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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chilling Underground

No gem mining for us, this day it was all about the Cavern! 

Ok, by now you know I LOVE exploring caverns, caves and mines as well as learning about the wonderfully historically rich area in which we now live. Last week it was Moaning Cavern, in which we took both our middle daughter, a new regular on our weekly outings, as well as our oldest who was visiting from Texas for myself and my husbands birthday.... YEP! I turned 48 this past week, and hubby will be the big 
5-0 tomorrow. Anyway, you also may recall if you read last weeks post, that my Grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago, well, my Mom was out from Texas as well to be there for her passing and to spend the week following with her sister before coming and spending the week with me. We had quite a few outings, from shopping to mini golf... I forgot how bad I was and how fun it could be!! 

Taking time in the shade between shots on
my birthday mini golfing trip.

Anyways, as it came to the weeks end, the day before her departure back home, we had chatted about taking the oldest daughter to the caverns up near Murphys (California) and that there was another one there that we wished to explore, however we were concerned about the stairs, but she was thus what I have to share with you today!! Mercer Cavern is located a mile up Sheep Ranch Road, a quick turn off of Main Street in Murphys California . It is nearly a two hour drive for us, but we don't mind, the scenery is beautiful and peaceful, passing through historic gold mining towns as well as historical markers that dot the roadside along the route and though a bit too many curvy parts for my liking, so I have to chew on a ginger candy or two, but it is doable. There is a few good potty stops and places to find food, coffee, gas and photo ops too!!   The tour once you begin requires that you leave your purse in the car, so make sure you have an ice chest to put your make up in ladies if it is hot out. Bring a light sweater, the cavern is a regulated 55 degrees at all times. Wear your walking shoes as there is a lot of stairs going down and back up. You can take your camera, but no case, and make sure you have a wrist strap. A few rules apply besides the no purse rule, and the main one is NO TOUCHING! You will read why down below. There is picnic tables and a great little gift shop with restrooms and drinks also available. Plus like the photo shows above you can mine for gems too! 

The history of Mercer is much like many of the caverns we have visited, thought to be filled with gold, but sadly not, then opened to the public for the entrance price of a pinch of gold, so the owners did indeed still manage to get gold out of the mine. Walter Mercer discovered the cave in 1885 when he spotted a green Laurel tree among all the brown, thinking there must be a water source, he made the hike but was disappointed, but after sitting down to rest in the shade of the tree, he felt a cool breeze and went searching for the source. He soon found a small hole, and dropped a stone down the hole, and he heard it make a noise as it hit what he thought must be the bottom. Believing he may have found a gold mine, he made a claim on the land for just 1.00 . He took a bunch of mining tools and rope and after making the hole large enough to fit through, and with a candle lit on a flat paddle in his mouth descended down. Long story short, though you can find the history online, as I mentioned it was not a gold mine after all, but an ancient cavern full of earthly wonders. Mr. Mercer lived for 5 years after finding the cavern, giving tours along side his wife, and making sure that the cavern was protected all who visited were required to wear gloves, because if you touched the formations, they would die and stop developing. He was very much ahead of his time in the preservation of his find. He died shortly after a fall in which it had left him paralyzed, though he did help with the tours from the opening, prior to that, while his wife lead the tours. She continued her leading of tours until the 1940s.  Visitors today are quite lucky that award wining caverns and formations within have been well cared for and protected because when you take the tour you are greeted with stunning formations that many, even with all the caverns I have been to through the years are firsts for me to see! It is a real treasure! 

A little more history. 

Fashion shot for the day.. trying out a new way to wear my pixie as
it grows out a bit.. all the better to hide my roots LOL 

Enjoying the scenery while waiting for our tour to start. 

Down we go....

 Having visited many a haunted location and
having photographed quite a few orbs that can not be explained away with
bugs and moisture or dust, I am thinking we were not alone on this tour.
Maybe Mr. Mercer and his wife still enjoy exploring with tour goers! 

It is a long way down! 

It gets pretty dark even with the addition of modern day lights, at one point
during the tour the guide lights a few candles and flips the light switch off,
then she one by one puts out the candles before too long it is beyond pitch black...
scary and fascinating all at once to think what it might have been like to be one of the
early visitors. 

Stalagmites growing down, it can take millions of years to get to this point. 

Drapes, Curtains, or even Bacon is what these formations are often called. They grow along
sloping ceilings when water trickles down along the slopes depositing crystals in thin bands and often different hues depending on the minerals.

Speleothem. speleothem (/ˈspləθɛm/Greek: "cave deposit"), commonly known as a cave formation, is a secondary mineral deposit formed in a cave. Speleothems are typically formed in limestone or dolostone solutional caves. *Via wikipedia
 There are plexiglass shields all throughout the cave/cavern to protect the growths from
human touch, one touch from a human hand can kill the formations. 

What happens over time of many people touching the formations. 

I wish my camera could have done this justice. In these stalactites, which have been broken,
you can see the crystal within, and when seen in person they shimmer like gems!  

A mini cave within the larger cavern.

More drapes.

Calcite veins, the green is bacteria that has developed
after years and years of humans like us bringing in spores
that attach to the growths. Oh and can you see the "soda straws?"
Soda Straws are thin, hollow growths. They form from the ceiling or
down from other growths. Water moves down the center of the
straws so it grows only from it's tips. 

More secondary growths or  "Speleothem" 

Pop Corn, Cauliflower, Broccoli... what do you see?
Every name given to a formation
 is open to interpretation, rather like clouds. 

Thousands of tiny crystal formations, that truly sparkle as if they have
been covered with faerie dust... I just wish as I said my camera did them more
justice. You will have to take my word for it.

I just love seeing all the colors and textures that are created within
the confines of the caverns we visit. 

More crystals , these are known as Aragonite formations. Mercer is the
only cavern to have these unusual formations. Many within the walls of
Mercer grow up to three inches in length.  It is believed that the water that
drips into the caves/cavern is rich in calcium and magnesium that is leached
from the dolomitic bedrock. The Aragonite is similar to calcite, but of course
visually it very different. 

A good example of several types of formations, the one closest to the
camera is often called Cave Lasagna for the mimic it appears to be of the
Italian pasta.  Truly it is just another drape formation. 

Upon finishing up with our tour we headed back to Murphys for a cold drink and then to go do a bit of wine tasting. Once back out on the road, we popped into our favorite farm stand, Davis Farms on route 16 and bought some goodies to have with our supper. A perfect way to round out the day and our latest adventure in the Gold Country of California.  

All smiles in front of the "pokie" in Murphys. 

Blue cheese, Argentinian preserved walnuts and a
great glass of wine was had at Lavender Ridge's Wine
tasting bar, cheese and gourmet food shop.

Just grabbing some fresh goodies for supper. 

MMMM Sweet Corn! 

Besides memories, these were the spoils of the day .... tasty!  A great finish to a great day. 

**** Visited 
Stevenot  Tasting room on Main street in Murphy .. 5.00 tasting fee per person, refundable with purchase. 
Lavender Ridge, also on Main street ... 5.00 tasting fee pp , refundable, and tastings of cheese given with the wines. 
Zucca Mountain , Just off of Main street , also 5.00 per person tasting fee , also refundable with purchase. 
Davis Ranch Produce, on Jackson Road/ HWY 16 Sloughhouse  Ca 
Mercer Caverns, Sheep Ranch Road, Murphys ca  15.00 per adult and 8.50 for children. Check out web site for further information for tours. 

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