On Saturday Ashley and I went to Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, WI. One of the more amusing parts of the day was how excited Ashley was to visit Wisconsin.
She hasn’t traveled out of state much, and she was wrapped up in this idea that Wisconsin as another state; different, nay foreign! – when compared to Minnesota. It blew her mind when we went outside of the Twin Cities radio station range. I tried to explain radio waves and how proximity to radio towers affects the stations we could pick up, but I think she still believes that WI runs on an entirely different set of physical rules than MN. Mix the “missing” radio stations with the fact that we were in the middle of rural WI and she was convinced that we were in the boonies and no one in Wisconsin knows what Nike hightops are or who Ludacris is (I’ve linked the last one there for those of you who don’t have kids, Little Sisters, or MTV).
On to Crystal Cave. Crystal Cave is AMAZING.
I have to let you let that sink in, because words cannot capture the AMAZINGNESS of Crystal Caves.
The only other cave I’ve been to in recent memory is Colossal Cave near Tuscon, AZ. Colossal Cave was very neat. It has a constant temperature around 7o°F, and is in the middle of beautiful Saguaro-filled desert. There are plenty of lizards, bugs and other creatures to watch outside of the cave. We didn’t see any bats on our tour, but the cave is known to host bats. Colossal cave is “dry” or “dormant”, which means the cave isn’t growing formations – no new stalactites or stalagmites.
Crystal Cave is very, very different from Colossal Cave.
Crystal Cave maintains a temperature of about 48°F. It is very moist and is a “living” cave. We trekked down about 7 stories into the Earth, and the lower we went, the more formations we saw. The past and current owners of Crystal Cave have taken good care of the cave’s natural formations, and our tour guide kept emphasizing that touching any living formation could stop the formation’s growth for 1,000 years – even the little kids walked with their hands in the pockets! The stalactites in the picture below were some of the smaller formations we saw on our tour.
We saw pockets of different minerals, bacon formations (wavy, sloping stalactites that look like…well, you know), flow growth (moisture flows slowly down a flat surface, adding layers over time), and BATS! We saw tons of bats! These little, brown, furry, mouse-sized bats were hooked on to many of the “ceilings” we passed, and we even had to duck to avoid a bat that was sleeping on one of the lower ceilings. Tour Guide Dude did an awesome job spreading the word about White Nose Syndrome, and let us know how we could contribute to the fund researching WND at the gift shop or online.
After the cave tour, we went outside and Ashley panned for “treasure” – you buy a bag of sand with polished stones for $5 at the gift shop, and the kids wash away the sand at this nifty water channel outside.
We finished up our day with lunch at Barker’s in Hudson, WI. Ashley wanted to have lunch on the east side of the St. Croix River so she could tell everyone back home that we ate authentic Wisconsin food. But in the end we decided not to get cheese curds.