Shenandoah Caverns

rockvillebridge20180726_142055July 26, 2018 –

After our stay in New York, we headed south, passing Harrisburg, PA, where my mom was born.

Here, and below, crossing the Susquehanna River, we got a glimpse of the Rockville Bridge, the longest stone arch bridge in the world. Of course, I didn’t know it then – I just thought it looked cool.  It is longer than it looks in the picture below, but I couldn’t fit more of it in the camera.
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We stayed the night at the Gettysburg, PA, KOA campground.  Most KOAs are either a short drive off the highway, or at the end of some rural roads, but here we got a surprising trip through the center of what must be an old part of Gettysburg.  Driving TYRTLE down little one-lane streets with tight turns and occasional curb-side parked cars is an experience we aren’t so fond of.
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We decided against a bus tour of the Gettysburg battlefield.  We needed the rest more and it was raining anyhow.  We did, however, attend the story of the ghosts of Gettysburg, told at the KOA by a costumed young lady (a nurse by day and ghost investigator in her free time).   It seems that Gettysburg is one of the most active paranormal hot spots in the world.   Here 94,000 Union soldiers fought with 72,000 Confederate soldiers in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.   In three days in July, 1863, more than 51,000 Americans were killed, wounded or went missing.

Leaving Gettysburg brought us through some pretty country in spite of the ongoing rain.
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We stopped for gas and lunch at this Liberty truck stop and were surprised by the sudden appearance of young soldiers with a variety of tanks and trucks.
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Several of them stood around in the doorway of the little diner.  We asked them what they were here for and they answered that they were “in training.”  Well, it’s important to know how to gas up your tank.  Not a single one seemed to be armed with anything, nor did they appear aware of blocking the entrance. Maybe the camouflage uniforms made them invisible to all but us?  Or maybe they were just waiting for their commander to arrive with their lunch money?

shenandoah_20180728_125826July 28, 2018 – We arrived at Shenandoah Caverns.  It is near to the Luray Caverns.  They are similar, and each involve about a mile and a half of slow walking, but the main difference (for us) was that the Shenandoah has an elevator, while Luray has more than 60 steps to climb.   I figured I could go down that many steps, but wasn’t so sure about ever getting back up after a mile’s walk.

We stayed at the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah Valley KOA campgrounds in Virginia, and we agreed it is the nicest one we have ever been at – stone patio with firepit and patio table with chairs rather than just  a picnic table with benches.  Wow!  Definitely on our list to stay at again.
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Shenandoah Caverns!!

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shenandoah_20180728_135036Below are a selection of the pictures we took  It is so hard to convey the majesty of them.

Notice the tiny tiny people at bottom left in the one at right; and in the next one, see the tiny man in the red sweater at bottom left. Hopefully, this will give you some idea of the massive scale of this cave.

 

 

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No, below left is not a statue of the Madonna in front of a lion’s head … nor is the one at the right the back end of a mammoth … they are some of the natural formations in this cave.
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Is it the hand of a monster that just missed Tom?  It’s hard to believe all these things just “happened” over immense periods of time as water dripped and left varying sediments (hence the varying colors) in their wake.shenandoah_20180728_135418

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Some more members of our group, taking pictures in all directions.
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And below … nope — it’s not a monster’s mouth with teeth biting the head off a polar bear while another bear lays like a fur rug.  It’s all just rock.
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It’s not snow at bottom of these columns – nor is it sand.  It’s just the way the rocks were made.
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The cavern was lighted with lights that were turned on as we entered and turned off as we left each area – too much light, the guide explained, would encourage the growth of green algae on the rocks.  They were partial, moreover, to colored light displays here and there, such as these below:
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In the room below there is a shallow sheet of water on the floor which reflects the shapes and lights creating a dramatic effect:
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The spectacular “waterfall” of rock below was colored in turns red, blue, pink, and green.
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Uh oh …. I seem to have been colored as well ….
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Personally, I preferred the more natural coloring.  The variations are caused by the metallic contents of the rock – magnesium, iron, etc., deposited over the millennia.
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Not hanging bats (left below) and not giant slugs (right below) … nope – it’s all just incredible variations in the rock formations.
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The boy is not carrying his mom on his back – it is just an illusion because she is standing behind him and probably making sure he doesn’t go off on his own exploration.  Another illusion — could this be a giant’s clothesline?   shenandoah_20180728_140601

Is this a castle?  Maybe it’s Hogwarts?
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If this is a giant’s mouth, he needs some serious dental work.   shenandoah_20180728_143416 shenandoah_20180728_141311 shenandoah_20180728_142725 shenandoah_20180728_142550

The massive rock under which Tom is standing is one that fell to that position during an earthquake many years ago.  Part of this cavern is under a major fault line. Tom …. maybe you should MOVE !!!!
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One of the last roped-off special areas we saw was this one below.  It is called the White House and I can see the similarity.  Although … to me … it looks just about as much like Jabba the Hut.  shenandoah_20180728_142656

Finally, after a visit to the gift shop (of course) and lunch (with strawberry milkshakes) at the diner that had been installed in 1957 and still used all the same machinery and decorations … including ketchup bottles with expiration dates in the 1930s  … we were back on the road. In leaving we saw the most incredible cow sighting of our trip — maybe 100 of them all in a line.
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Close-up
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Back on the road with the Great Smoky Mountains again. road_20180729_131445

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