per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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"Round and round far underground..."

On Saturday the 9th, we took a day trip from Austin, heading south along I-35 for another day of bat-related activities. It was a nice-enough drive, although not much in the way of scenery was to be had… aside from being drier-looking, it was pretty much like any other highway drive in an interurban corridor. We had fun riffing on some of the odd signage- we were especially fond of the Drive Friendly signs… you could almost hear the words in a Texas accent…

After we got off the interstate, the landscape became more interesting, in a semi-desert sort of way. Cactus, lots and lots of "cedar" (actually juniper) scrub… a short drive brought us to Natural Bridge Caverns, our first stop of the day. They are lovely caverns, with some spectacular formations. I took some OK pictures, but nothing as good as the postcards they sold at the gift shop…

They had doors to seal the humidity in, which meant that the relatively warm (77 degrees F) air was pretty debilitating… especially since we descended 180 feet and then climbed again- all on foot… Instead of guided tours, they had guides spread out over the route, which meant that we could pace ourselves. One of the things that they proudly pointed out was the 5000-year-old bat guano- "still moist!" There had been bats living there once upon a time, but they moved when conditions in the cave changed.

One of the deeper areas that we crossed was called "Grendel's Canyon". It wasn't very impressive in and of itself, but at one point there was a cool optical illusion- it was filled with a faint haze or mist, and it looked like it was full of crystal-clear water. The guide near that point was a bit weirded out by it- he said that happened sometimes in other parts of the cave, but never there. Incidentally, the caverns do partially flood occasionally, if there's a period of heavy rain- it's set up so they can still run tours in the unflooded part. They call it "Aquifer Days".

After the humidity of the cave, the dry heat of the surface air was almost refreshing. We restored ourselves with frozen juice popsicles (siting a vendor at the cave exit was a stroke of financial genius), and then monsteralice wanted to do the "rock prospecting sluice" thing, which was actually kind of fun. Aside from that, the gift shop was kind of disappointing, not to mention full of unsupervised children running amok. Two of them had actually scaled the "fill your own bag of polished stones" display and were hurling them around. Parents nowhere in sight, of course… Judging from the faces of the employees, this was the punishment detail- they'd much rather be sixt yards underground, showing people ancient bat poop. Can't say that I blame them.

Then it was time to get some dinner before the evening's excitement…

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Diane & I spent time at Natural Bridge in March. She has a great shot of a small family of bats near the entrance.

Actually we were at not the one in Texas ;-)

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