Not all God’s handiwork is readily seen. Today LeRoy and I took a tour of the Rotunda Room in Kartchner Caverns, a state park just up the road a few miles. It was my first cavern tour other than Alabaster Caverns in Freedom, OK and about all I remember from there is bats.
Kartchner Caverns are a relatively recent discovery as caverns go. Two spelunkers discovered the treasure in 1974. They entered through a crack at the bottom of a sink hole in the side of a mountain. According to our guide, they disobeyed the cardinal rule of cave exploration when they entered without anyone else knowing their whereabouts and they spent 16 hours there that first day. They had been in other caves that had been trashed before they arrived, so they kept the caverns a secret for 14 years. They approached the owners of the property, the Kartchner family, about buying the property but it was too much for them. Finally the state of Arizona purchased and developed the property as a state park.
The developers have done an amazing job of restricting damage to the formations. Our guide said that no one is allowed to move anywhere off the original paths used by the original explorers. No “loose items” (cameras, purses, backpacks, etc.) are allowed in the caverns, so I’m dependent upon internet images. Stalagmites and stalactites have always fascinated me. A book I read in grade school compared stalagmites and stalactites to ants in the pants: when the mites go up, the tights come down! At least I’ve never forgotten which is which since then!
The most magnificent item to me was a 58′ column (formed when a stalagmite meets a stalactite) known as Kubla Khan. The code name the early explorers and mappers used for the caverns was Xanadu. The ruler of Xanadu in Coleridge’s poem was Kubla Khan, hence the name.
It’s not a cheap tour, but Kartchner Caverns is not an ordinary sight, either. We enjoyed it and I’d do it again, especially when I can hold onto the handrails while looking down. Dark or not, it’s still a LONG way down!