You Can See the Stars

I’m so downloading this app!! 😉

So, it’s time to play a little game of catch-up before the Olympics starts again tonight and distracts me once more.  Shoot!  For that matter, I should have written several more today with all of the nothing I have been busy doing.  It’s totally not my fault though.  I got caught watching the History Channel.  That’s one of those things that can easily eat up hours of your day without your even realizing it.  It did help me decide which one to write about next though for the “30 Things I’ve Done Before the Age of 30.”  They were talking about caves and I instantly knew that had to be the next one.  I freaking adore caves.  I’ve been visiting them for as long as I can remember and they’re really nearly as special to me as the redwood trees are.  I think my interest was first piqued when Tom and Becky got lost in McDougal’s Cave.  There was something morbidly captivating about reading about two little kids who could die in that cave…especially once they had escaped and Injun Joe was locked inside to starve to death.  It gave them this mysterious, dangerous allure that I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Don’t look at me like that!  I’ve told you a thousand times already that I never was a normal child…

Anyway, I became kind of obsessed with them.  My dad was nice enough to indulge my fascination.  Granted, this probably had a lot to do with own interest in them, but still.  It was always a nice gesture.  He took us to see many different cave systems in California.  However, there was always one that stood out in my mind…

Moaning Cavern Park has always been my favorite for a number of reasons:

My dad took this incredible photograph when we visited in 1995. It’s a little aged, but it’s still one of my favorites.

1. I think part of that is that we have been there so many times before that the cave formations are etched into my memory permanently.  They always greet me now like old friends.  Plus, they’re really interesting.  There are all kind of unearthly shapes and forms that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else.  There are all kinds of magnificent draperies and other hanging formations that are made all the more impressive because of how large the cave is.  The main cavern has a depth of an incredible 165 feet.  Just to give you an idea of how big it truly is, you could fit the Statue of Liberty inside of it!  When we started visiting it, I was pretty young so it appeared even more massive to me.  It gives you this feeling that you are being dwarfed by centuries of Mother Nature’s work that is absolutely phenomenal.

This photograph of the spiral staircase of the Moaning Cavern belongs to the Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation.

2. Then there is the feeling of accomplishment that comes just from completing the walking portion of the tour.  You have to climb down 234 stairs to reach the bottom of the cavern.  When I was little, this never seemed like a very big deal.  However, as an adult it is a much more difficult activity.  The spiral staircase is incredibly slippery because the cave is naturally humid.  I wore really old tennis shoes the last time I went to the cave.  I kept thinking I was going to fall to my death the whole way down.  Plus, I was over 200 pounds then.  It made it a very arduous task for me.  Some of the passageways are pretty narrow and I was a little nervous that I was going to get stuck in one of them.  Then I had an especially hard time coming back up the stairs.  I was the last person up and I know that the tour guide with us was probably getting annoyed, but I didn’t really have much of a choice.  Ascending the stairs is the only way back out of the cave.  My legs were like jelly afterwards and I could barely walk.  They hurt for days following our trip.  However miserable it made me, it was still an awesome feeling because I had triumphed over all of those problems.

This amazing photograph of the holes in Moaning Cavern belongs to the Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation. If you want to see more, click on the picture =)

3. The caverns really do moan!  That’s just an incredible thing to experience for yourself.  The moaning is caused by water.  It drips into the holes with a hollow sound.  When that is amplified as it bounces off of the cavern walls, it creates the signature moaning of the cavern.  I have never cared that it has a scientific explanation though.  For me, it has always been much more interesting to believe that the moaning is from the souls of the many people who have lost their lives in the cave and might still be lingering around.  When modern people first descended into the cave, they discovered numerous skeletons from those Native Americans who had been unlucky enough to stumble into the cave and plummet to their deaths.  There were also those who died before the spiral staircase was completed.  In any case, there are all kinds of ghosts who could be wandering around the caves–if you believe in those kinds of things anyway.  I’m not entirely sure that I do, but it is still interesting to think about.  Besides, just being in the cavern is enough to make even the most cynical people reconsider–especially once they turn out the lights…

This is us in 2006 right after they turned the lights back on. My brother’s face is pretty much epic haha

4. That’s my favorite part really–the darkness.  There is no other darkness like it on Earth.  At night, we often think that we are in the dark.  But we aren’t…not really anyway.  We have the dim glow of our alarm clocks, that little red charging light on our cell phones, that slight glow that never really goes away when we turn off our TVs.  There are countless tiny sources of light that all get reflected off of our walls–especially if they are boring and white like mine are.  Failing all of that we still have moonlight and starlight on even the darkest of nights.  The point is that we always have some form of illumination that eventually allows our eyes to adjust.  You don’t have that inside of Moaning Cavern.  When you get to the bottom of the stairs, they turn off all of the lights so that everyone can experience what “pitch dark” truly means.  Your eyes never adjust.  There are no outlines by which you can make out forms and shapes.  There are no hints of movement.  Nothing.  It’s like the world ceases to exist.  It’s a little terrifying to be honest.  Human beings aren’t used to being underground like that.  Our other senses aren’t developed enough for that sort of environment.  However, once you get used to it for a few seconds, it’s kind of nice.  At that point, all of those other senses do kick in.  You can hear the dripping of the water as if it is falling directly on you.  You can feel the history in everything you touch.  You can smell–and even taste!–the mustiness of the cave.  With the help of your other senses, it’s really as if you still can see.  The lack of sight gives you sight…if that makes any sense.  It makes it easy to agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson that “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”  I’d take it further than that and say, “When it is dark enough, you can experience the stars.”  It gives you this new appreciation for darkness and a humongous one for light.  It’s…there are no words for it really.  You just have to “see” it for yourself…

For now, here are some of my favorite photographs to get you started.  This first set contains pictures my father took in 1995 on one of my favorite trips to Moaning Caverns…

This is so hilarious! You have to love the 90’s style!!

I love the ripples!

This is so pretty. It’s almost like the cave had been dusted in snow…

The textures in this one are so cool!

Then we have this next set.  I took these on our last trip to Moaning Cavern in 2006…

This is near to where my father took the picture that looked like snow in 1995…I’m not sure what changed to make it look so different…

I love how this one seems to pop out! Way cool!!

Alien!!!

I love how cool and wet it is in a cave

This one is my favorite! I love how all of the little pudlles around it glisten. =)

…And I’ll leave you with this group shot from 11 years after that first one my dad took in 1995. It’s amazing how time changes and shapes us while the cave remains the same…

I hope you have enjoyed them.  More than that, I hope you get the chance to visit Moaning Cavern yourself one day…

Sincerely Yours,

The Butcher of the Bard

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This entry was posted in 30 Things I've Done Before the Age of 30, Countdown to the Zombie Apocalypse, Day to Day Circumstances, Down the Rabbit Hole, My Bucket List and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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