Part 19: Luray Caverns and Museum


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The Trip

At the suggestion of our hosts John and Alice, we went to Luray Caverns.  The caverns were about an hour's travel from their place in Marshall, VA and we had to cross the Appalachian Mountains to get there.  In addition to the caverns themselves, the facility had a very nice car collection.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant on the west slope of the mountains and I spotted these interesting flowers near the parking lot.  It was overcast and foggy so the lighting was quite muted and the photo above does not fully reflect the intensity of the colors.

At $23 a head, the tour was a bit pricey but it did include an audio guide and admission to the car museum.  The cavern was much bigger than I expected and there were plenty of nice formations right from the start.  The column above is the very first formation visible as the tour starts.

There were a number of nicely colored flow stone formations at the start of the tour.

This flow stone has a different color than the previous one due to a different chemical composition of the rock.

These curtains were fully chocolate brown in color.

There was a shallow underground lake in the cave and the reflections of the formations on the roof provided an interesting effect.  This was an extended exposure without flash.

This photo was of a different section of the lake.

Further on we came upon some truly massive flow stone formations.

Note the variety of colors in the flow stone as the chemistry of the water depositing the rock changed over time.

This column was bright white in contrast to the more muted colors of the surrounding rock.

This portion of the cave had a large number of complex formations.

I included people in this photo to give a sense of scale to the formations.  These were very impressive.

A number of sections of the cave had well developed drapery.  Later, I shot one from the bottom looking up and the thinness of the rock is amazing.

Again, there was strong contrast in the colors of the formations.

Another very large formation.

This one formation had a variety of colors.  This one is also very large.

More excellent draperies.

I got underneath the drapery formation and shot up.  Note how thin the rock formations are, only a couple millimeters.  Truly amazing.

More massive formations.

Multicolored stalactites and stalagmites.

One of the biggest columns in the cave.  In reality, it is a stalactite that has fused with a stalagmite.  Note that at the left of the column it is fluted and has material deposition has occurred from the bottom up.  On the right, the deposition has occurred from the top down, thus the differing shapes and textures.

One of the oddest features of this cavern is that they have an organ that produces sound by mechanically "thumping" stalactites in the cave.  Stalactites of specific tones were chosen and then a solenoid system was added to hit the rock when a note is played.

A closeup of the solenoid thumper that produces tones from the stalactite.

Another nice column.

Most caves greatly frown on throwing coins into subterranean pools.  The coins leave a cast in the water.  Luray figured out that there was really no way to control this behavior, so they harvested the money instead and gave it to charity.  Oddly, there were dollar bills floating in the water. The take has been getting bigger every year.

From the cave, we decided to check out the antique car museum next door.  Since the admission was part of the cave tour, why not?  They had lots of turn of the century cars in great shape.

These are interesting to me in a historical perspective, but not much more.

I never heard of this brand of car before.

This engine was not all that noteworthy, but what WAS noteworthy was the comment that this engine was in production for 15 years without significant mechanical enhancements.

This Mercedes was the only car in the place that would be of interest to me to own.  In the same year that the previous engine was built producing 24 horsepower, this bad boy put out 220 horsepower with a supercharged 6 cylinder engine.  Top speed was well over 100 mph (on those tires???) and the whole thing is a class act.  They described it as the "finest touring car ever produced".  I agree.

A very cherry Phaeton.  Nice, but not as nice as the Mercedes.

Luray Caverns were much bigger than I expected, so I was pleasantly surprised, out of pocket cost notwithstanding.  The drive there and back was very scenic despite the clouds and fog.  The car museum was an extra bonus.  Tomorrow, we plan to have lunch in Washington, DC with a friend of Kathleen.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2010, all rights reserved.
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