|Underground rock formations|
When we travel and see fascinating places, how much of the experience is our own?
I mean, obviously the sights and sounds that I experience are completely mine, but the thoughts that they evoke - aren't they shaped by the books that I have read and the movies that I have watched? Can I ever visit Jaisalmer and not think of Sonar Kella? Is it possible to see kash phool and not remember Pather Panchali? Similarly, when I went to see Shenandoah Caverns last Sunday and spent an hour in a real cavern for the first time in my life, at least half my mind was occupied with the experience of little Tom and Becky down in their cave, and fears of getting lost. But the other half was filled with natural wonders beyond my imagination - sights that I had not expected even after looking at pictures of underground caverns.
|The "Diamond Cascade"|
Not that I didn't know what to expect. The principle is simple enough - the minerals in porous rock layers get dissolved in water and then, as the water drips down into a cave one drop at a time, a little bit of water evaporates from each drop and leaves behind a small mineral deposit that grows into rock icicles over millions of years. Stalactites (the ones that hold "tightly" to the ceiling), stalagmites (the ones that "might" join the ceiling one day), flowstone and draperies are a few of the rock formations that result from such a situation.
As I have said before, I cannot fathom geological time periods. My patience is of the variety that wears thin when an egg takes too long to boil. So when I see impressive rock chandeliers and frozen waterfalls of shimmering crystals, I can hardly imagine the time Nature took to create them. It's not even a volcanic landscape - a lava plateau - that suddenly explodes in front of everyone. This work is of the slow but steady variety, and water drops falling around me in the cave were a constant reminder that Nature's masterpiece is not yet finished. The caverns may look the same to us humans ever since they were discovered, but slowly and surely, they are changing before our very eyes.
Although the Shenandoah Caverns are very small as caverns go, my words are still inadequate to describe them in full. Thankfully, there are electric lights installed that enable photography, and guided tours available that explain every feature for captioning the photographs. Therefore I will stop here and make way for a few more photographs.
|Draperies and stalagmites. Everything here was formed naturally|
|The "Capitol Dome Stalagmite"|
|"Rainbow Lake," an underground reflecting pool|
|This translucent rock formation is called "cave bacon"|