Caves – A Trip Into the Dark

Missouri is known as the ‘cave state’ and I’ve had a fascination with them ever since I read Huckleberry Finn as a child.

So when the notice came up that Fantastic Caverns was having homeschool rates from February 1-14, I immediately asked my DH if he was up for a road trip. He agreed and we’ve put it in the schedule which is big around here. If it is in the schedule, it exists. If it isn’t in the schedule than it doesn’t exist. And that schedule is full of activities, even now, in the middle of winter.

Then I called my dad the other day and he said, “Really, I can’t talk now, National Geographic is showing the Caves of Naica right now and I hate to miss it.” After giving me a brief description and telling me to look it up, he hurried off of the phone.

So look it up I did, and I can’t wait to see the documentaries. I found three documentaries, actually two of them on Naica and one on another cave, and watched the first last night with Emily. It was not on the Naica Caves, not this first one, but instead on the largest cave in the world, located in Vietnam.

As we watched it and Emily snuggled close I said, “We are going to go and see some caves in a couple of weeks, you know.”

“Really, Mama? Where?”

“Near Springfield, baby. It’s a long drive. It’s near that restaurant where they throw food at you.”

We recently made a trip to Branson (boring in winter) and stopped on the way back at Lambert’s – home of the throwed rolls, which is definitely an experience. They actually toss rolls at you, and come around with buckets of fried okra, black-eyed peas, fried potatoes and more. It’s fun, and the food is very tasty, the ultimate down-home comfort food. I’m thinking that since we will be so close, a visit to Lambert’s will definitely be in order.

The look on Emily’s face when she caught her first roll is priceless. She was so darned proud of herself!

As we continued to watch the documentary, Emily became restless. It was a documentary, after all, and she is only four. So I began to point out things that they were talking about and give her little synopses of what the explorers were facing. “The cave is so big they have to bring enough food for seven days, it will take them that long to get through it.”

I didn’t realize she thought it was the same as the Fantastic Caverns until she said, “Oh my. Mama, I think we will need a tent with us when we go to visit.”

How cute is that?

This prompted a discussion on how there are many, many caves – all over the world. And later she watched with interest the discovery of a white wood louse (roly-poly) in one of the side caverns. “He’s white, Mama, why is he white instead of dark?”

I explained that he lived in the dark, always, and when that happens the creatures don’t need to be dark to protect themselves from the sun.

The documentary didn’t hold her interest for the entire length, and that is fine. I knew before I started it that it might be too far advanced for her, but I wanted to watch it and she had been game.

Perhaps today we will get to see the documentary on the Naica caves, where the temperature never falls below 120 degrees farenheit, making exploration of the cave system nearly impossible. It is a wondrous place where crystals (you know, the kind that hang from necklaces?) grow to lengths of twenty or more feet. I can’t wait to see it.

More than anything, though, I look forward to our first trip with Emily to Fantastic Caverns. I think she will enjoy it. I wonder too, if it will unlock an lifelong fascination with caves and lead someday to spelunking down an unknown depth.

No matter where it leads or doesn’t, it will be fun and educational and something we can do as a family.

On other news, I can’t wait to finally be healthy and not having to croak out my words. Poor Emily hasn’t had much reading done lately, mainly because I can’t manage to croak out the words!

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