Ok, let's all be mature and get the collective giggle out of our systems- Cave of Winds? Come on. There are so many fart gags to be had here. Wha- oh? Just me, then? Hur. Hurhur.
These gusty caverns (hur) lie just South of my parents' house, and I finally made the journey to see what all the hubbub was about. Some background: discovered in 1869, tours began operating in 1881 and there is a massive network of chambers and tunnels and passages, as well as stunning stalactites and mites, cave coral, and other speleothems. Can we just take a moment to imagine climbing through caves by candlelight in the bulky clothing of the late 1800's? Those people had brass balls. Not only were the passages narrower- some of them required shimmying up ladders in pitch black tunnels and crawling through hours-long passages on your hands and knees. The ladies did it too- and there weren't sweatpants and crocs back then, people. Petticoats, bonnets, corsets? Imagine! The original, rickety ladder pictured above was above a comfortable, well-lit platform that had been blasted to make access simpler- it's the actual passage old-timey visitors used to have to crawl out through. Yeeps.
The caves themselves were gorgeous, and though there was a screaming child on the entire tour (the echoes...my ears still hurt), from what I could hear of our guide, it was fascinating. There was a broken column- where a stalactite and mite had joined over thousands of years, but then were knocked by a boulder (now nicknamed "Romeo and Juliette"), incredible growths that were perpendicular to the ceiling (how?!) and all sorts of quaintly-named bits, like Tall Man's Headache, Fat Man's Misery- a low, narrow path we crab-walked through.
The tour guides also offer a lantern-lit tour that extends further into the network, but due to the heavy rain they weren't in operation since the ground gets really muddy in some places from the rain running into the caves. We were treated to a few seconds of cave darkness- the guide blew out a candle and the lights all shut off. We were surrounded by pitch black, inky darkness, and I could feel my eyes straining to make something, anything out. It was wonderful! You can almost feel the lack of light, as your rods and cones adjust and re-adjust, trying to function in the void. I was thoroughly enjoying confusing my eyes when the woman next to me on the tour pulled out her cellphone. I guess Facebook needed checking. MASSIVE EYE ROLL. Even under the Earth, in a black cave I cannot escape other peoples' obsession with that shit.
Above the caves are your usual tourist-y bits- a gift shop, a little viewing pavilion, a few zip-line type rides to thrill people over the canyon, and a rope-climbing course that juts over the edge of the cliff. Obviously I skirted all of those, instead enjoying the small display of historical artifacts and rock displays in the lobby. Nature, you guys. It never gets old.