4/29/11

A Friday Field Trip: Longhorn Cavern, Burnet, TX



Last week when we visited the Nature Building at the Museum of Nature and Science, we REALLY liked their cave exhibit, and I was reminded that Texas has a bunch of neat caves to visit! William and I decided that this week we would go see a cave!  Most are about 3 or more hours away from Dallas, and as I was viewing the websites for various caves, I was beginning to despair...super long tours and two toddler boys is not a good combination. Then I saw some reviews for Longhorn Cavern State Park. While it wasn't touted as the most beautiful cave in Texas, it was mentioned that it was perfect for strollers! There are a set of steps initially, but once in the cave, it's no big deal to push a stroller. So, we located our cheapy umbrella stroller, and hit the road!




The drive was about 3.5 hours, and we wanted to get to the first tour at 11am, so we headed out at 6am. I just rolled the kids out of bed, shoved some clothes on them, packed a lunch, and drove off! We drove all the way to West, and stopped at the Czech Stop to get Kolaches. Also, William and I both needed a potty break.

You can buy all kinds of delicious sausages and cheese,, plus frozen Czech bakery items.

And then there are the kolaches....


William chose a cinnamon roll.

Aldous got a pretty traditional sausage and cheese.

I bought raspberry cream cheese. We also got a lemon cream cheese, another cinnamon roll, and the clerk threw in two oatmeal cookies for later.

so, we drive the soul-sucking route down 35S, etc...until we get here! So pretty!

The boys were glad to get out of the car and run (and find sticks....errggg)

As soon as we pulled into the park, I remembered I had brought the girls here a long time ago...Like 12 years ago or something.


All of the beautiful stone work and excavation was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They all worked for $1/day, and at one point there were 200 workers living in a CCC camp where the current picnic area is in the state park.  We had to go down all of the steps to get to the cave entrance, so I carried the little stroller. It weighs nearly nothing. I kept Aldous on my back most of the time, occasionally switching them to William on my back and Aldous in the stroller. It was way too dangerous for Aldous to walk, but William was fine, especially after Mr. Al fussed at him and told him to stay with his mom. :giggle

The cave entrance is locked up!

The is our guide, geologist Al Jareau (not the singer, he says)

 The other Al Jareau

One of the first things on the tour of the cave is a little opening with tones of calcite crystals...

Look at all of these! It felt sort of like being in a big geode.



The cave is home to about 35 or 40 pipistrelle bats..they are SO tiny!!  Aldous asked as soon as we walked into the cave if there were any bats, so we spent time looking for them, with the aid of Mr. Al's big flashlight.

This is a naturally made formation. however, it was made in another part of the cave and brought here.

At one point, before it was a state park, this cave was a speak easy. Before that, native Americans used it for a meeting place. The wall in the picture used to be the original opening, closed by the CCC to control the entrances.

During the times it was a speak-easy, dumb-waiters were installed to bring down hot food to the restaurant part of the club.

This is a modern bandstand, but it's in the place of the one that was used historically.

Neat formations

This part of the cave was super smooth. Kind of eerie!


It was like being inside of a giant swiss cheese!


In our group were another couple, my two boys, and me. That's all! It was perfect!

Happy posers! 

One of the other couple took this pic of us three! Nice I get to be in a pic! This was the farthest we went into the cave.

On our way back, we went thru this part, which had SO MANY calcite crystals!! some of them were enormous, too! They had lit them with these colored lights, which the boys totally loved.

Here's an unlit wall of the part with so many crystals...

William trying to keep up with Mr. Al. (or, as the boys both called him "Mr. Owl")

I spotted this bat by myself on our way out! Mr. Al came back and shined his light on it so we could see it better. I'm sure that bat is totally in love with Mr. Al.

Finally, to the surface! The boys were ready for lunch! Well, I was ready for lunch, I assumed the boys might be hungry.


 There was THE BIGGEST argument over Aldous "pushing" the folded up stroller. It was ridiculous!

 William posing!

The picnic area was so serene and smelled like ceder!
 Aldous and that darned stroller. He was sobbing when I stowed it in the trunk....*sigh*

Ahhh, lunch among the mesquite and the cactus...

Checking out the cactus.

The entire cave tour took a little over an hour. While it wasn't the showiest cave you could see in Texas, it was perfect for taking little ones, and for boys who had never seen a cave, or bats, or crystals, it was FABULOUS!!!  They loved it so much, they were relatively well behaved, and Mr. Al complimented them! Again, it's still a little dangerous, because it's NATURE, so I kept the boys with me the whole time, either on my back, or in the light weight stroller.

This one had relatively smooth walkways, so the stroller was fine, but most of the caves I researched did not. There was one section where I couldn't use the stroller, so I made sure Aldous was on my back, and William walking there. At the end, for the pic, I let them both down, but they were in a contained area. There are some low spots that make walking challenging when wearing a baby and pushing a stroller, but it was doable, especially if your toddler understands the "watch your head" command. :) It cost $30 total for the tour for all three of us: $3 more than a trip to the Arboretum! and, imo, way cooler.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Wow, that is so cool! I am inspired to go soon. I have a minor obsession with the CCC, too. I have been to a few CCC parks in AR and TX. Every one was fascinating.

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