Great Basin National Park, below ground

August 23rd, 2014, afternoon

One of the main attractions at Great Basin National Park is the Lehman Caves.

This afternoon I spend an hour and a half underground. Our guide, Karen, takes us through this door (not the original entrance, of course)…

1_afternoon visit of Lehman Caves began here

…and into a series of galleries and passages…

3_and on we went 2_arrived in first gallery

…and broken stalactites

4a_broken stalactites 4b_broken stalactites

Legend has it that Lehman, the man who theoretically discovered the caves (I say “theoretically” because the native peoples of the region had known about them for centuries), told his visitors (who paid a price to visit the caves): “If you can break it, you can take it.”  So of course many people tried to break off a piece of stalactite, and many of them succeeded.

This formation is called cave wallpaper:

5_cave wallpaper

Karen says that this is called cave popcorn…

9_cave popcorn

…these are cave draperies…

7_cave bacon

…and cave bacon:

6_cave draperies

 

I call these cave parsnips:

8_cave parsnips

 

The passages can be very narrow:

10_the passages are sometimes very narrow

 

I call these guys cave gods:

11_cave gods

 

Obviously, the colors sometimes come from the artificial lighting:

13_the colors sometimes come from the lights

 

What would you call this?

14_what would you call this

 

Here are some more broken stalactites. If you look closely you can see how, little by little, they reconstruct:

16_more broken...notice the... 19_broken...notice the...

 

When a stalactite and a stalagmite join forces, they form a column:

20_column

 

We move into a new gallery:

17_new gallery

 

There are just too many formations to comment upon:

21a_too many 21c_too many

21d_to count 21b_too many

 

A cave organ…

25_a cave organ

…a cave grotto…

15_cave grotto

…a cave altar…

29_an altar

 

Stalagmites, standing in a pool of water (though the water is difficult to see):

26_stalagmites

 

Powdered sugar?

22_with powdered sugar

 

Yoda?

30c_divers

 

In yet another gallery, one in which the locals used to have parties, we see this writing on the ceiling:

31_the inscription room

Karen says that even if they wanted to, the cave authorities couldn’t erase these inscriptions without possibly damaging the formations. Thus, like the broken stalactites, these writings remain as reminders of what we have done in the past and to make us think about what we should or should not be doing, now and in the future.

 

One last photo and then it’s back to the surface:

30b_divers

 

Back in camp I make an early dinner of chicken, rice and vegetables…

34_and I made an early dinner... 36_an early dinner, before going to the astronomy evening

…before going to an astronomy evening. That turned out to be very interesting under these very dark skies of the Great Basin. But I’m here in a cool and rainy period and at this altitude it gets cold at night. I’m not dressed for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be on my way east again.

 

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