Last time I wrote I told you we were excited to be going to Kartchner Caverns. They were highly recommended to us by everyone we talked to in Phoenix. We did all the requisite research and found out that it is 78° to 80° (25° to 26°) inside so no need for jackets or sweaters. They don’t tell you that you it is only 50° (10°) outside, windy with sleet and rain and you have to stand outside for the 10 minute talk and then another 5 minutes for the “train ride” to the cavern entrance. We went on two different tours and thus Terry had to suffer twice – and you all know how she just loves being cold! Anyway, both tours were amazing. In 1964 they were discovered by a couple of guys who decided to enlarge a sinkhole the size of a grapefruit to the size of a stretched coat hanger and then crawl through. True story. Then after discovering what was inside, they did what every explorer does – they kept it secret. They had viewed other caverns in the US (Difference between a cave and a cavern? Caverns have a gift shop at the end. Ha ha – tour guide’s joke) which had been ruined through litter and graffiti and didn’t want that to happen here. From Wikipedia:
The caverns were discovered in 1974, when cavers Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts found a narrow crack in the bottom of a sinkhole, and followed the source of warm, moist air toward what ended up being more than 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of pristine cave passages with the help of Erick Campbell – a local state biologist. Hoping to protect the cave from vandalism, they kept the location a secret for fourteen years, deciding that the best way to preserve the cavern — which was near a freeway — was to develop it as a tour cave. After gaining the cooperation of the Kartchner family and working with them for ten years, together they decided that the best way to achieve the goal of protection through development as a tour cave was to approach Arizona State Parks. In 1985, The Nature Conservancy acquired an option to purchase the land. The discovery of the cave was finally made public in 1988 when the landowners sold the area to the state for development as a park and show cavern. Prior to its grand opening in 1999, the state spent $28 million on a high-tech system of air-lock doors, misting machines and other equipment designed to preserve the cave.
FYI: Stalactites grow from the ceiling down, stalagmites grow from the ground up and columns touch both ceiling and ground. The caverns are living caverns, which means that they are still growing and changing etc. This is because of the 6 heavy doors which create air locks and protect the caverns from drying out – which has what has occurred almost everywhere else.
Here are some photos:
I would LOVE to be there when they have a tour of Chinese tourists come through!
You aren’t supposed to touch anything since we leave all sorts of things – lint, oil, skin etc. which are harmful to the bacteria which live their.
These are just three examples of the stalactites. Now if you are wondering about the lack of color in the photos, it is because you are not allowed to take photos in the caverns. It isn’t because of any kind of damage to the caverns. Rather it is because they had so much trouble with people pushing and shoving to get the best photo or angle or lagging behind the tour that they finally banned them all together. Thanks, Man. (Check the links to see examples)
And here is another kicker. Since we couldn’t take any photos, I was all prepared to buy a coffee table book of photos. Alas, they don’t seem to have figured out that this might be a good way to make money to help pay for the expenses of a state park. There were three post cards, and two books which told the story of the discovery – lots and lots of text but had a dearth of photos.
This is a photo of the Kubla Khan column – taken from the internet. It is the equivalent of a five story building.
If you ever find yourself near Tucson take the 45 minute drive and see them. It is truly awe inspiring to see the power of water.
Now a few more photos from our otherwise uneventful trip to Tucson.
I didn’t take this because of the plaits, or the woman. I took it because how often have you seen three – yes three – blind* people standing on a corner chatting away.
This house won’t fade into the background.
On our road north to Page, Arizona, home of Antelope Slot Canyons we saw.
Flagstaff’s main street
Somewhere in the middle of the pictures above is the Colorado River. Just at the end of the canyon it swings west and heads toward the Grand Canyon. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 20 miles from where we took this.
Tomorrow it is Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Every time we see something, we think it can’t get any better and yet, somehow, it does.
In the meantime
BTW so far, Nature wins out!