A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

14 April 2011

L is for Lehman Caves

The National Park Service website has this amazingly helpful and informative description of these caves: "Lehman Caves is a beautiful marble cave ornately decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations."

Yeah. Doesn't that just make you want to rush right out to the middle of the Great Basin and see the caves? They actually have more descriptive information about the apricot trees outside the cave than they do about the caves themselves. Really, NPS, THAT'S what your marketing team came up with?

I grew up going to Lehman Caves. It's 234 miles from Salt Lake City. That's over four hours the way my father drove. Four hours of practically nothing. In the summer. And rarely did we have air conditioning in those days.
The view from the front of the Lehman Caves Visitors' Center, looking east.

But I loved it.

Once we got to the caves, that is. The ride was always sheer torture, even if I brought books.

We went regularly, nearly every year for several years. My older brother harassed the park rangers on the tour by making loud (and authentic-sounding) water-drop sounds with his mouth. The rest of us would try and keep a straight face while the other tourists looked around to see that historic, rare water droplet. It was especially effective when the ranger would turn off all the lights to allow tourists to experience absolute darkness and absolute silence.


Simple pleasures.

But then the trips stopped, for a variety of reasons. Simply put: Life intervened.

I took my family back there a couple years ago. It had been nearly 30 years since I had been there. The trip was only marginally more interesting: being the driver helped.

Further proof that there is definitely dwarven blood running in these veins of mine: the place was still magic. It was as beautiful as I remember. I tried to convince my kids that if they listened carefully they could hear the dwarves singing, far below us.

Hey, it's all I have; I cannot make the "mouth drips" like my brother and his girlfriend could. Mine are far too quiet to be effective, even in a silent cave.

My kids loved it. And they listened intently for the singing.

There are mineral formations--spaeleotherms--found in the cave that are found in few other places in the world. The caves, I've been told, are still incomparable to Mammoth Caves, but until I go to Mammoth, I cannot judge for myself, and Lehman Caves remain pre-eminent in my mind. I'm already planning a return trip; in fact, we're discussing an annual pilgrimage.

You have to raise up the little dwarves early, after all.

I cannot do justice to the beauty of the Caves. Heck, my pictures don't even do justice to the colors and formations (it was dark, after all). I think, however, that there are words that do justice; Gimli said it best, through Tolkien's pen:
“Strange are the ways of Men, Legolas! Here they have one of the marvels of the Northern World, and what do they say of it? Caves, they say! Caves!... My good Legolas, do you know that the caverns ... are vast and beautiful? There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at the, if such things were known to be. Aye indeed, they would pay pure gold for a brief glance....
[I]mmeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-z├óram in the starlight. “And, Legolas, when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes ... gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shell-like, translucent....
There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose, Legolas, fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms; they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof: wings, ropes, curtains fine as frozen clouds; spears, banners, pinnacles of suspended palaces! Still lakes mirror them: a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass; cities, such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep, stretch on through avenues and pillared courts, on into the dark recesses where no light can come.
"And plink! A silver drop falls, and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea.... There is chamber after chamber, Legolas; hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair; and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains’ heart....Happy was the chance that drove me there! It makes me weep to leave them.”
One of the rooms of the cave was used, beginning in the 1920s, as a meeting place for large groups. Weddings have been performed in the cave, as have dances, picnics, and pageants. Musical selections have been played (unfortunately and irresponsibly) on the rock formations. The Cave is even a movie star, being used for the backdrop for portions of "The Wizard of Mars" (a.k.a. "Horrors of the Red Planet").

As I said, I have never seen Mammoth. But if you find yourself in the Nevada/Utah deserts, I would urge you to take a day trip over to Lehman Caves. You won't regret it.

Simple pleasures.


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