Wednesday, December 7
If you ever get the opportunity to spend a little time in southeastern Arizona, you MUST visit Kartchner Caverns State Park. Wow! What an amazing place.
There are no photos from Kartchner Caverns because they're not allowed.
We were up early (since we'd gone to bed early) and had to run the heater in the trailer because it was so cold. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with diced ham and toast. Our caverns tour reservation was for 10:15, but we'd been told to arrive an hour early in case they had room in an earlier tour.
We were put in the 9:45 tour, and our tour guide was a ranger named Rachel. There were about 14 people in our group. We got on a little tram and were driven up the hill to the cave entrance. On the way, we were shown the sink hole where the discovery was made--a hole that was about the size of a grapefruit. It's a bit larger now, and is the only hole that is still open. The bats use this hole when they're in residence (right now they're not).
We went through a series of airtight doors, and the air got increasingly warmer and more humid. The air in the cave remains a constant 80 degrees and 99% humidity. Kartchner Caverns is one of two "wet caves" in the country (I don't know what the other one is). Rachel took us on the hour+ tour, during which we were overwhelmed by the magnificent beauty of the formations. We saw so many different kinds of speleothems--stalactites, stalagmites, and more. I learned that in addition to the no-photography rule, the lights inside the cave remain off when no one is inside, and they are activated by the rangers when a tour comes through. There's a limit on the number of people allowed in each day, too. The scientists and state park officials decided from the beginning that they would "do it right" when developing this cave, and took many of their policies from lessons learned from other caves such as Mammoth and Carlsbad.
We were disappointed when our tour came to an end. We could have stayed in there for hours, it was so beautiful.
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