A different underground adventure, Tues, 6/7/16
Jimmy and I still have plenty of time before we're due in Boston. And we really like our comfortable Elks Lodge boondocking aerie. So, when we saw a sign for Laurel Caverns, roughly 35 miles from where Tergel's parked, we nodded and said, "yes." Checking the map, we learned the caverns are located at the crest of a mountain a bit south of Uniontown PA. I'd describe the two of us as "former claustrophobes," so it may seem strange that exploring caves and caverns is something we find interesting today, but it's true. Their website advised us to take a jacket or sweater as the cave temp is 52 degrees all year. I brought a small flashlight along, too, as I've wished that I'd had one in other caves.
At over 3.5 miles long, Laurel Caverns is Pennsylvania's largest cave (or cavern). It's a natural cave that follows the natural slope of the mountain. Our tour -- the pink line above -- is approx one hour and didn't require us crawling or rappelling or otherwise feeling trapped. Two longer, more rigorous tours (Upper and Lower Caving) are for geology students and more adventurous people. We put in a whole lot of steps going down into the cave and, of course, coming back up to the entrance.
Inside the visitor center, is the north side of a large Loyalhanna limestone rock -- we saw the other end inside the cave at the left of the reflection pond. The rock wasn't moved into the building ... t'was the other way around ... the building was built around it.
"Hall of the Mountain King" has chandeliers for lighting!
When I asked our tour guide (a young just-out-of-school-girl) if the cave was decorated, she replied, "yes." We'd heard the word used to describe caves that are full of stalactites or stalagmites, cave "bacon," draperies, etc. We were mildly surprised and a bit disappointed to realize this was a different type of cave, with no decoration. Not all caves/caverns are alike, and this one was full of Loyalhanna limestone. Most of the passage ceilings in its three-mile labyrinth are between ten and twenty feet high (many as high as 50 feet) with an average width of over twelve feet. That in itself was enough to inspire awe.
There was some squeezing thru passages going on.
And some ducking the head, if you don't want a clunk on your noggin.
This is called "The Pillar of Hercules," and it's a strange one!
Just beyond this point, our guide led us to a "room" and turned off the lights. If you ever want to see what pitch black is, where the hand in front of your face is meaningless because you cannot see it no matter how long that hand stays there, go into a cave! (I always hold Jimmy's hand when the lights get go out.) She flipped a switch. A light show began, synchronized to a segment of Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring." That was beautiful.
Water continues to drip, and I was repeatedly given "cave kisses."
Drops in the reflection pool make cool patterns.
The view from their balcony is outstanding, even on one of these cloudy days. This view is looking north toward Pittsburgh. To the left is West Virginia, and further out is Ohio. Today we could just make out the 64-story US Steel Tower in Pittsburgh, 54 miles away. A bump on the horizon, but a visible bump. A chilly breeze had me zipping up my down vest while standing on the balcony. Our elevation was over 2700'. We visited with Eric, one of the owners, for quite a while, hearing tales about his grandfather and the cave. All in all, we enjoyed our visit and were glad we came.
On the way back to Tergel, we spotted a joint called Gene and Boots Ice cream. Indeed, we did go in, and our lunch was a nice big ice cream cone (butter pecan for me). Now we're talking win-win! When we got back, we hauled a pile of laundry to a laundromat, one of those have-to-do-every-once-in-a-while chores. Did you think I'd leave out the word RAIN for once? Nope, no big storms, but we did get a light sprinkle.
Tomorrow we leave, continuing east.