Friday, May 15, 2015

2015 Tucson: Kartchner Caverns (5/15/2015)

Friday, May 15, 2015
Today was our sojourn to the southeast of Tucson, starting with breakfast at the iconic Gus Balon's for breakfast. Ginger went with us, leading us in her car, as we arrived soon after the place opened at 7:00.
Ginger with a cinnamon roll
Karen and Tamiko decide to split a cinnamon roll
Gus Balon's, at 6027 E 22nd Street, is known for their pies, supposedly 24 different kinds. They didn't have 24 kinds listed, and they didn't have my first choice, rhubarb. Since they were known for the pies, my breakfast was a chocolate cream pie. I didn't have room for my share of the cinnamon roll!
Ginger recommended stopping for a photo of the "Airplane Boneyard" at the Davis-Monthan AFB, on our way down Kolb Avenue to I-10. We were the only ones to stop during the morning rush hour, but Karen got a couple pics.
Davis-Monthan AFB Airplane Boneyard,
the largest in the world
The photo does not do justice to the miles of planes, neatly parked on both sides of the road!
We drove east on I-10, then turned right on AZ-90 to Kartchner Caverns State Park. We had to make reservations months in advance to see fairly recently discovered (1974) wet caverns, and you had to arrive an hour early besides! Before our 10:00 tour, we had time for the Discovery Center museum, gift shop, and hummingbird garden.
Bones of and rendering of the Shasta Ground Sloth
Boots of the discoverers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts;
you can see boot prints in one of the cavern rooms
Caesalpinia gilliesii/Desert Bird-of-paradise
No cameras are allowed in the caverns, and in fact you cannot take anything with you. The latest high-tech system was built, using air-lock doors, a misting tunnel, and guttered walkways to protect the natural and growing cave. Not only do they want to prevent the oils in your hands from stopping growth of cave formations, but to minimize the lint, hair, and skin cells from gathering on surfaces. The caverns were opened to the public in 1999.
A wet cavern is one where the presence of water contributes to the growth of rock formations. A dry cavern is one where water is no longer present to contribute to the growth of rock formations.
We were on the Rotunda/Throne Room tour. The Big Room tour closes April 15-October 15 during the nesting season of the Myotis velifer bats. Besides the usual stalactites and stalagmites, there were columns, spires, soda straws (where the water flows inside the "straw"), drapery, cave bacon, cave popcorn, flowstone, and shields. The cave contains the world's second longest soda straw at 21 feet 3 inches, and the largest column in Arizona, called Kubla Khan, at 58 feet. The discoverers of the cave kept its founding a secret for many years, and used the code name "Xanadu" that was Kubla Khan's summer capital.
We had lunch at the Bat Cave CafĂ©, getting nice and rather gourmet sandwiches.

Next: Fairbank Ghost Town.

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