Well, I thought it was on our Dollywood Perks list, but it wasn't. Phil Vananda (a decendent of the discoverer, Bill), and the manager, said it used to be, but he was thinking that because they are located in Blount County, Dollywood decided not to exchange fringe benefits. I said that I would say something to HR and he said he appreciated that, as they would like to visit Dollywood. But did we want to spend $30 to see the caves?
Well, while we were thinking about it, we noticed a siesmograph in the lobby. One of the young men showed us that a professor at UT sent them printouts of the big seismic disturbances from the Thailand quake and resulting tsunami, the Haiti and Cuba quakes and most recently, the quake in Virginia on August 23rd. Suddenly Phil came up and handed us two tickets. He really appreciated us planning to mention adding them to the Perks List with an act of good will. We will definitely do so.
We waited for our group to assemble and then headed down, down, down. In the early 1930s Bill Vananda and Harry Myers used to play in the caverns as little boys (and I mean little 6 and 8 years old!). They went off to college, but never forgot the caverns. After returning to Tennessee in 1953 they decided to open the caverns to the public. No one would lend them money, so they did the work themselves, bringing tons of cement and building materials for the paths and bridges in on their backs.
In 1955, the Big Room was opened to the public at the same time electric lights were added, eliminating the use of kerosene lanterns. James, our guide, showed us what it looked like with no light. Now I know what 'pitch black' means. Wow. I would have taken a picture, but....
|Broken-off stalactites probably done years and years ago|
We compared this cave to the others we have seen together: Karchner Caverns State Park in Arizona and the Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, TN. Each had it's own best part and I would recommend them to everyone. In the end we had climbed 410 steps and walked over a mile.
A crystal clear stream flows through the length of the caverns, draining much of the surface water from a small Alpine cove, Dry Valley, located directly above part of the caverns. We were offered a taste:
|Taking a drink of 99.6% pure water|
Monday was a work day and we were expecting thunderstorms, but they didn't show up until 6 pm. Meanwhile I checked in a bunch of people and Gary met me for lunch with soup.
Last night we put some venison (kindly given to us by a fellow camper) into the crockpot and let it cook gently all night. At 3 pm, Gary was planning to dump in some cut up veggies (sweet taters, butternut squash, carrots and celery) to finish the cooking in time for dinner. By the time he came to get me at 7, he said the coach was smelling g-o-o-d! I whipped up some cornbread and dished it up with the stew. Very tasty! It made a bunch, so we plan to give some to a lucky couple.
Ron was feeling very good, so the Dr. said he could eat a soft diet and come home tomorrow! YAY!
Gary needed to get one of his three injections of Neupogen today and said it went well.
Tomorrow who knows what fun things will happen? It's a great life everyday we wake up (especially smelling coffee!)