Luray Caverns

Last post I shared about our short little day hike in Shenandoah, but to finish off the day, let's go back to that morning when we went to explore the Luray Caverns (I know- I realize that I posted about the afternoon before the morning... What can I say? I work backwards sometimes). 

So to give a little background, the last time I ventured into a cave was during a third grade field trip to Desoto Caverns in the great state of Alabama (please note I refrained from using the phrase "sweet home Alabama." Growing up with that song being played at until you're into your 20's means that you tire of the phrase at the age of, oh, fifteen). What I remember of that trip was learning the cutesy way of distinguishing stalagmite and stalactite (some things never leave you, usually the ones that aren't useful for everyday life), being told that you should always carry a flashlight in a cavern unless you're feeling courageously stupid, and getting lost in an outdoor maze and climbing under the fences so that I wouldn't get left. Quite the adventure for a bookworm third grader whose glasses took up half of her face.

In comparison to the memories of that trip, the Luray Caverns are HUGE. Like I thought it was kind of ridiculous at the start what we were paying to see, but after the hour long walk through the massive underground world, I'd say the trip was worth it. Now that I have an inkling of what a cubic inch is and how long time can be (neither of which you understand in the third grade), it's incredible that that it takes 120 years to form one cubic inch of new deposits. I mean good grief. The tour guides at Luray estimate that with the formations they have, Luray began forming a loooooong time ago. Like 400,000,000 years ago. Hello dinosaurs, how's life up in the Shenandoahs? That's swell.

I think my favorite part of the Luray story was how it was founded: Some men discovered a sinkhole in the late 1870's, and like all men would, decided to lower one of their friends into the sinkhole armed with a candle. Excuse me, what? Yes, a candle. So the guy with the candle noticed the depth of the caverns and survived the descent, and Luray has since become one of the most visited caverns in the world. Many thanks to the courage of the guy with the candle.

Anybody else think this would be a cool place for an Avett concert?

The two neat things about Luray:

1. There was a electronics scientist who worked for the Pentagon that designed and created a stalacpipe organ, which plays a four-keyboard console by using stalactites instead of pipes. It took him almost 40 years to perfect all the notes (only two were perfect from the start, the rest were sanded until he was satisfied) and install 5 miles worth of wiring to connect them all. Nerdy, but seriously cool.

2. They have a wishing well at the end that you can throw in whatever change you have in your pocket and all the donations at the end of the year goes to a charity. The extraordinary part is that in the heat of some sort of argument, more than one soon-to-be bride has thrown in her engagement ring and called off her wedding at that spot. Crazy people. And they didn't want their rings back. Now, that's some kind of charitable donation. Hmm, I wonder if it's tax deductible?

The guides say this is several feet deep of change... Woah.

And just FYI, Luray has a garden maze of hedges. I declined to participate. Rolling under fences is so much easier than crawling through pointy hedges.

P.S. Sorry for the grainy pictures, but it's just a teensy bit dark down in the underground...