Inner Space Cavern {Georgetown, TX}

My kids have really gotten into geology lately so we made a trip to Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, TX.  They had never been to a cavern so they were really excited.

There are three different levels of tours that you can take.  We took the Adventure tour which lasts about 1 hour, 15 minutes and is the beginner level tour.  They also offer the Hidden Passages tour which lasts about 1 hour, 30 minutes and customers are provided with their own flashlight as they will be taking a more rugged tour.  Finally, if you are really adventurous, you can take the Wild Cave tour.  This tour lasts from 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours.  You must be 13 years of age or older.  This tour takes adventurers into undeveloped areas of the cavern and is physically demanding.

We got our tickets for the Adventure Tour and waited for our time to start.  While we waited there was plenty to look at.  Rachel found a giant mammoth.

Nicholas looked at the mammoth molar and jawbone.  These were actually found here in the cavern.

Our guide explained how dynamite was first used to blast an opening to the cavern.  He had a flashlight and used it to point out things of interest all along our tour.

It is a steep walk along a lot of the paths in the cavern.  Close-toed shoes are recommended but I would add that hiking boots or at least shoes with really good traction would be ideal.

The first room is a great place to learn about the basics of cavern formations.  Water seeps through the ground and while it is under pressure from the Earth, it picks up carbon dioxide and the mineral calcite.  Once the water reaches the open area of the cavern and is no longer under pressure the carbon dioxide evaporates and the calcite can no longer be held by the water so it settles on to the nearest surface. 

In this room We saw stalactites which hang from the ceiling and stalagmites which build up from the ground.  Columns form when the stalactites and stalagmites meet up and join.  These formations take a really long time to form.  They grow at a rate of about 1 cubic inch in 100 years. 

You are not allowed to touch any of the formations in the cavern.  Our skin will put oil and dirt on the formations which will cause the calcite to just glide right over the formation instead of building on to it.  However, you are allowed to touch Temptation Stone.  It is the ONLY stone in the cavern that you are allowed to touch so get it out of your system here.

Most of the formations in the cavern are a tan or rust color due to iron that is mixed with the calcite.  However, pure calcite is very white as seen in this picture below.  The top of this white formation is called a drapery and it was formed as the water slid down an inclined plane and left streaks of calcite behind.  The lower part of the formation is a stalagmite.  When they joined together, they became a drapery column.

This part of Texas was once under the sea and you can see fossilized coral and shrimp on the ceiling in parts of the cavern.

This ceiling is different that most of the ceiling in the cavern because it is made of dolomite.  It is absorbent like a sponge so formations don't form like they do in other rooms.

Here you can see a crack in the ceiling from a fissure of the Balcones Fault.

Some of the tunnels were low and narrow but they all eventually opened up into big rooms.

Like looking for pictures in the clouds, it is also fun to use your imagination to see what you can find in the formations.  This room is called the Ice Cream Parlor because of the formations that look like an ice cream cone and ice cream sandwich.

This is also the room with the First Formation.  This stalactite and stalagmite are about 1/2 inch apart and at the slow rate of growth it will probably be 50 years before they join as a column formation.  It will be the "first formation" to form since the cavern was opened.

I wish I had a better picture of this but this is called Cave Bacon.  Doesn't it kind of look like bacon hanging from the ceiling?  It is formed from alternating flows of brown and white calcite that flow through an elongated crack instead of a hole.

We made our way into the Discovery Room where the Inner Space Cavern was first discovered back in 1963 as part of a study by the Texas Highway Department to see if they could build I-35 in this area.  They were taking core samples of the ground and the drill then dropped 25 feet down to the bottom of the cavern.  They did a little more drilling before determining that they must have found a cavern.  They expanded this drill hole to 24 inches and actually sent the first person down this hole to see for himself.  Can you imagine going down this narrow dark tunnel and coming out into a pitch black unknown cavernous area?  That's the stuff of nightmares to me!  But thank goodness they pushed on and discovered this amazing cavern for us to explore today.

This room has a cool formation that some say looks like a big fat sumo wrestler eating ice cream.  I see it!  Do you?  Isn't it fun to see what your imagination can come up with as you look at these formations?

This formation is called the Flowing Stone of Time and it is one of the older formations in the cavern.  It is HUGE!

On the side of the Flowing Stone of Time is a small hole in the ground about 3 feet big.  In the hole is a small pool that can hold about 125 gallons of water.  Since the water down here has been naturally filtered as it traveled through the rocks, this is some of the purest water you can find.

The Scalloped Ceiling room shows that water was present in this room as evidenced by the erosion that it caused as waves beat against the ceiling.  Nicholas later asked me about this and wondered why there would be waves if there wasn't wind to blow the water around.  Good question!  We will have to research this on our own.

This is the Castle Balcony room.  This was a fun room because our tour guide told us a cute fairy tale derived from the formations.  It had to do with a castle, princess, a dragon, etc.  I love storytelling so I could seriously spend time down here just making up stories about the interesting formations.

There is a retaining wall surrounding an area of the cave called a bone sink.  There were many bones found in the sink hole and a UT professor has used the retaining wall to paint pictures of some of the animals of which bones were found.

This is the Inner Cathedral room, the largest room in the cavern.  There are excavation digs here performed by the University of Texas.  There are some fossils in the ground that they were too soft to safely excavate so they have left them in place for now.

Every way you turn there are interesting formation all around.  We had hoped to see a few bats on our tour but we never did.

This last room is called the Lake of the Moon.  It is the deepest spot in the cavern at 69 feet below the surface.  It is a really beautiful room and there has even been a wedding performed down here!

There is a monster face at the entrance to the room!  See the eyes, nose, and scary mouth?

Our little amateur geologists had a great time on the Adventure Tour and they hope to come back soon to try the Hidden Passages tour!

Rachel thought the room was so beautiful.  She asked to get one more picture of just her in it.  I had to be quick though because our tour guide had already left to take the group back up to the surface!  It's a pretty room but I didn't want to get stuck down there if they turned the lights out on us!

Back up at the surface we briefly checked out the gift shop.  I saw this awesome shirt and I probably should have bought it but I didn't!

We got a recommendation from a friend for a good place for BBQ for dinner.  We went to Salt Lick.  It was delicious!

Information about Inner Space Cavern:
The address is 4200 S. I-35, Georgetown, TX 78626.  Hours are Monday - Friday: 9am - 4pm; Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday: 11am-5pm. For more information, please call them at 512-931-2283 or check out the Inner Space Cavern Facebook page.

So Much to be Thankful for This Year

Although we don't have any family in our area, we always cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Sometimes we've been able to invite a friend over who needed some company but usually it is just the four of us.  That's fine too...more leftovers for us!

The only thing I hate about our Thanksgiving meal is the FIVE cups of onions that have to be chopped for the dressing.  I use my Pampered Chef food chopper to make it go more quickly but there are still a lot of tears.

We have found a brined turkey recipe that we absolutely love.  It makes the most flavorful and moist turkey you will ever eat.  It is Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe.  The bird soaks in a brine solution overnight.  We put it all in a brining bag to keep all of the mess contained then we put that down into an ice chest and cover it with ice.  It is all still ice cold in the morning when we take it out to cook.

While the food was cooking, we enjoyed some family time and Nicholas built a crazy tall tower of Keva blocks.  Fortunately the ladder to his loft bed helped him get high enough to keep building upward.

We had to get creative with the oven cooking.  We only have one oven but had to cook the turkey, dressing, sweet potato crunch, and green bean casserole - all to be ready at the same time!  Stuart has brought the dressing to work for their Thanksgiving potlucks and he says it cooks well in the crock pot for 4 hours so we got that started in the morning.  Fortunately the turkey needs to rest after cooking so we cooked it by itself in the oven.  As soon as it was done, we put the sweet potato crunch and green bean casserole in the oven. 

Amazingly it was all ready to eat at the same time!  Yes, we even used the fancy china. 

 Time to eat!

 Everyone cleaned their plate and some went back for seconds.

But we made sure to save room for the Chocolate Silk pie for dessert!

We talked a lot about all that we have to be thankful for this year.  It has been a rough year for us.  But we are thankful that Stuart wasn't injured in the wreck that totaled his beloved truck, my dad has recovered well from his 3 broken ribs and punctured lung, my in laws were rescued from their car as they floated down the street in the Louisiana flood, and my skin cancer has been removed and the biopsy shows that I'm cancer-free.  There are so many more things that we came up with to be thankful for.  As we would talk about one thing, another thing popped in someone's head.  It was a nice talk we had and a reminder of all that we have to be thankful for.

Last night, Stuart took the kids to the nursery department at Home Depot and they picked out the perfect tree.  We spent the evening decorating it with all of our sweet keepsake ornaments that the kids have made over the years.

Rachel has been super excited to get the tree decorated because once the tree is done and the kids have gone off to bed, Chimney, our Christmas elf, appears somewhere on the tree for the kids to find the next morning.

I can't wait to see her excitement when she finds him! 

What a blessed year it has been and it's not over yet!  For Christmas is the time to celebrate the most amazing blessing of all, Jesus Christ, and the love He has for us. 

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Old Alton Bridge {Goatman Bridge}

Fall is finally here and we have been enjoying spending more time outdoors watching the leaves change colors and exploring God's beautiful world.  We haven't been to Old Alton Bridge in quite a while so we headed over there to check out the bridge and wander the trails.

The old bridge is registered as a Texas Historical Landmark.  It has been closed to vehicles for quite a while but is still accessible to foot traffic. 

It is an old iron through-truss bridge that was built back in the late 1800's.

We usually see turtles on logs underneath the bridge but we couldn't find any today.

I love seeing the fall colors on the trees!  So beautiful.

On the other side of the bridge a trail begins that runs along Old Alton Road for a way.  This is on the western side of the bridge.

We found some Shaggy Mane mushrooms (aka Lawyer's Wig).  It is edible but we don't eat wild mushrooms because I'm not a mushroom expert and you don't want to take a chance an eat a look alike that might make you sick.

We found this really old dried out bottom of a tree trunk.  It was cut and pulled up out of the ground a long time ago.  The bark has all worn away and the wood is weathered and smooth.  It was interesting to study the size of the roots while we were here.

The waterway is a tributary of the Trinity River.  The bank is easily accessible and a lot of people come here to fish.  We'll have to try that some other time. 

But today we were just exploring and climbing trees.

I love her smile! 

Nicholas and Rachel were checking out this tree and Nicholas called me over to take this picture that he posed.

It's hard to believe this is my baby girl.  She is growing up too fast!

The mosquitos can get quite nasty here even in cooler weather so we headed back out of the woods to a more open area.  The kids decided to explore some trails on the other side of the bridge.

It is a little easier to get to the water's edge on this side of the bridge.  We saw two people out fishing along this bank.

Looking back at the Old Alton Bridge.

The kids found lots of horse apples and gathered up as many as they could.  They took turns throwing them as far as they could out into the water.

The Old Alton Bridge is also knows as the Goatman Bridge and it is supposedly haunted.  We have been out here many times and never seen a ghost but there are definitely weird things to find out here.  This time we found a giant hole, a campsite like someone might be living out here complete with fire pit and a stack of wood, and this weird human size nest!  There was also a lot of graffiti on signs and park benches.  That was a disappointment.

Old Alton Bridge is a fun place to visit and the trails are nice if you coat yourself well with mosquito repellent!  But I don't recommend coming out here after dark though.  Not that I worry about ghosts.  I'd be more concerned about the high school kids or vagabonds that seem to hang out here after hours.