Our big event of the week was to be a trip to Kartchner Caverns. Well, actually it was that trip, but they didn’t allow photography in the cave. I kind of feel like my hands are missing if I can’t take pictures! And… does the place really exist if I don’t have a ton of photos of it?
This cave system is unique among caves we’ve visited, in that it is relatively “New.” Ok, maybe it’s been around for a while, but it was not discovered until 1974. Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts were actively looking for caves, knowing the limestone hills around the area were likely sites for undiscovered caves. They heard the cave “breathing,” as they can do when the barometric pressure changes, and tracked the sound to a small opening about a foot across. They dug the opening a bit wider, crawled for more than 30 feet in a very tight tunnel, and came into a large room. They realized the cave had never been visited before, and desperately wanted to preserve it untouched. They kept it secret for about 14 years, to protect it from commercialization and subsequent damage. The Kartchner family owned the property, and they also wanted protection for the cave. They tried to get it accepted as a National Park, but the NPS wasn’t interested. Neither was the Arizona park system. Randy finally got in touch with Charles Eatherly, Special Projects Coordinator for the Arizona State Parks Board. They agreed to show Eatherly the cave, but took him at night, blindfolded him, drove in circles for a while and eventually to the cave. Eatherly actually got stuck a short ways into the cave, but they helped him out and back outside. He had seen enough to be aware of the cave’s potential as a State Park, and helped facilitate the eventual purchase and opening of the cave. It was eventually opened to the public in 1999.
It is really beautiful, and they have worked hard to make sure it stays a vital, living cave. (Somehow that includes not letting me take pictures!) It is interesting to not see evidence of hundreds of years of exploration: old caver’s gear, indian artifacts, and names of folks like Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher written with candle smoke on the ceilings.
We were privileged to join our new friends Wayne and Bev, who had two extra tickets for the hard to get Big Room tour. They had the extras because our other new friends, Dave and Marlene, had gotten the dreaded COVID bug and were out of circulation for a while. They seem to be better now (Praise God!) but we were glad we could use their tickets!
After the cave tour we went to a nice little Mediterranean Restaurant and had a delightful dinner. Wayne is also a Dentist, who has had his son-in-law buy his practice in Oregon. Wayne works in his old practice a couple days a week when he’s in town. Great folks!
That same evening we found out our wandering shirt-tail relatives were going to be in town ONE NIGHT ONLY! Sounds like a special show! Actually, it is kind of a show! They travel full time with 5 cool kids and a dog in a travel trailer. They followed us all through Alaska this summer, but we never met up. They seem to zoom across the country far faster than we do! [They touched all the US’s ocean coasts this year – Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean! How cool is that!?) So they kindly let us watch them prepare and eat dinner (We’d already eaten) and spend a bit of the evening with them. Such energy! What fun!
The only other photograph this week was of a friendly Cactus Wren, who kindly posed for us just 15 feet out our front door.