Man Versus Nature

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.[3][4] 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.[5] In 1985, The Nature Conservancy acquired an option to purchase the land.[6] 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.[4]

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:

There is a colony of bats in the gave. In proportion this is how big their ears are. Terry needs new earrings I think.

There is a colony of bats in the cave. In proportion this is how big their ears are. Terry needs new earrings I think.

I would LOVE to be there when they have a tour of Chinese tourists come through!

It doesn't say it, but it does show cell phones and you can't bring those either.

It doesn’t say it, but it you can’t bring cellphones either.

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.

My shoulder accidentally touched a protruding rock, which was flagged for later cleaning. The guide said not to worry about it. He said that it is constantly being cleaned because it is so easy to touch as you walk by.

My shoulder accidentally touched a protruding rock, which had already been flagged for later cleaning. The guide said not to worry about it. He said that it is constantly being cleaned because it is so easy to bump as you walk by.

This is the size of the hole the two crawled through.

This is the size of the hole the two crawled through.

Now some photos of inside.

This

This is a soda straw stalactite. It is 21 feet long, hollow and the width of a straw, thus its name.

This

This is a helicitite formation. They defy gravity and no one has ever been able to explain the how and why of how they grow.

This

This is a turnip formation. They have applied for a series of permits and permissions to take one down and open it up to see if they can discover why it grows this way. Apparently it takes years to get permission.

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.

Kubla Khan - named after Kubla Khan from Xanadu.

Kubla Khan – named after Kubla Khan from Xanadu.

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.

(* See http://www.blind.net/general-information/the-courtesy-rules-of-blindness.html)

Nice hair though man.

Nice hair though man.

This house won’t fade into the background.

Blindingly yellow

Blindingly yellow

Nor this

Blindingly white

Blindingly white

On our road north to Page, Arizona, home of Antelope Slot Canyons we saw.

Can you say striation?

Can you say striation?

or

or more striation

or Humphrey's Peak - one of the San Francisco Mountain Range outside Flagstaff?

or Humphrey’s Peak – one of the San Francisco Mountain Range outside Flagstaff?

Flagstaff’s main street

They had a foot of snow 24 hours before we arrived.

They had a foot of snow 24 hours before we arrived. The hello sign above the pickup truck is “Pato” – a fantastic Thai restaurant – just in case you ever find yourself in Flagstaff.

Marble Canyon 1

Marble Canyon 1

Marble Canyon 2

Marble Canyon 2

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

Isn't every ATM a 24 hour ATM?

Isn’t every ATM a 24 hour ATM?

BTW so far, Nature wins out!

 

3 thoughts on “Man Versus Nature

  1. Lois & Robert Marsden

    Going to find a way to see those caves. Thanks for sharing Nature is wonderful if we humans take care not to spoil it.

    Reply
  2. Peter Therrien

    Love the cave pics! Just so you know; stalagTites come from the Top! Took a basketball team to Flagstaff years ago for a tournament in December, and went to the rim of the canyon on a day trip. Always remember one kid looking for ten seconds and walking back to the bus saying “Okay, we’ve seen the biggest ditch in the world, so let’s go”. If I wouldn’t have been jailed I would have thrown him into the ditch. Safe travels, and answer your emails!

    Reply
  3. Bruce

    Cool place to go. What a shame you couldn’t get more pics inside the cave. I was very disappointed Geoff didn’t use the word spelunking in his blog. Ha ha ha!

    Reply

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