Monday, April 25, 2011

Luray Caverns and a 140 year old spoon

My family and I have been talking about visiting the Luray Caverns for a long time.  They are located in the Shenandoah Valley, deep in the Appalachian Mountains.  I grew up in the mountains, and driving through them, seeing them in the distance always makes me feel like I am coming home.  It was a really nice drive, fairly short, and the countryside is just beautiful this time of year.  On our way home we stopped at two viewing areas, here is a picture taken at the first one, with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains far in the distance.

I honestly didn't know what to expect at the cavern.  In many cases things aren't what they are advertised to be, but I can tell you that the Luray Caverns more than exceeded my expectations.  When we got to the cavern it was raining and cold, but we braved the elements and got our tickets and stood in line to go on the self-paced tour.  Your ticket for admission covers entrance to the cavern, an antique carriage and car museum, and the Luray Museum that contains artifacts from the local community collected throughout the years.

To get down into the cave proper, you descent a long fight of stairs and then arrive at a sort of holding area where you can put on your headphones and get the audio tour started.  You begin the tour by following a walkway with a metal hand rail down and into the cavern.  It took me all of about 30 seconds to let out my first gasp of amazement.  The flow stone, the draperies, the stalactites, the named structures, were breathtaking.  One structure in the deepest part of the cave was said to be over 7 million years old. 

Flow stone, named because of the way it looks like a frozen waterfall.

Draperies or Curtains


Tallest formation in the cavern, 40+ feet high.

My camera does not even begin to do this natural wonder justice.  The sheer size of the formations, the timelessness that you feel by being inside the cavern, and the beauty, all combine to leave you feeling like you have just done and experienced something amazing.

After our tour was over, we headed into the Carriage and Automobile museum.  To be honest, we should have done that first.  Man made items, even those that were made over a hundred years ago, seemed to pale in comparison to what we had just seen.  The Luray Museum was much the same, but a bit more interesting.  I enjoyed the displays of pottery and other items from the past.  Still, after seeing a 7 million year old rock formation 165 feet under ground, it was hard to be impressed.

I did see one wooden spoon along with a few other wooden cooking implements, a bowl and several rolling pins on display.  I stood and looked at the spoon for quite some time.  It was just a tool, just an implement to stir a soup or mix a cake.  

Nothing fancy at all.  Just a plain old spoon, its only decoration was a small cone shaped finial on the end.  It's a spoon that was made to be used.  Not to be put away in a drawer as a keepsake.  It's the kind of spoon that I like to make.  140 years ago they weren't worried about how many people liked what they made, they crafted and carved tools and items for their every day use.  I need to remember that more often I guess.

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