You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
A photo gallery of the Luray Caverns, Virginia
(with the Ottawa gang)
Marlowe, Dmitri, and young William are visiting for a few days and need to visit the famous Luray Caverns, in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley (on the eastern side of the central Massanutten Mtn). So here we are, 25 April 2023.
We were here once before on a family road trip, probably in the mid-1950s, and remember nothing of it. But it's certainly famous, and Marlowe's sister Alison visited in recent weeks and recommended it.
The Luray Caverns experience has progressed some way since the 1950s evidently . . .
. . . with a great lot of additional 'attractions' (few of which seem very attractive at first glance -- a 'gem sluice'?)
A cornucopia of souvenir opportunities. Let's just get to the Caverns.
It's a bit of a march, as it turns out, but . . .
. . . at least we'll be protected from the rain if any.
We're off. It's advertised as a one-hour tour over 1¼ miles of well-made curvy tracks all round the best stuff, and the brochure identifies plenty of catchy nicknames for the various sights (at least we won't have to peer up at the ubiquitous 'Old Man of the Mountain').
This webpage is just meant to showcase some of the most beautiful or most freaky of the sights within, and it's too late now to try correlating clever captions with the descriptions in the handy brochure. So we'll keep clever captions to a minimum.
But for starters the Caverns are said to be the largest ones in the eastern US and the most visited in the whole country. They were first discovered by three bold chaps in 1878 and the rest is history -- became a US Natural Landmark in 1974.
According to the brochure, they are estimated to be about 450 million years old, and we all know about how water has long been dripping through chambers, washing away the more soluble minerals, and building them up, over the years, onto all these stalactites (on the roof) and stalagmites (on the floor).
The walkway is, in a way, a pleasure in itself. It twists and turns all round, back and forth, up and down, in and out, you get the picture, or will soon.
Group consultations of the brochure
We may by now be past number 103, the 'Fish Market'.
We're coming up now to the 'Dream Lake', 2,500 square feet of it (232 square metres) and up to 20 inches deep in places.
The classic shot of the Dream Lake -- the impressive features along the bottom are reflections off the ceiling.
The Dream Lake is very popular.
Somewhere along here is 'Skeleton Gorge', named for the skeletal remains of a young female embedded in calcite over hundreds of years (now in the Smithsonian).
(That thing looks a little like the Tower of Pisa. Except that it's not Leaning.)
This may be the type of cave formation called 'drapery', of which those at Luray are 'among the best in the world' -- if so, this would be number 110, the 'Saracen's Tent'. [Not the guy in the foreground; he's just blocking the view for reasons of his own.] (photo by Marlowe)
William and Dima in contemplation
We're careful not to throw our litter over the side -- there are people down there.
A span of generations
A meeting of the minds (two photos by Marlowe)
We're probably only about half through at this point.
'Noli me tangere'
That's the 'Fallen Stalactite', formerly attached to the ceiling by its right end, but sadly dropped off in a massive earthquake (we're told) 7,000 years ago -- 'the last such disturbance of this magnitude in the eastern region'. [Good!] The boffins dated the collapse by measurements of new growth along it since.
Perhaps this is near or part of the 'Giant's Hall' ('the largest airspace of any room in the caverns'), 164 feet below the earth's surface at the bottom of it.
And of course, we have a 'Cathedral', but not just any cavern's 'Cathedral'; no, this one has . . .
. . . a 'Great Stalacpipe Organ' (nifty pun!), 'the largest musical instrument in the world'. It used to be called the Ballroom because in the old days they held parties in here, with live bands, but the name was changed to Cathedral because of its 'ethereal nature'. That's the organ there, but the organist isn't, so the docent, once all the explanations have been conveyed, turned on an electronic version of the same button-pushing.
The concept comes from the work of an electronics engineer named Sprinkle who, from 1954 to 1957, attached 37 tiny solenoid rubber mallets to stalactites of different sizes and shapes over 3½ acres here, which when electronically activated gently tap the right ones, send the tones back to base, and play a song.
Luckily, most of those tones were inaudible to those of us with imperfect hearing in certain ranges, and the song was 'A Mighty Fortress is our God'. No one else complained about the music, not even about the song.
[Martin Luther may have had some good points, but surely that song's not one of them.]
[This is a far larger cavern than the untouristified cave that Marlowe explored at the age of 7, inside the Rochers de Naye in Switzerland. Link]
This, however fascinating, is beginning to seem interminable. We will persist.
Some of these are beginning to look familiar (could we be going round again?)
Ah, the Light at the End of the Cavern
(as Gen. Westmoreland didn't say)
Great mementos of our cavern experience, but we'd better resist all the temptations. (But look . . . Natural Gemstones!)
Here's a bit more of the background off one of the info plaques
The Canadian Visitors (photo by Dwight)
Some of the Canadian Visitors (photo by Marlowe)
Vroom Vrooom. Now for some lunch in downtown Luray.
Next up: Marching round Sherando Lake and the Frontier Culture Museum
A few views of not very comparable caves in Switzerland in the not too distant past.
Grottes de Vallorbe, here, and here
Rochers de Naye, here, and here
Grotte à Chenuz