19 Feb 2013--Left San Antonio for about a month's trip to Ft Davis in west Texas and then on to the Carlsbad Caverns in eastern New Mexico on Sunday, before we left though I took this picture of RVers who clearly have more money than they know what to do with. Notice that they have had their smart car painted in the same scheme as their RV...the contrast between the sizes of the 2 vehicles with the same paint is cute though!
So ultimately we were headed to a town called Ft Davis, but as it was just over 400 miles away we decided to stop at the Sonora Caverns, which were only about 180 miles. We had heard just recently that they were supposed to be the most elaborate and the best caverns in the country. We stayed right on the same grounds of the cavern, and had the RV park to ourselves!
They announce outside the entrance that you should be in fairly decent shape to go on the almost 2 hour tour of the caves as there are extensive steps to be traversed. It is also quite warm...taking the humidity into account, it feels like 85 degrees inside!
This cave was actually found back in 1905 and is privately owned, but they didn't start giving tours until around 1960. The guide said they are the most elaborate in the country that are open to the public.
There are actually 5 levels down into the cave, so the humidity level increases as you descend, and therefore the elaborate formations increase the deeper you go. As you enter, the walls and ceilings are relatively smooth due to the amount of light and oxygen that enters the cave.
As you go deeper and deeper, the walls, ceilings and even the floor of the cave get more and more growths on them. You are literally surrounded by what almost looks like popcorn.
This 1st pic shows a beautiful pool of water, while the last looks like applesauce.
As you go through the cavern, the guide turns on lights ahead of you, and then turns them off behind you. So not only is the moisture and humidity increased as you descend, but it gets increasingly dark also. The guide explained that this stuff cannot grow in the light, and they are truly "living" formations. If you touch them, the oils, etc. from your fingers will kill them. He stopped at one point and showed us one of the broken off sections of this cauliflower-like substance.
Somewhere near the bottom he had us all stop, sit on some stone benches, and he turned out all the lights. It was as black as black can be; you could not even see a hint of your own hand in front of your face. He explained that if you were lost here and not found for a full 3 weeks, you would in all likelihood be blind for the rest of your life!
A lot of the stuff we were looking at almost looked like undersea coral...check out the 2nd row, 2nd pic here to see what I mean. I mentioned this to the guide, and he said that although this area of the country was completely under water 2 million years ago, these formations cannot grow under water...only from the properties of dripping water. The walls would have been smooth limestone back then and the water table is currently approximately 300 feet below the cave floor. Check out the 4th pic in 2nd row...looks like a translucent fish tail.
The 360 steps they talked about were very deceptive...fortunately I felt like we went down a lot more than we went up (haha) and we were back to the top before I knew it! Here is the ceiling again .
Back at the RV Park for the evening, we were pleasantly surprised by a touch of Wild Kingdom! These are Guinea Hens, followed by some really pretty peacocks who ended up coming right up to the RV...I think the male was seeing his reflection in the side of the RV and thought he might have to fight to keep his harem. Then I took a couple silhouettes of a few of them who were at the windows of the gift shop.
A bunch of deer showed up a little later to feed. These 2 seemed to be young males practicing fighting.
If you turn up your volume you can hear the guide talking to us.
Stalactites grow down from the ceiling, while stalagmites grow from the ground up.
At the end he says something about 3% of formations being alive for a "healthy" cave...I cut it off but these caves are 98% alive!
So today we are headed out for some sightseeing in the Ft Davis area. TTYL!