If I landed on another planet, I couldn’t have been more astounded by my first exposure to the incredible Luray Caverns in Luray Virginia.
Welcome to Earth
These caverns are supposedly more than 4 million years old and this one, in particular, was discovered in 1878 by accident. Cold air blew out a candle, that rushed out of a limestone sinkhole while a small group of four people were looking for a cave. Imagine their surprise, sliding down a rope, and finding the largest series of canyons throughout the entire east coast of the United States.
Don’t Get Lost!
I don’t like to be rushed when I am taking photos. I had my Gitzo Traveler tripod with me and was using my new Sony A7rII along with the incredible Sony/ Zeiss FE 16-35mm zoom lens as I carefully composed these images while tourists rushed ahead to the next stop. Guided tours are hard when you are expected to keep up, which I never do.
Then the lights go out, the crowd moved to the next spot, I was still there, finishing up my rapid-fire compositions, as carefully as I could. To say this underground wonderland was overwhelming would be an understatement. It was just so beautiful. The lighting installed inside the cavern was well done. Spot lamps were carefully hidden to prevent the blinding brightness of direct exposure, which was very appreciated.
As we moved deeper and deeper into the interior of this ancient museum of natural wonder, it occurred to me that we are exploring only a tiny section of what the original explorer, Andrew Campbell, had discovered. Yet, each stop was completely different.
Do you see his face in the center of the penis-shaped stone? I believe this is The Watcher… The one who guards over the Cavern and prevents anyone from damaging the delicate stalactites and stalagmites, which take thousands of years to form, all from dripping water.
A Rainy Day Outside, A Perfect Day Inside.
It was almost time to leave with one more “room” to visit; The Music Room. Just when I thought I’d seen just about everything I could, in the short one hour tour, we reach a place deep inside the underground fortress, where civil war soldiers had “holed up” while brutally fighting off their ancient enemy, we discover the organ. Yes, it’s a musical instrument that “pings” different formations to form music notes. Not an organ with pipes, almost more of a xylophone than an organ. When the keys were pressed, you could hear the sounds reverberating throughout the cavern, music from this organic organ.
But we were not yet done, even as we left Luray Caverns we knew we wanted more, so we drove to Shenandoah Caverns, which has the only working elevator so visitors don’t have to take the stairs. Personally, I didn’t mind the stairs but the elevator allowed older and disabled folk more access. Noticeably smaller in scope and grandeur, these canyons none-the-less were intensely beautiful.
The shapes and colors were different, along with the scale, this was smaller in scope than Luray Caverns. None-the-less just as beautiful in their own way.
Who knows if this fascination with Caverns will last, but I won’t visit anywhere without checking to see if there are caverns locally. They are truly a gift of nature and I love having the chance to photograph them and enjoy the experience!
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