Caverns have gift shops.
- Ed, the Tour Guide
Today, we were able to celebrate FMIL's 60th birthday with a field trip to Kartchner Caverns. I have to say, it was absolutely stunning, well worth it, and I am so honored to have been inside.
I'd love to write a ton about our experiences, but it's been a really long day (gee thanks, homework).
I did take some pictures of what I could though! Items like cameras and water bottles were not allowed inside the cave. It's still very much alive and the state and many people have gone through great lengths to preserve and protect it as much as possible while still sharing it with the public.
Our tour reservations were at 2pm, but we had to arrive at least an hour ahead to pick-up the tickets. We got up early and made sure that we and the house were ready for guests later on at dinner. My "sister-in-law", the one who is mommy to our kitty's sister, joined us and had made a delicious blueberry pie for FMIL's choice of birthday cake. However, it tipped over and all over the floor of her car on the way over. We were heartbroken but giggling as we scraped up the remains. We saved what we could, sampled what we felt was safe, and headed out.
I've seen this landscape for a few years now and I still am fascinated by it.
The weather was a nice-level of warm and a bit dry but inside the cave was 72 degrees and 98% humidity. Just like Florida! Teehee.
It took us about an hour to drive into nearly the middle of nowhere by Ft. Huachuca, the US Army base.
The prickly pear and other cacti are in full bloom. The bees are busy.
The Hummingbird Garden they had was thriving despite the extreme cold and hot weather we've had recently. I didn't catch sight of a hummingbird just yet though.
The visitor center was called the Discovery Center and it was chock full of information not only about this cavern, but other state parks and local flora and fauna.
Things like an ancient giant sloth fossil have been found inside the caverns. I was proud of myself for knowing what this was when I saw it. Yay for loving to learn about animals!
I ended up getting super excited and buying a basic field guide about different plants and animals in the state. It include some tracks like these. We had a lot of time to kill and enjoyed exploring.
They had various samples of actual rocks and minerals as well as models of the formations we would see inside the cavern. We were not allowed to touch anything inside for fear of completely killing off the delicate balance of life inside this wonderful place. So, we were told to satisfy our curiosity by messing with these. It's also a federal offense to do so but they stressed wanting to know if anything was touched by accident, so they could mark it and clean that spot later that night. The caverns are painstakingly hand-cleaned every night.
There are so many kinds of formations! There's a rating system that judges the beauty of caverns around the world based on the amount of different minerals found in it (because this often leads to a variety of different hues). Kartchner rates amongst the top ten known to the world and is the only one open to the public. It really was awe-inspiring.
These are models of soda straw formations. They are actually hollow because of the water running through the middle, but they can clog up and eventually become just stalactites. Maybe even a column if it eventually meets up with a stalagmite.
A few examples like curtains, shields, flowstone, and cave bacon. Some were dormant (dry), some were very much alive and active with water flow, and few that were extinct (no chance of water flow growth). Fascinating what a different combination of a handful of minerals could turn out to be.
The initial explorers of the cave were two male college students that crawled through tiny spaces like these. SIL and I are not the biggest of people and we still had to do a significant amount of fandangling to get through.
We got to see this in person at the end of our 1.5 hour Throne Room/ Rotunda tour. He's a 58 feet column formation probably formed when water was gushing into the cavern. This all was so amazing.
We grabbed a bite to eat at the on-site cafe. This is the spinach tortilla wrap with chicken and strawberries that FMIL and SIL had. We all enjoyed some refreshing prickly pear lemonade.
We all enjoyed coming out here very much. It was the first time for the SO and I, but we're all willing to do it again. The other area is called the Big Room and it's currently closed because thousands of bats are nesting there right now with their pups. I think we're planning to come back in the fall, after they have gone, to tour that area.
On the way home, we talked about how all of the Palo Verde were very much in bloom. It's the biggest sign of spring we have here, besides seeing green again after the harsh frosts. For the rest of the night, we had others joins us at home in making personal-size pizzas. We used flattened biscuit dough, spread out the toppings, and each made at least one of our own to bake on a stone.
What a wonderful way to celebrate the day!