Blog Archive

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mercer Caverns

*I didn't take any pictures on this outing so I'll be adding whatever appropriate photos I can borrow from my friends, as I get them.*

A few weeks ago my lab went on an outing to Mercer Caverns.  We carpooled from school, with spouses/kids/partners and potluck picnic in tow.  Edward and Jennifer also came, but in their own car directly from their house.  For us Davis folks, it was about a 2 hour drive.

We chose this cavern (as opposed to California or Moaning) because it was the most "real," in terms of being  rough-and-tumble.  Obviously, it is completely touristy, but the infrastructure inside the cavern must date from the 1950s or so.

Many of the stairs and walkways were super steep, steeper than I think regulatory agencies (or at least insurance companies) would probably allow for modern design.  The website didn't say anything about shoe requirements (open toe vs. closed) or age restrictions for entering the cavern (like, child must be old enough to walk on his/her own).

Our tour included about 15 of us UCD people, plus a 10 year old girl and her parents.  The tour guide was a an old African American cowboy sort and he was completely honest about not necessarily knowing all the scientific facts about how or why certain formations look the way they do (which we appreciated).

At our second stop inside the cavern, he instructed us to stop and look around at the stalagtites hanging from the ceiling.  Everyone was quiet, gazing around.  Out of no where, Eddie remarks, "Oh, penis!" and points to the phallic stalagtite hanging from the ceiling.  There was a quiet pause and then EVERYONE started laughing uncontrollably.  I mean, we all had tears running down our faces.  Eddie kept looking at me like, "What?  That's what it looks like, Mama."  So I reassured him that, yes, he was exactly right: that formation did look exactly like a penis and testicles hanging from the ceiling.  After a good 2 minutes, the crowd gathered its collective composure.  The tour guide said to Eddie, "Now son, we try to prevent the adults from saying things like that to protect the little ears of children like you...but now, well, I can't say nuthin' about it to YOU."

Oh man, so funny.

After that is where the real *fun* began (read: not so much for me).  The stair cases got SUPER STEEP and some were REALLY, dangerously slippery from dripping water.  As in, even if you weren't carrying a 35 pound kid in your arms and were wearing particularly grippy sneakers you might still slip.  We were all amazed that the guide didn't bat an eye when I picked Eddie up (my little man insisted that I carry him). I'm glad I was given the opportunity to decide for myself whether it was worth the risk to tour the cavern with Eddie--having age limitations on tours like this would be a shame since it'd limit such a cool educational experience for someone Eddie's age.

Coming down the steps, I'd wrap my left arm completely around the hand rail and go very slowly.  Luckily my friend's boyfriend was in front of me and he went my pace so that if we did slip he'd be able to cushion Eddie's fall.  For the next few days post-tour, my thighs hurt when I went down the stairs at school--I think I was so tense with nervousness from the cavern tour that I worked my thigh muscles more than normal (and I take 3 flights of stairs like 10 times a day here at work).

Other parts of the tour were super narrow so I had to not only crouch down while holding Eddie, but also lean way over to the side to avoid touching any of the formations.  Lucky for me, on the way back up out of the cavern, Eddie insisted on climbing the (dry) stairs by himself.  It was slow, but easier on my arms.

The cavern was really fun to visit overall.  Despite the potential danger involved, I really enjoyed the rustic-ness of it.  As is done in all cave and cavern tours, the guide turned out all the lights to show us what real darkness is like.  We had to turn off all our camera and cell phone indicator lights so our eyes wouldn't have any light to focus on.  It was quite odd to be in complete darkness.  And of course, Eddie had to point out the obvious, "I can't seeeeeeeeeee!"
You can see me in the red coat on the steep stairs at the left.
Photo courtesy of James Dolen.
After the tour, we had a potluck picnic.  Yumi'd just had her birthday "sandwich" party the day before so she supplied all the left over bread and the rest of us brought deli salads and sandwich fillers (cheese, meat, random condiments, picked things of all kinds, etc.).  It was a delicious and fun outing!

1 comment:

steph.kelley said...

"I can't seeee!" Hahaha. Sandwich potluck is a great idea. xoxoxo