Last week was a vacation to Williamsburg, Va., and the environs.  On the way home we stopped at the Shenandoah Caverns, which is a really big cavern complex (there’s also a sort of museum of parade floats and inauguration decorations, no pics of those in this post).

For some reason I really amused myself calling Shenandoah “Shabbadoah,” and getting my daughter to do it too.  I was curious about at what point my wife would put an end to the tomfoolery and it turns out she drew the line at my singing “O Shabbado, I long to hear to you…” in the car.  Can’t blame her.

Anyway here’s a metric assload of pictures.  Unfortunately there was no map of the caverns available, and the tour was too fast-paced to map while snapping pictures, but one of the things that really impressed me was all the different levels and passages in these caverns.  I’ve been in other caverns (a huge geode under Put-in-Bay, a cavern toured by boat somewhere in Pennsylvania, and a few small caves), but nothing quite like this.  The floor was covered in fine gravel (otherwise there’d be a few inches to a few feet of water on the whole floor), and although a few spots were chained off, it was a pretty good length tour.

So here’s the old entrance (no longer in use), sorry it’s a blurry one:

Right in the middle of the gift shop/ticket outlet/post office.

Here are some views of the passages:

That formation along the ceiling is called ‘bacon’.  No, really.  National Geographic came and photographed the bacon formations, saying they were among the country’s most realistic, whatever that means.

You can see the gravel floor, about 3′ of clearance, and then another ‘floor’.

Some nice pillars. There is something hiding in that dark recess.

OK, enough of that.  How’s about some stalagmites and stalactites.  Remember, stalacTITES need to hold on tight; stalaGmites grow on the Ground.  Or something like that.


These looked pretty freaky and sparkly.

The ‘bacon’ formations, I think, must be a subclass of ‘curtains’.  There were tons of these sorta-stalactites along the perimeter and making awesome walls.

This is looking straight up at a white curtain. If I’d been more attentive to the tour guide, I could tell you why it’s white. I’m guessing salt.

If you’re wondering how high the cavern’s ceiling is, it varied from about 20 feet at the tallest to maybe 4 feet in a few passages (lower areas existed but are obviously off-limits).  For example:

This is looking straight up at one point where there isn’t a lot of activity.

Here’s a fairly large chamber. Maybe that’s more like 25 feet?

A 4′ gnome navigates a small passage.

We also saw one stairwell that was chained off…maybe that’s where they hide the treasure?

Anyway, there was lots of D&D inspiration here, of course!

Some smaller gnomes (knockers?) tried to distract us with invitations to their city.

But we ignored them.  Instead we found a strange four-armed, fire-juggling critter:

And even the dread Tsathoggua — but he didn’t notice us, as his back was turned.

I also seemed to attract some pesky Facula.

The caverns has its share of dungeon funk, too!

Cave ‘popcorn’. Not very freaking appetizing.

There is also a little bit of moss growing, although they are pretty careful to turn off the lights as soon as tourists walk out of an area (this is a 4e dungeon with lights all over the place, of course).

I mentioned a monster lurking earlier.  See if you can spot him!

Some unsuspecting tourists, looking around…

But ho!

What’s this?!?

‘Tis the ‘bishop’! Looks more like an anti-cleric to me!

Anyway no dungeon is complete without some loot.  We looked all around.  The frosty white formations look sparkly but are not precious.

Snowmen? No, just ‘mites.

A really impressive ‘waterfall’ of sparkliness… a good 12′ high.

There was also a tiny castle, but nothing inside.

Sadly thwarted, we decided to just take a few touristy shots…

It’s a cool 56 degrees down here, so Riley’s wearing her terrycloth cover up over her clothes.

One last look…

But wait! What’s this?

A sizable horde in the ‘wishing well’! (I worry that the money is going to ruin the formations down there…you’re not supposed to touch anything in ‘living’ rock or it will stop growing…)

Huzzah! Another successful dungeon crawl!

We hurry past the cracking columns

OK, that cracked about 10,000 years ago.

And the snapping jaws of a hellmouth!!!

With a final glance back, we take in the cavern

It’s not blurry…we’re just drunk on adrenaline!

Maybe we’ll be back some day.  In just 30 years or so, we’ll find this pair of ‘mite and ‘tite will have grown into a solid column.

At the lower right! The actual distance is maybe 1/4 an inch.

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 8:00 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This must be Luray Caverns, right? I recall going there when I lived in the DC area. Very cool.

  2. Near Luray but different. This one was a little more convenient for our drive back to OH.

  3. I’m glad someone mentioned Luray. All the time I was reading this post I was thinking, “Are these the caves I visited on my sole trip to the US fourteen years ago?” No, that was Luray. Anyway, this was a great read. I enjoyed the “bishop” blow-up especially. Thanks for going to so much effort.

  4. […] stop near Lake Erie that I never even knew existed, despite my interest in caverns. It may not be huge or especially colorful, but I really dig the map of the caverns on their web site which makes it look like an eight-level […]

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