Seneca Caverns

Finally, some pictures from my expedition into Seneca Caverns (aka The Earth Crack, the sign outside proudly proclaims!).

The first thing I noticed was the graveyard next door. This photo is from the parking lot, next to the picnic tables in the upper left of the cavern map from the previous post (reposted above for clarity).


the graveyard

Yup, the caverns are under a graveyard. I’m sure that’s fine.

I didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of what level each picture is from, and because I had to delete a few pictures for room during the tour, they may be a little out of order. Here are some of the natural steps. (All the stairs on the cavern map are actually just natural steps in the fragmented rock; probably some were carved or cut into better steps but they were always very irregular and a few were kind of challenging — you need to use your hands and scamper up some narrow passes.)


The lighting was mostly pretty subdued. I saw some moss growing near the lights, but because this is a fracture cave rather than a solutional cave, it doesn’t matter much. (Solutional caves are damaged by any contamination — the action of moss, oils from your hands, etc.) There very few stalagmites and stalactites, they were all in one area, and so there was not much that you couldn’t touch. Although the whole system floods occasionally, there is very little sedimentary activity. At this point I should stop for a little speleological trivia, because before visiting Seneca Cavern I didn’t know what a fracture cave was. Almost every cavern you can visit as a tourist, in the US at least, is solutional: it was formed by acidic water (probably rainwater with carbon dioxide dissolved in it) flowing through, and slowly dissolving limestone. But Seneca Caverns formed more dramatically. Something like 10,000 to 250,000 years ago (my guide couldn’t pin it down), the layers of rock far below the rock that Seneca Cavern is in now was washed away to the point that many layers simply collapsed. All the “levels” of Seneca Cavern are voids left between layers of various types of rock. In this case I think the lower strat were gypsum or contained gypsum, which dissolves in water. A more detailed and accurate explanation is here. The upshot is that we are left with a number of roughly rectangular chambers connected by shafts. You can see fracture lines all over, and the broken rocks covering the floors can be fitted back into the ceiling with a little imagination.

Now more pics.


That’s a view from the “Cathedral” room on level 4. It’s called the cathedral because the ceiling is highest here — perhaps eight feet in areas. I’m looking toward the “devil’s leap” which is off to one side, across from the tour path. It’s lit be a red lamp, and you can sort of tell it goes down. Our guide said that geologists found at least 13 levels going down, in  a very dry year, but could not explore further due to the water flooding the lowest levels. The water table always encroaches on Seneca Cavern, sometimes flooding all the way to level 1 but usually flooding level 8. It was a little higher when I got there, and level 7 was totally under water.


Looking down one of the ‘stairways’, I think between levels 5 and 6.


Another shot of the same.


There were lots of crawls-spaces you couldn’t safely access.


I think this is some fossilized coral. I missed the large fossilized Macropetalichthys sullivani. From what I read on the web site, it is an armored fish about 11 feet long. Maybe it is not readily viewed from the tour path. In any case the guide did not mention it.


Above and below some good shots of the jagged nature of these chambers. there were spots I had crouch down and almost crawl through. I wouldn’t recommend this tour for someone who is claustrophobic.

000_0012 000_0014

The fourth level also had a lot of graffiti. Apparently in the early days, tours were self-guided and people were fucking vandals. They call this are “inscription hall” and the graffiti is so old it is historical now. 🙂


A view of the stairs between levels 3 and 4, I think.


Below is a view of the best stairs in the cavern, which I think were between level 1 and 2. These were almost like real stairs.


Another crawlspace:


The entrance to “Tin pan alley,” named so because you have stoop like a gold-panner. This was on Level 3.


Level 3 had at least three distinct chambers, though all were pretty low.


I think the above might be the “earthquake attic” on level three?

Below, another shot of the Cathedral room on level 4.


Below, another photo that came out pretty badly, but the brightly lit stone has a very nice cursive inscription made by a tombstone engraver who visited early in the Cavern’s history — the C.D. Royer rock mentioned on the map. I should mention that this cavern was discovered in 1879 by some kids who fell in through a sinkhole. It wasn’t until much later that someone bought and excavated the glacier-clay choked caverns and turned it into a tourist attraction. A lawyer named Bell (his family still owns the cavern) had some clients dig out the clay in lieu of paying his fees. Before that the upper levels were totally choked with glacial clay and you had to crawl through on your belly. The first tourists went in with candles and rope tied around their waists. When their candles burned out, they were to follow the rope (tied to a maple tree near the entrance) out.

000_0024 000_0025

Because of the red light, I think the next photo is another view of the Devil’s Leap.


If you look closely, you’ll see tiny, pencil-eraser sized stalactites. They are white because they are wet and reflect my flash:


The stalactites are across from the Devil’s Leap and the only parts of the cavern you mustn’t touch. As you may know, the oils on your filthy fingers will stop the minerals in the water from sticking and being deposited, ending the slow growth of the stalactites which grow about 1 inch every 100 years. Because the cavern has only been cleared out for 70 years or so, the largest stalactite is less than an inch long!


More ‘inscriptions’:

000_0029 000_0030

I think the white specks below are chert deposits.


Level 3 I think.


More pictures of various areas I can’t really identify:

000_0033 000_0035 000_0036 000_0037

The next photo looks down into the flooded stairway to level 7. There is a metal railing that was added some time ago, and you maybe can see the clear water below. That’s the “Old Mist’ry River” — not a river at all but the water table. It might seem to flow from level 7, but it is just the water table. A ‘message in a bottle’ was released in the “River” and took four years to emerge about 14 miles away in a water hole to the north. That water hole is also known to be an exposed bit of the water table.

000_0038 000_0039

Down by level 6, I noticed this void between level 5 and 6 that is about 18 inches high and apparently reinforced or stabilized with re-bar.


Well, that’s it. If you find yourself near Sandusky, Ohio, do check out this cavern. The tour was about an hour long and very fun. You’ll also be pretty close to attractions like Ghostly Manor and Cedar Point, and short ferry ride from Put-in-Bay which boasts another cave to visit and a geode big enough to go inside and conveniently located below a winery, as well as a neat naval museum.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: ,

Spelunking we shall go, and, A giveaway!

Well, visiting a tourist cavern, not hardcore spelunking into a cave.

This weekend we’re taking a little getaway and one of our stops will almost certainly be Seneca Caverns, a  little tourist 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 dungeon.

Seneca Caverns map, used with permission.

My wife says that I will never make it to level 7, but thinks my daughter can get there (I assume level 8 is off limits). If you’d like to make your prediction about how deep I’ll get before becoming lodged, freaking out, or fleeing in panic, leave a comment. The correct answer (or a randomly selected correct answer if I get more than one) will win their choice* of fabulous prizes from my collection of stuff I’m trying to get rid of.

*Some restrictions apply: One prediction per comment. Excludes boxed games. Winner must live in North America or be willing to cover postage costs over $5 US.  Giveaway cancelled if I drown in Ole Mist’ry River, fall to my death, disappear in the Wild Cave Area, or am eaten by cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers.

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 10:56 am  Comments (9)  
Tags: , ,


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)  
Tags: , , ,

Squire’s Castle

For some reason my phone camera likes to stretch things horizontally

The wife & I have decided to set aside a few hours most weekends for a mini-vacation.  We made of list of neat things to do or see within an hour or so of the house that we can pack up and run out to as a little family getaway.  The zoo, biking on the towpath, hiking various parks, festivals, that sort of thing.

One we went to recently was Squire’s Castle in the Cleveland Metroparks.

It was to be a gate house to a mansion, but the dude building it gave up on his plans and now the shell of the building is open to the public.  I imagine teenagers come here to drink and make out at night but during the day it’s pretty cool, and really is laid out a lot like a small keep.

The castle is guarded by viscious little people. The bars in the windows can't really contain them.

Looking up from the 'courtyard' -- the large square tower in the center which used to have a second story

Kind of dark inside for pictures

Published in: on July 2, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Chitzen Itza pics

In October of 2005,  when my daughter was about 5 months old, the wife & I got an offer we could not refuse: my brother-in-law offered to fly us to Mexico, and my parents offered us lodging at a resort in Cancun.  It was a “family” trip with my parents and both of my siblings and their families (my brother’s wife could not go because of work, unfortunately).  My sister’s four kids were 1-8 years old.  It was a blast.  My brother & I took a day trip to go to Chitzen Itza, being history nerds as well as D&D nerds.  That was the last year, I believe, that tourists could climb the 91 steps of the great pyramid, El Castillio.  Here are the pictures I took.  They should all be clickable to embiggen.

This is the “big pyramid” — I took a shot of one of the rougher faces, as you always see the nicer, more fully restored faces in books.  Fun fact: there is another, older pyramid temple inside this.  The outer pyramid has 91 steps on each of its four sides (91 x 4 = 364 ; add the altar for 365 days of the year.  Yay Mayan calendar!).

The Prince of Dorkness on the steps

Did I mention it was 90 degrees and 100% humidity? Hence the wet t-shirt.

My brother has a thing about heights and did not climb the pyramid.  The steps are pretty narrow — the Mayans must have had small feet.  There was a rope running down the steps, but the tour guide said a few people fall every year, and the steps generally inflict fatal bone breaks and cuts — he said they don’t bother calling a doctor, they just call a hearse.  I could believe that.  Still I climbed.

Down the steps.

As you can see, many people used all fours to climb.  It’s that steep.

What was I thinking? I still get dizzy looking at that picture.  Nice shot of the Mayan “concrete” though.

Almost everyone at the top took a picture like this, as if anyone can tell you’re at the top of a 24 meter pyramid.  (Actually the temple on top is another several meters tall but you can’t get on the roof.)

The view is pretty amazing.  Here are some shots from up there.

You could go inside the temple corridors (but not the inner room, IIRC).  This is looking out from one of the four entrances.  It was actually kind of crowded up there and the lady on the left refused to take a step back (and she also is touching the carvings on the walls.  That’s just rude.)

This is the “Temple of the Warriors” — all those columns have warriors and priests carved on them.  I never got a good shot close up.

This is one of the smaller temples, again from El Castillio.

This temple has several panels carved with a hawk-like image of Venus — pretty hard to see in this picture.

I forget what this is. I think they called it a noble's house.

One of the cooler ruins was the “Observatory“.

The whole site is amazing.  The Mayan roads, about 1000 years old, are still usable in areas.

This road runs through the jungle now.

Off to the side, you can see more ruins through the jungle.

This really gives you a sense of what the archaeologists who re-discovered Chitzen Itza saw.

I may be the only tourist in our group who took multiple shots of the model in the nearby museum too.  I would love to run a war game on this table!  Aztecs vs Mayans!

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight.  I have some more cultural pics of modern Mayans, and our harrowing hurricane adventure, but I’ll post that later.

Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: ,

The return of the Effing Prince of Dorkness

The last four posts were all written before I left a week & a half ago for a vacation.  I looked at a favorite blog or two on my blackberry while on vacation but I have not really kept up with the blogosphere or commented on some great posts.  Which basically means business as usual here at S&D.  Anyway we had a great vacation, roaming from Napa Valley to Monterey.  Here are some pics.

Castello Di Amorosa, a Napa Valley vineyard we briefly visited before the wedding of one of my wife’s friends, which was the nominal reason for the trip.  They sell really expensive tours and we didn’t have much time so we only really looked around the grounds.   The mix of round and square towers makes it clearly a pastiche of castle features rather than representative of a particular period (as everyone knows, round towers only came to Europe after the crusaders noticed how much better they were than square towers with those vulnerable corners). They had, in a very authentic manner, chickens and other animals roaming the grounds.

Monterey Bay is freaking beautiful. Beautiful.

Even when the weather is not great: Beautiful.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great time too if it rains.  But there are some really weird fish in the aquarium.

The Santa Cruz boardwalk, where the savvy traveler can find  vegetarian corn dogs!

(As a former resident of New Jersey, though, I have to object to calling a slab of cement a “boardwalk”.  The Atlantic City boardwalk, at least when I was a kid, was made of wood.)

There are Redwoods not far from the Bay too, at Henry Cowell park.

This is a picture from inside a “cathedral” of redwoods:

(The death of a tree often results in the growth of a number of new trees in a ring around the nutrients-rich, decaying center. Burls from the original tree as well as seeds which have fallen at the base of the trunk provide this new life. The missing central tree allows for a “hole” in the vegetative canopy so that the new plants has sufficient light for growth.–Wikipedia)

But of course the real draw for the Monterey Bay area is the banana slugs:

This guy is about 8″ long, but you might be able to stretch it out longer if you try.

While flying a kite on Manresa beach, we came across a stranded sea lion pup.

A park worker promised to call a ranger to “check it out” and “take care of it”, which I can only hope does not mean “euthanize” and “BBQ it.”  Riley named him “Little Beach Sea Lion Pup” in her inimitable and literal way of naming things.

Anyway, to get back to swords and dorkery, in the future I hope to get together a post about stripping figures, the latest regoddamndiculous episode of Deadliest Warrior, finish a few more posts I’ve been slowly writing, and run & report on a war game using the old Chainmail rules — as a test for possibly running OD&D as a miniatures game with dungeon crawls, duels, sieges, and set piece battles! Chainmail, with it’s three related but distinct combat systems, seems best able to handle all of those things… maybe.  If it is not too confusing to players.  We’ll see.

“Prince of Dorkness” is an honorary title only.  No challenge to the thrones of Dorkness held by the OSR High Rollers at the right is intended. Likewise, no challenge to Ozzy Osbourne’s earned title of “Effing Prince of Darkness” is intended.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , ,
Wayne's Books

Game Gallery ~ Photo Blog

Ann's Immaterium

Writing, gaming, miniature painting, and other dark procrastinations.


Collecting, modelling, painting and wargaming in 28mm

Dragons Never Forget

and I am no Dragon

This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Tabletop games and adventures

Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

Hey Did You Know I Write Books

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut


Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.


Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

Dagger and Brush, Daggerandbrush, dagger brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

I bought these adventure and review them so you don't have to.

9th Key Press

Maps, supplements, and inspiration for roleplaying games.

The Rambling Roleplayer Archives

This site is no longer being updated. Check out the new site at

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

%d bloggers like this: