Thursday, May 31, 2012

Enchanted Pt II

It was hot!  Ollie was slathered with sunblock several times, but his arms still looked like they were pinking up. The cheese in our cheese and cracker lunch melted before it was eaten.  But still I donned pants and packed long sleeves in the parking lot - it's a lot cooler 750 feet underground!  After everyone used the bathrooms, we got in line for tickets.  Thomas and I have a national parks pass, so we didn't have to pay for them, but still needed tickets.  Once at the counter I got nervous we wouldn't be able to go. 

A sign on the counter asked if anyone had been in any other cave or mine in the last seven years.  I knew I hadn't, but Thomas had for work.  He answered honestly, and instead of quarantining us for 48 hours, the ranger asked if it was east of the Mississippi.  He answered no - it had been in Wyoming.  She told us there is a disease on the east coast affecting bats, and they are trying to be cautious because they don't know much about the disease.  We were free to go.  Turns out Marty had been, too, but in the northwest. 

We had planned to hike in and take the elevator out.  This was also the plan of nearly everyone else there.  A ranger suggested if we are able, we might consider taking the elevator down and hiking out.  There was no wait to take the elevator down, but there was already a 30 - 45 minute wait at the bottom to take the elevator up.  Able-bodied as we are, we went with their suggestion, effectively "cutting" in front of all the people ahead of us in line who would take at least 20 minutes longer to get into the caverns on foot. 

They warned us as we descended, ears popping and all, that there is no touching, pictures are allowed, please whisper, no food or drink (unless to pacify the baby), and the only bathrooms/services are at the base of the elevator - the path is one way.  Ollie's ears must have been plugged and missed the warning to whisper.  He was enjoying himself for a while in the backpack, and then Miki pulled him out and carried him when he started getting noisy.  It was all in good fun, and I doubt anyone's trip was ruined because he wanted to say he liked the columns or stalactite.  It wasn't in good fun when he peed through his diaper all over his mom, who hadn't packed an extra one.  Oh well...

 Tom and I at the "top of the cross".  We didn't bring flashlights, so all we could see was what was lit by the park.  Otherwise, it would be pitch black!  And it was chilly to me.

 My pictures were pretty pathetic, but the textures and formations were really amazing.  I liked the "draperies" and the colors.  There were also little ponds throughout that reflected back the neat! 
When we started hiking out, there were a number of other people going the same direction.  We agreed that it would be easier on our knees to climb out than climb down, and what great exercise it was.  There were still people coming down, and I knew we were getting close to the opening when I heard a heavy young woman threaten her child to turn around and walk back to the car.

  Really, you know you are getting close when you see this!  You could tell natural light was filtering in when the rocks started to be coated in an algae like growth.  It was pretty amazing to see the moisture condensing in the top of the caverns, and it made it damp enough at the top of the natural entrance for this kind of plant life.

 Looking good - nobody was too red in the face, though we were all a little wary of getting pooped on by the birds diving through the mouth area.

The eye of light is the natural opening, where the mud swallows that have nested on the walls dive in and out by day, and where the bats escape into the night at dusk.  We didn't go back to see the bats as planned because we were all tired and hungry. 

You'd think after another day of subpar napping this little guy would be worn out, but he was just so happy to see me that he was always smiling.

We made it to Mass on Saturday, where Ollie was complimented on his worship techniques.  The arms in the air during the Alleluias, the joyous strains during the Amens.  He really was great, and I was grateful to get to hold him, not that Miki is ever short of hands who want to hold him at Holy Family.  After Mass we went to Yellow Brix for dinner - delicious and nutritious (and they served gelatto!) for everyone, even Ollie who liked the spinach dip best.

We stayed at the Trinity Hotel.  It is a really fancy place that had a room with a large safe in it, in which was a sleeper sofa.  Thomas and I slept in the safe, and I was greatly relieved not to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because the vault doors were super squeaky to get out.  Now we can say we slept in a safe...a secure night's sleep, for sure.

 I didn't get the memo to wear my green shorts on Sunday, too.  Ollie woke up in a terrific mood, hopeful for another blueberry pancake, I'm sure.

Next stop...White Sands!

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