turned out to be exciting, even without lots of bats.

are we really going to walk into the mountain, daddy?

reminds me of some scene of a horror film i never saw. "don't go to the light, little boy!"

this was at the beginning of the tour.  see how we are all smiling?
brittany was a great tour guide.  i think she was a college-aged young woman, with just the right mix of humor and rumor about the history of the caverns to make us wonder, "did that really happen?"  one could tell she was experienced at taking visitors through the tour, but hadn't done it so often that she'd lose the enthusiasm and wonder of the caverns.

it was pretty early in the day, so our group was relatively small and we got to hang out and look around and ask questions in a comfortable atmosphere (as comfortable as one could get in a place with a passage called "the meat grinder" named after the way one early explorer looked when he finally made it through to the other side.  shudder.)

it's been too long.  i can not longer remember the names of some of these formations.  i do recall that this waterfall always runs, even if it reduces to a mere trickle.  it provided a perpetual clean water source, due to the natural filtering, for early "residents."

there was a teeny-tiny little brown bat on the cavern wall. so there you go.

giant chess pieces

once ander learned about stalactites, he kept his head up and looked for them.  so of course i needed to take pictures of some for him.

mmm, looks like a wonderfully drippy soft-serve ice cream cone.

diana is always looking for a good nook.  this was perfect for her.

the skull. once you know where to look, it's impossible to not see the eyes, nose, and crooked jawline.

these blossom formations reminded me of cauliflower. yes, it made me hungry. i love roasted cauliflower, with or without cheesy sauce.

totally creepy formation here.  diana loved it.

the fabulous chandelier in the volcano room.
the only detraction from this otherwise great tour was the extraordinarily, painfully loud and disturbingly over-the-top creation pageant & light show in one of the cave rooms.  we did not know beforehand about this "treat" in the tour, otherwise we would have asked to be excused from it.

the acoustical and visual aspects of the volcano room, though, were almost magical.  the room is large enough to fit many people inside; the space is frequently used for bluegrass and other concerts, in addition to events.  diana decided right then and there that she wants to have a birthday party there, plus spend overnight so she can explore the spaces more fully.  i didn't know she had a curiosity about spelunking!  anyway, the chandelier had been salvaged from an opera house, i think, and it took a monstrous effort to install it.  watching the light show in this room, accompanied by mozart, was a fitting end to this tour.

i got some books, of course, at the gift shop:
caves by stephen kramer
caves: mysteries beneath our feet by david harrison

plus a brochure listing caves all over the u.s. and the world.  both kids have asked to visit more caverns, and it turns out there are several within a decent driving distance: luray, skyline, shenandoah, endlessgrand, and natural bridge.  the challenge will be finding ones that are not completely overrun with gimmicky tourist traps.  we are perfectly and utterly satisfied with the awesome natural structures that exist without any need at all for a song-and-dance show to get us excited about them.  sheesh.

day 1 - woodland, ca to yosemite bug = 180 miles
day 2 - to san marcos, ca = 394 miles
day 3 - to williams, az = 370 + 206 = 576 miles
day 4 - round trip train ride to grand canyon = 120 miles
day 5 - to santa rosa, nm = 78 + 239 + 206 =  miles
day 6 - to shawnee, ok = 339 + 122 =  miles
day 7 - to lonoke, ar = 169 + 218 = miles
day 8 - to mcminnville, tn = 403 miles (we didn't really do anything but drive this day)
day 9 - to bluefield, va = 332 miles
miles traveled by end of day 9 =  3366 miles

on to the next travel post

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