Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Driving to Minnetonka Cave: A Sunday Excursion #SOL17

"Did I ever tell you about the first time I've ever been outside the state of Georgia?" Hoke asks Miss Daisy early in Driving Miss Daisy.

"No, when was that?" Miss Daisy says.

"Oh, a few minutes ago." 

So it is that within our own worlds many never venture beyond a small geographic bubble, and for all the traveling I've done, I still haven't visited many iconic sites close to my own backyard. 

Thus, my husband and I took a little road trip Sunday to Minnetonka Cave. Nestled in the Cache National Forest, Minnetonka Cave is a little over two hours from our home and a short drive from Bear Lake and its turquoise waters reminiscent of the Mediterranean Sea. 
A view of Bear Lake from the Utah side heading into Logan Canyon.
We headed south on I-15 and took the U.S. 30 exit east toward Lave Hot Springs and its comforting mineral water pools, another gem of the gem state. 

Once past Montpelier, we turned south for the eleven mile drive through national forests. 

Once we arrived at the cave, we awaited our guided tour. My stomach churned with familiar queasiness as I thought about the 444 stairs into and back out of the cave. I chatted with a lovely woman who shared her anxiety both about the stairs and confined spaces. 

Our guide Holly greeted us and shared the cave's history during the tour. As Holly talked about the cave's discovery and its history as part of the WPA during the New Deal program of FDR, I wondered about all the "what ifs" that could have changed had Roosevelt not had a vision of preserving and making accessible this and other natural wonders. 
"Kevin" Bacon, in the middle, is a common
formation in Minnetonka Cave
I held the rails other visitors to the cave have stroked since the 1930s. I thought about the work of scientists and naturalists working to protect the bats in Minnetonka Cave from White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that has invaded caves and sickened bats in nearly every state east of the rockies but has spared Idaho. To protect the bat population, visitors must sign an affidavit attesting that they are not wearing clothing they've worn into any other cave. 

The "organ" in the Wedding Chapel.
The Wedding Chapel, the final room in the cave, is home to a "bride" and "groom" awaiting one another. Eventually, their patience will be rewarded as they meet to form a column, united for eternity after their long courtship.
On the ceiling the bride reachers for her groom,
the stalagmite looking up at her.
Sadly, the Minnetonka Cave faces threats--man-made threats. The gray and black on the image below shows how human touch can kill natural wonders. This stalagmite is dead because people touched it. 
Dead stalagmite in Minnetonka Cave
As a living organism in constant evolution, cave formations must be protected from invasive species, including people. 

Leaving the cave, we emerged into the hot summer sun. We decided to take the long road home through Logan Canyon, stopping in Logan, Utah on our drive home. 

During her drive with Hoke, at one point Miss Daisy says, "I taught some of the stupidist children God ever put on the face of the earth and all of them could read well enough to find a name on a tombstone."

We don't have to be like Miss Daisy's students when it comes to our relationship with nature and the natural wonders entrusted to our care. We can read, and as readers, we can protect the earth's beauty from the forces that threaten it if we choose to take the journey. 
Tuesday means time to slice with the TWT team.