John and I both took this week off, originally to go to Melbourne, Florida on a house hunting venture. That venture has been put on hold until we can get the house here in Alabama spruced up adequately enough to put on the market, but we decided to still take the week's vacation and just do, well, whatever we want to do.
Today we went down across the border to Florida and on to Florida Caverns State Park, a two time National gold medal winner.
This is a 1300 acre state park whose main attraction is the caverns, but there is such an abundance of wildflowers and greenery that visitors come for a myriad of reasons, including the Blue Hole Natural Spring, where folks are also permitted to swim.
The cave's geological history began over 38 million years ago when the U.S southeast coastal plain was covered with water. Coral, shells and the like fell to the ocean's floor and as the water receded, this material was left behind and became limestone. Over the last million years, acidic water dissolved the limestone and create crevices large enough to walk through. And the caverns were slowly..very very slowly..born.
Over time, both pioneers and Native Americans..though during different periods..have lived around these caves. Lots of pottery shards dating back centuries and centuries have been unearthed, telling archaeologists the history of the local Chert tribe that lived there, letting us know their diet and their main occupation as farmers.
During the 1800's, the caves were used by the Confederate soldiers as a refuge from the Union soldiers. The Seminole Indians hid in these caverns as well, during the Seminole Wars, led by Andrew Jackson.
In the mid 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labored to clear the caverns of tons of rock and debris to open the caves' interior and to install lighting.
Here is a monument erected to honor the men of the CCC and what they did for the state parks:
Now, on to the caverns, themselves.
The scenic walk leading to the cavern entrance:
stalactites and stalagmites..living art:
It looks like this lady is touching the formation but she is not. To do so is highly forbidden because the oil on fingerprints left behind prevents limestone from adhering to it and causes it to 'die.'
This is our guard, Paul. He's holding a lantern that was used by the CCC workers while clearing out the rocks and debris:
See that very handsome devil in the light blue shirt who has his arms crossed, the one in the left hand background? That is John:
The CCC workers realized that a reflector held behind the kerosene lamps increased the amount of light. They realized that their dinner bowls were of the right material to work as reflectors and so they permanently adhered these bowls to the ceiling of the caverns behind where they hung these lanterns. That circular object is one of those bowls:
See that big vertical formation on the right? Notice how it looks different? The path leads right by it and at that point, the walk becomes wet and slick. So many folks had lost their footing and instinctively reached out to grab it rather than fall, that it did indeed 'die.' This was the only formation we were permitted to touch:
This round ball is a natural formation that the CCC workers used as a directional tool when they lost their way. They knew that this ball sat just outside of the turn that led them to the exit:
These formations hanging from the ceiling are called 'sipping straws.' They are hollow and the water drips down from the inside, increasing their length over time:
After we were done with the tour, we headed down to our favorite eatery in that part of Florida, a scenic diner set on a big river. Here is the view from our seats, to show you the beautiful hanging Spanish moss which decorates a good many of the trees around here:
Tomorrow we plan on heading back down just across the state line to Florida, to attend a community days celebration and local art show in Graceville Florida.
Week Three Summary
3 years ago