The weather has been in the 90′s and very humid so we gave up on boon-docking in order to plug-in and have the comfort of A/C. We found a nice little tucked away park called Holiday Pines just off of I-80 near Langdon, PA. The bathrooms were nice and the playground was cute. Divagirl got her energy out before the mosquitoes came out in droves. Did I mention we were in the woods? Yup. Lush and green.
The next morning we got an early start, with a plan to stop and visit the Indian Caverns, not far off I-80, which broke up our day into two halves. The day was overcast with a light rain as we made our way along back-country roads towards the caverns. As we reached a fork in the road toward the end of our trip, with about a mile to go, I noticed a sign that said the fork was the end of the truck route, and there was an 8′ 2″ bridge coming up…but the GPS was telling me to turn! I panicked at the last minute and took the path to the right, and we quickly pulled over to try and figure out our options.
Heather ran back to the sign to read the small writing that was along the bottom of it…although I didn’t catch it while driving, it said the bridge was 5 1/2 miles in the direction we needed to go, and the Indian Caverns were only 1 mile up the road. So we decided to turn Edelweiss around, rather than drive full-circle and add another 15 minutes to our drive. We had to unhitch the car, but turning around was easy, and I followed Heather in the car as we drove the final mile.
The last harrowing event was crossing the bridge to the caverns – there were steel beams covered by loose planks of wood, and they made horrible rumbling noises as the car drove over them. The sign said “20 Tons” which covered Edelweiss, but I definitely wanted to second-guess the construction of the bridge, solely on appearances :)
After parking, which was about 12:10p in the afternoon, we wound up a trail as we followed the “tickets” signs, ready to explore, only to find out tours were guided, and only left on the hour, every hour. Boo! We had just missed the previous group, and now had to wait about 45 minutes until the next one.
We killed some time milling around the gift shop, and decided to let the kids go “panning” early instead of after the tour. As part of their ticket purchase, they were each given a small bag of dirt which contained a possibility of hidden gem stones! Nyuk nyuk. Outside of the store, there was a panning station where they could dump their dirt into a sifting tray, submerge it, and let the running water wash away the dirt to reveal glorious “gems” and “rare” stones. Divagirl loved it, and thought she was soooo lucky to find such beautiful stones :)
Before long, the next tour group was starting to form, and we made our way to the wannabe-ominous looking entrance. For the first 5 minutes our guide, who was feeling bad that we had to wait so long, let us mill around and explore on our own, which was great. Then he called everyone together, and we started the 45 minute walk through the caverns.
The overall experience was awesome, although it took the first 30 minutes for Divagirl to warm up to the idea that no monsters existed in the caves, and there was nothing inside that would like to eat little children. Then she loved it! We also learned how the caverns had grown over the years, both as a criminal storehouse and then later as a tourist destination, as well as how they were originally used by Native Americans—primarily to smoke meats and take shelter from extremely hot or cold weather—and that the caves were still very active. Some additional fun facts we learned:
- It takes stalactites (they grow from the ceiling down) about 120 years to grow and inch. One inch!
- Most of the stalactites throughout the caverns are stubby looking, because tourists in the early days would break off pieces as souvenirs.
- When stalactites and stalagmites (they grow from the ground) meet, they form what’s known as a column.
- The lowest point in the caverns was about 160 feet below the surface.
- When all lights are turned off, it’s absolutely pitch black, with zero light seepage. If you were to stay in that pitch black darkness for a couple weeks straight, and then return to the surface, your eyes wouldn’t readjust and you’d go blind.
- The caverns are still prone to flooding when it rains.
- It remains a cool 56˚F all year round.
It was a fun adventure, and I’m glad we were able to visit. I know the kids enjoyed it, and now they have a bag of gems to keep them occupied until our next stop!