There’s a reason I wrote a fantasy series about an underground world…I love caves! I think I would live in one if I could. A simpler dream of mine is to someday explore a cave without following a cement path or listening to a guide. I want to get down and dirty and crawl on my belly and maybe even get stuck once or twice. I’ve visited several caves in my day, but as all cave junkies know, the guided tours, though typically fun and interesting, can leave you feeling unfulfilled.

At a little nook of a cave in Custer’s State Park  

 

Here in New Hampshire, we have two major cave sites: Polar Caves Park and my favorite, Lost River Gorge. Neither have big or long caves, but they’re enjoyable all the same. Both can be done without a guide. My favorite part at Lost River is the Lemon Squeezer. It’s a squeeze, all right, and if you can’t make it through the squeeze gauge, you can’t go through the cave. Part of the passage involves pulling yourself along on your stomach, past a stream that bubbles by on your right. This cave can be closed at certain times of the year due to flooding, so either call ahead, or make sure it’s been dry lately.

Getting Squeezed

 In New York  a few years back, we visited Howe Caverns. I liked the caves well enough-they weren’t my favorite, but I did like two parts quite a bit. The first was the ride in the boats on the underground river. In Anaedor, you would ride the Turbles, which would be more fun, but smellier. The other cool part was the Winding Way, a very narrow passage with high walls that winds back and forth (hence the name). It felt very constricting, which was awesome.

Reminds me of Willie Wonka’s chocolate river ride.
The Winding Way  
Every coffee lover’s dream.  

Recently we traveled home to Minnesota to visit family. When we were done meeting all one thousand of them (my husband comes from a family of 9 kids), we drove to South Dakota Black Hills territory (which is gorgeous, btw). It was a LONG drive (8 hours), but worth it. We visited the Badlands and Wall Drug on the way out, both of which are fascinating landmarks, for very different reasons. I remember both from my childhood, though vaguely. The Badlands were hot and Wall Drug had ice water and cool stuff to buy. Both are still the same.

The wind is blowing the plastic strip.

While in the Black Hills, we visited Mt. Rushmore (of course) and hit three caves. We were there for only 2 days, so yes, I’m quite impressed with myself for pulling that off. We saw Wind Cave first. It’s called Wind Cave because it either blows air out or sucks it in, depending on the barometric pressure. To get in, you have to pass through revolving doors. It kind of takes the romance out of the experience, but there are no natural entrances to the cave other than that blowhole, and I’m pretty sure none of us would fit through it. There was an anti-gun sign on the glass pane going in. I didn’t read it, but I’m guessing the point it’s trying to make is that caves and bullets don’t mix well. Wind Cave is known for its box work details, which you can see in the above photos. I would love to do this for our ceilings – it’s a great effect. My favorite part was when the tour guide turned out the lights. Total darkness forever wouldn’t be fun, or if you were stuck in an oubliette, but it was very cool to experience for a few minutes.

Note the anti-firearms sign.
Do you see the demon? We did.

Wind Cave is known for its box work details, which you can see to the left and below. I would love to do this for our ceilings – it’s a great effect. My favorite part was when the tour guide turned out the lights. Total darkness forever wouldn’t be fun, or if you were stuck in an oubliette, but it was very cool to experience for a few minutes.

Wind Cave and more box work.

The second cave we saw was Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. It’s hard to take good pics inside a cave, but here are a few samples of what we saw. It’s a small cave, but a beautiful one, and I can imagine what it must have been like when those who discovered the cave first saw the crystals. They must have thought they’d died and gone to heaven. Our guide was fun and funny and we thoroughly enjoyed the tour, though you have to go down a lot of stairs, then get back up them – not for the faint of heart, or the weak of heart, either. Once you leave, there’s a small cave right next to crystal cave that you can explore on your own. They even provide the flashlights!

Looks like teeth, eh?
I’m rich, I’m rich!
Pretty pattern…or intestines?  
Entry to self-exploring cave.      
Rorschach Gem Test: What do you see?
Original entrance to Rushmore – note the ladder.

The last cave we visited was Rushmore Cave. We decided to do the whole package, including the zipline and the 7-D game. The cave was pretty neat and we enjoyed strolling through it. I particularly liked seeing some stalactites and stalagmites – they seemed to be pretty rare in the South Dakota caves. There’s a reason for that, but I’m not going to tell you because why spoil all the mystery? After the cave tour we rode the zipline, which was awesome, though my husband felt like he was going to fall off – I recommend holding onto the back of the seat with one hand. My husband and youngest son now want to build a zipline (he and son #2 have already built a trebuchet). Go figure! The 7-D game, which I thought the kids would like but I’d find a tad dull, was awesome! I didn’t really care so much about shooting zombies (besides, I stunk at it), but I loved the ride. I wish it would have lasted longer…or been inside the cave.

Entry into a Goblin’s cave?
I love the mythical look of this part.
Very cool, but rather suggestive.
More teeth – likely dragon.
Close up of teeth – need brushing.
The exit – reminds me of how Lavida returned to Anaedor in Book Two.    

I’m thinking of heading to Pennsylvania next. There are a fair number of caves there that are calling to me. I’d also like to explore a sea cave some time. If you ever visit a cave you like, drop me a line.

Until next time, fellow cavers!
 
Come Explore Anaedor!
 
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The Chronicles of Anaedor: The Return to Anaedor (Book Two)
 

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