Most local residents have been there, either as a childhood field trip or of their own volition. It’s a nice cave, despite being heavily reworked. The problem is, you have to spend the whole time riding around in a little wagon towed behind a modified cave-Jeep. Now, the ride itself is one of the biggest selling points for most people, but I always found it incredibly restrictive. I always wanted to get out and explore all those nooks and crannies I could see but never reach. Of course, this is something that’s always bothered me, and one reason I seldom go on cave tours.
Well, I was finally able to live my childhood dream of exploring Fantastic Caverns on foot, and legally to boot, and I wanted to share some of the pictures I managed to get of some normally off-limits areas.
The actual Jeep trail only goes about halfway into the cave, the rest being almost totally undeveloped. Areas off the beaten path still have their natural clay flooring, which, although beaten down by human traffic, is still sticky. There’s a large stage about ¼ of the way in, which is used as an indoor classroom and for special events. The stage area continues down an offshoot, where it develops into a kind of boardwalk. The boardwalk winds down some narrow corridors, eventually degenerating into a muddy crawl.
Another area of interest is the projection area at the end of the road, normally used to show a short film about the cave. It’s possible to continue past the screen and access the rest of the cave’s main passage, which is still fairly large, but not big enough to drive through. To one side is a large room full of what could best be described as clay “dunes.”
The main passage continues down a natural staircase-like structure into an odd tunnel covered in protruding formations. As I headed down into this, the cave’s final standing area, I noticed an ancient light switch, embedded in the rock face. The switch was surrounded by an elaborate metal cover, which had rusted considerably, and the lights no longer functioned (not surprisingly), but it was still an interesting relic.
Those of you who know a little about the cave might know that there are actually two levels, the second being a long passageway with low ceilings, mostly consisting of a long, arduous crawl with a few respites provided by sinkhole-like structures connecting to the upper level. While I was tempted, my time there was limited, but there’s always next time.
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