Monday, October 5, 2015

Linville Caverns ~ Exploring Inside A Mountain

Caverns...in North Carolina?  What?  You can't believe we have something so "exciting" to explore in this state?  It was a little shocking to me too.  Caverns (like the ones in Carlsbad, NM) just sound so exotic and far away.  Who knew something so naturally beautifully and exciting existed here in our beautiful mountains?  Most of North Carolina's mountains are completely covered by trees and forests so it is difficult to imagine that underneath all that foliage and tree cover are million year old rock formations.  Really, the only spots where the rocky mountain becomes visible is usually where the sides of the mountains were blasted away to make way for roads and interstates.  So when I was looking for things to do with the kids in the Marion, NC area last week, I discovered that these caverns were a very short drive away.  I decided they sounded like something I could comfortably handle with three young children, including a baby (much safer in comparison to intense hiking and walking across mile high swinging bridges).  The caverns were beautiful and easy to explore with a knowledgeable guide and well lit and smooth paths.  Even my slight case of claustrophobia that acts up at the thought of entering a crowded elevator was at peace during this adventure.  Daddy was a little jealous he didn't get to accompany us on this journey into the mountain.

From the brochure:

"For centuries, the beauty that lay deep inside Humpback Mountain was unknown to most people.  In 1822, the mysterious appearance of trout swimming in and out of the mountain led fishermen to explore the passageways within.  Once inside the mountain, the explorers were captivated by the millions of years of geological activity that surrounded them.  Their pine torches illuminated the various formations and rooms whose ceilings 'looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral.'  During the Civil War, deserters from both armies hid out in the caverns.  One area was a fairly large sandbar that the soldiers lived on.  They built a fire in that section to cook their food and keep them warm.  Some old stools and a cobbler's bench were found there by the early explorers and it was believed these soldiers made or repaired shoes and traded their work to local folks in exchange for food and supplies.  In 1884, Thomas Edison sent William Earl Hidden to the area in search of platinum to be used in making the incandescent lamp.  Hidden and his team etched their signatures on a rock deep within Linville Caverns to commemorate the exploration.  During the lifetime of Linville Caverns one element has played a primary role...water.  Water containing carbon dioxide is responsible for dissolving the limestone and dolomite thus forming the natural passageways into the mountain.  Water containing mineral deposits formed the many stalactites and stalagmites that enhance the beauty of the caverns.  Through the ages, these minerals have hardened into magnificent features such as columns, draperies, canopies, straws, and an array of icicle-like forms.  Today, Linville Caverns remains an active, natural limestone cavern with new rock constantly growing and forming.  Informative, half-hour guided tours leave just minutes apart throughout the day.  Courteous and experienced guides take visitors along the well-lit, smooth level walk into the mountain and point out the most interesting formations, explain the history of the caverns, and answer all questions.  With a constant year-round temperature of 52 degrees, many forms of cave life exist in this balanced subterranean environment.  Depending on the season, some of our visitors may get to see an Eastern Pipistrelle bat hanging from the ceiling, spot a crayfish in the underground stream or view the yearly winter hibernation of the grand-daddy long-legs.  Visitors normally see the trout swimming in our underground stream or glimpse a cave cricket scampering along the walls."

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The beautiful area surrounding the entrance to the cave with the mountain stream flowing into the opening. 


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Just the slightest touch of oranges, yellows, and reds starting to show up on the mountain.  

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We spotted a little spotted trout swimming around just outside the cave entrance. 

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This huge bush was just covered with gorgeous butterflies.  I loved the touch of blue on their wings.   I wish I had my zoom lens attached so I could have captured these better.  They fluttered away if I got too close. 

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The "Beware of Bats" warning sign at the entrance to the cave.  A door was added to keep out after hours visitors.  It would be a scary place to venture in the dark.  The guide told of two young boys years ago who skipped school to go exploring the cave without telling anyone where they were going.  They had a lantern, but one of the boys tripped and dropped the lantern leaving them in complete blackness.  Our guide demonstrated the extent of this blackness in one part of the cave when she turned out all the lights.  Somehow, these boys finally found their way out by following the stream flow.  We only had one instance where Brody got separated from me in our group.  He had stopped walking, and I didn't realize it.  He was at the back of the group and could see me and started crying.  I had to go back and get him.  He stayed close after that.  

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The rock formations were so beautiful and interesting, and the cave was very large.  There were a few spots where we had to duck our heads though.  The top right picture shows some interesting mineral deposits.  They look yellowish in color sort of like amber.  I wonder if it was citrine, a form of quartz.  Mining isn't allowed anymore in this cave, but there are still many minerals to be found there. 

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Thank goodness Evan can be trusted to take a decent picture of me to prove my existence on these adventures.  Ha! 

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Can you see the crocodile?  

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We followed the stream on most of the cave paths. 

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These green dripping stones were interesting.  They weren't as slimy feeling as they looked and just contain a type of mineral deposit that makes them look green.  The picture in the bottom middle is called the "Guess what?" rock formation because everyone sees it looking like something different.  What do you see?  Squid, ghost, or something else? 

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More interesting flow stone and rock formations.  It is hard to believe that flowing water carved all of these formations.  The bottom right picture is more pretty colored mineral stones.  

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There was one room in the cave that the guide took the group into that had a very narrow entrance.  I didn't feel that I could squeeze Mattox and I through the opening so Evan went inside without me.  He said it contained a large area of green water.  This little room in the left side picture was just before the opening to that room and was a neat little space with a little pond of water on the floor.  The top right picture shows formations that kind of look like bats hanging from the ceiling.  

3 comments:

  1. I've only been to caverns a few times and I really enjoyed them! :)

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  2. Very cool! We have caverns in Southern Arizona too- Kartchner Caverns. I'm sharing the wikipedia link with you because my dad was friends with one of the guys who discovered them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kartchner_Caverns_State_Park

    Anyway, another very cool adventure for your boys! I thought about taking my boys into a cave in Flagstaff over the summer, but they are very cold with jagged sharp rocks that have to be climbed over. That didn't sound very good with Elliott and his falling issues.

    And hooray for Evan capturing images of mom too! It's always nice to know we exist.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a great picture Evan took of you. Right now the kids mostly chop our heads off!

    And these caverns look really cool. I'm glad you found something fun to do with the boys -- as opposed to swinging bridges. Yikes.

    These caverns remind me of the ones we saw in Virginia -- they are just so cool and it amazes me what water does to rock over the years.

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