Monday, October 13, 2008
Our Trip to the Cave of the Mounds - August 2008
As a child the one and only time we went on vacation was 1982 or '83, when my Dad won some tickets for Wisconsin Dells from a radio station. We went there on a day trip, ate at a A&W, toured a mock-up of an old fort, and saw Tommy Barlett's water show in the evening. As once-in-a-childhood vacations go a 12 hour in-state trip isn't exactly gay Paree, but I still remember it with a smile.
That summer my folks also took us on a day trip to see The Cave of the Mounds, a 1692 foot long cave located in central Wisconsin. This I remember with great fondness, as I've always fancied myself a bit of a spelunker (were it not for my fear of the dark, close spaces, solitude, and dripping water. I kid, I kid.)
Really tho', I've always had a soft spot for the place and I've talked it up to the kids over the years. So this August the collective we (minus Lump) spent the day on a trip to visit the National Natural Landmark.
The cave, which was discovered accidentally during some quarry work in the Depression, has an entrance/exit that neccessitates you passing through an extensive gift shop.
Tours leave every half hour and there are always more than one group in the cave at a time. We barely made it to the start of our group in time, but I almost wish we'd been tardier. The tour starts with a video presentation on the cave's history and geology, and good luck having three kids sit through that without squirming. When the video was done it was time for the fun to begin.
Obviously a cave is difficult to photograph properly and I didn't have much time to perfect the art, so bear with some of the pictures.
Many areas of the cave are accessible to the public and well lit, with concrete paths and ample elbow room (considering you're in a cave). Not so in some areas.
During some of these tight spaces I marveled at the fact that my Mom was once limber enough to complete the tour. The kids began to get a little claustrophobic, especially LuLu, and I'll forever be grateful to a woman in the party who talked LuLu through one twist and turn with kind words of encouragement.
This is the 'end' of the cave. Not the end of the tour, but of the navigable area of the cavern. Past this point the cave exists but in an unstable condition unsafe for human exploration.
Here's a baby seal made of stone. See it?
The kids sure did.
These next few are of . . . something or another. Sorry, the pictures don't match the brilliance of the cave so it's hard to match them with my memory. Still, I'm pretty sure the first shot is a zoomed picture of a huge fossil that's visible in the roof of the cave. I can't recall its stated age, but I believe it's up there in the three digit millions range.
Here's a stalagmite formation that looks like a parrot. (StalaTITEs hold tight to the ceiling, StalagMITES might get there someday. I remember that from '82, and they rattled it off again on the tour).
You're not allowed to touch anything on the tour, lest you damage or interfere with the natural processes at work. (any photo of a broken formation is due not to man but to an ancient flood. Photos of the cave's initial exploration show the same damage)There is only one well-rubbed formation visitors are allowed to touch.
On the tour they like to take you into a dark area and then turn on the lights, darzzling you with the hidden majesty of the cave.
At the end of the tour there's a little alcove and both Lisa and I couldn't wait to show it to the kids. It was dark, but when the lights turned on an entire Smurf villiage would be revealed. I remember it clearly from my prior visit, as did Lisa.
But sadly (and stupidly) the Federal Government made them remove the 'commercial' display in order to qualify as a landmark. What a crock, and what a wasted opportunity to seal the trip forever in the kids minds.
On the way out we spent a lot of time in the giftshop, and each kid walked away with a fancy stone or two and some Girl Scout patches for the Lu and YaYa, while Lisa and I picked up a black stone elephant to complement the African carvings my Dad handed down to me.
After the giftshop we took part in activites outside, but that's another post.
We all walked out of the cave suitably impressed, and everyone agreed this *can't* be the only time we visit the Cave. We'll cerainly have to bring back Lump when she's older. What a great way for the family to spend a day.