Luray Caverns, Virginia

“The poetry of earth is never dead.”
-John Keats
The summer of 2011. Long awaited.After months of huddling within jackets & scarves, sunshine & warmth finally came to pull us out of dismay.( Let me clarify before I go ahead, I happen to love winter nowadays. The cynical thoughts of a chilly past have been superseded by something simply called, “an attitude change”.) It is in July that the east coast of North America experiences the peak & pleasure of soaring temperatures & sun tans. We decided to make the most of it by renting a convertible Mustang & driving to Washington DC & Virginia….DC for the fireworks of course and Virginia for a number of places (details in the coming posts) but this post is dedicated to the Luray Caverns.

In 1978, unaware of the magnanimity below, Andrew Campbell, a tinsmith, stood on the ground above when a rush of air from a limestone sinkhole blew the candle in his hand. Curiosity led him to discover a phenomenon so beautiful that countless visitors stare at in awe even today.  The Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia is an underground wonder and not just a geologist’s paradise. I can’t believe I’m about to get all technical but here goes. These caves are teeming with extensions called Speleothems & they are mineral deposits that are primarily composed of limestone. They form Stalactites or deposits hanging from the roof down and Stalagmites or deposits from the ground up. The deposition still continues which means it’s an ‘active cave’.

We entered a narrow staircase to begin the tour, my hands clasped tight in my husband’s. I won’t lie, a hint of uncertainty caused a little discomfort but fortunately not for long because one glimpse of this marvel was more than enough to steady the mind. The long weekend ensued large crowds and despite an early rise, we somehow ended up delayed. That also meant, long waits at cramped alleys in the caverns with a roof so low, we couldn’t lift our heads but that’s part of the excitement isn’t it? But if you’re claustrophobic, don’t you worry, it’s wasn’t all not choked up like this. As we navigated the caverns, the giant formations drop down from a ceiling so high, into a hall so massive, that our guide mentioned the place to be a desired wedding spot. Not surprised though, amid the lingering dim light & an orangish glow emanating from around, this place can prove to be pretty romantic!

Walls of these caverns are swathed in tawny, caramel coloured stalagmites & stalactites,  folded to resemble the most delicate draperies. Some are white & pure with calcite while the others are smothered in shades of orange & red. Freckled, ridged & textured in laborious ways only nature could conjure.Like the Saracen’s Tent (picture below) or Titania’s Veil for example. Then, there’s the Dream Lake(picture below) , a low depth water body that also transforms into mirror, reflecting a plethora of overcrowded calcites. If the silence is too eerie for you then fret not, the Stalacpipe Organ produces musical sounds by gently tapping the stalactites and is undoubtedly the pièce de résistance in the caverns.
As if there wasn’t enough beauty above ground level, these caverns prove the veritable force of nature in the darkest of places, a place where a whole other world exists, a place replete with the mysteries of Mother Earth, so much so they baffle the mind. Do take a look at the pictures & comments are always welcome!

Dream Lake with the reflections
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Saracen’s Tent

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Stalacpipe Organ
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