Entering through a tunnel of blackness, fog and mist into a cave that is 100 feet below the earth’s surface sounds a bit eerie. Not to mention claustrophobic. Neither could be further from the truth. In fact, all of my expectations that my imagination conjured up of what it would be like in a cave were confuted. Clammy and hot? Not a chance at 52 degrees year round with the water temperatures a constant 37 degrees. Claustrophobic? Nope, thankfully due to the cool, clean air filling your lungs. Eerie? Well maybe a little, but the wonders your eyes observe seem to confound any uneasiness. Overall, I was taken aback by the beauty that exists beneath our streets, pastures, and earth.
We drove out to Penn’s Cavern which is about an hour or so North of us. Although this is very much a random tourist attraction in the middle of the amish country, it was well worth spending the morning there! Tyler’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law came out to visit us and this is how we showed them a good time.
This cave is literally in the middle of farmlands and lush crops. The sun was shining and all was green. The day could not have been more perfect to spend underground. It was in the low 80’s, but excruciatingly humid. By the time we walked down the steps to the opening, we were all damp with sweat. The first thing you notice is the chill. The cave is like a natural form of air conditioning and it could not have been more welcoming.
We hopped into a long and narrow boat where we were guided through the cavern. Our guide was enthusiastic and definitely knew his history of the cave. We learned the water was only three to five feet deep. The temperatures remain the same year round due to the geological characteristics of limestone, which the cave is made from. The cave ceiling is as high as 50 feet in some areas and as confined as only 10 feet in others. We went through extremely narrow passageways that measured maybe four feet across, into open spaces that resembled small lakes.
What makes this limestone cave majestic, are the stalagmites and stalactites. Of course for those who need a refresher from their third grade geology lesson, stalactites hand downward like icicles and the stalagmites form below stalactites growing upward from the acidic water of the limestone dropping downward. Often time the two will connect to form columns in caves. The guide did his best for laughter by pointing out the “famous” stalactites including the “Statue of Liberty”, the “Nittany Lion”, “Wall of Bacon”, and “Garden of the Gods”. Every part of the cave takes your breath away. It was beautiful and incredible to see!
We plan on returning in the dead of winter for a mini warm-up when its 10 degrees outside. That is when the cave is full of hundreds of bats hibernating! I can’t wait.