Monday, October 15, 2007
In Honor of Columbus Day
In honor of Columbus Day, Molly and I decided to be explorers and go somewhere new and wondrous. For us, that meant getting out of man-made DC and enjoying God's beautiful creations. So we went to Shenandoah National Park and Luray Caverns. In a
small way, we were adventurous like Columbus, considering Molly was 2 1/2 weeks from her due date and we went 3 hours away from home and hundreds of feet underground. We made plans the night before and Molly hesitated the morning of, but I said, "It's my holiday and we're going." We did, however, take note of all the hospitals along the way, keeping track of which one was closest--just in case.
Shenandoah is a long, narrow park along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Skyline Drive runs 105 miles along the ridge and is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the East. It was cloudy that day, but we still got some good views. I had fun being like my Dad, trying to take stunning pictures. They didn't come out like his would have, but they make for fond memories.
The speed limit was 35 miles the whole way, but we didn't mind. We were there for the journey, not the destination. It would have taken 3 hours to drive the whole thing, but we had a picnic lunch about an hour in and cut out early to go to the Luray Caverns.
Outside the cavern we saw what they call the Singing Tower, a huge, stone bell tower. It still operates and they give "concerts," but only on the weekends, so we only got to see it.
The Luray Caverns is one of those stalagtite/stalagmite caves. It is the biggest in the East and one of the biggest in the nation. Its claim to fame, however, has to be the "Stalagpipe Organ." Cave explores discovered that when you strike certain formations with a rubber mallet it makes a musical tone, like a xylophone. A physicist who loved music designed electronic hammer devices that he strapped to formations of various sizes to make different notes, then hooked all the devices to an organ terminal. The result is an actual, playable organ. We took one look and thought, "Now this is were the Phantom of the Opera must live." They didn't let us play it, but they played an automated song so we could hear it--"A Might Fortress is Our God." The room it was in is called the Cathedral Room, partially because of its size and shape and partially because several weddings have been held there.
Another highlight of the cavern was what they call Mirror Lake. It's a shallow lake--about 6-8 inches at its deepest--but because the water is so still the reflection looks as deep as the ceiling is tall. It was hard to get a picture because with the flash you couldn't see the reflection and without the flash it came out a little blurry--but here it is. Kind of Halloween-ish.
Also kind of Halloween-ish was Pluto's Ghost. It's a formation that was in a central location, so the first explores kept passing by it again and again as they explored the cave's many tunnels. They felt like it was a ghost following them, so they named it Pluto's Ghost after that Roman god Pluto, lord of the underworld. (Sorry, no picture of that one.)
Finally, at the end of the cavern was what they call the Wishing Well. As the name suggests, they let people throw in coins. People throwing coins might hope their wish comes true, but the real wishes come true for other people. Every year they take all the coins out and donate the money to charity. You might think that coins don't add up to much, but they do. In 2006 they collected $750,000. Since they've been doing it they've collected millions. The shiny coins and the greenish color of the water made for a cool picture.
Well, that was our fun adventure. Molly and I decided we would make a tradition out of exploring something new every Columbus Day (but maybe not when Molly is so pregnant).
Posted by Andrew at 7:25 PM