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The Springs in Fall. 2015 Photos #7: Views from the Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds!

This wasn’t my first cave, but this stalactite was possibly the longest I’ve ever seen.

I had to kill a few hours in the morning puttering around free areas while waiting for other Colorado Springs businesses to open. Eventually I made my way west through the Rockies, up the side of a mountain, then down inside it.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.

My next stop was the Cave of the Winds, not to be confused with the Cave of the Winds we saw at Niagara Falls on our 2004 road trip, and was the opposite of this one in numerous ways. The entrance was discovered in 1880 some 7000 feet above sea level. It was open for business the following year and has been attracting visitors ever since.

Cave of the Winds Sign!

Our rental car is an Easter egg on the right.

After the turnoff from I-24 the Cave’s sign isn’t far away, but the Visitors Center is another few miles of mostly vertical, precariously winding mountainside road, with no guard rails to prevent impatient drivers from careening off the edge and bouncing toward an explosive doom like so many Mannix suspects. That’s not my wife’s favorite kind of road and it’s among a few sights she’s not sorry she missed.

Cave of the Winds Visitors Center!

Later I discovered that house over in the next county was in fact the Cave of the Winds Visitors Center. Their driveway is roughly forever miles long.

The Visitors Center offers other activities during the warmer tourist-season months, including an amusement park ride that takes daredevils back and forth, a few thousand feet above the rugged countryside. Closer to earth but equally daunting is this obstacle course that looks much more interesting than the average funhouse.

Obstacle Course!

Consider this your Ninja Warrior entrance exam.

One bear greets you at the parking lot…

Bear!

He’s a decoration and he discourages kids away from the cliff.

…while another welcomes you to the Cave of the Winds tour.

Bear!

Howdy, folks! I’m a bear! Please put away all jokes about The Revenant until the end of the tour!

I walked inside right around opening time at 10 a.m., only to learn the first cave tour would be at 10:45. That gave me five minutes to look at souvenirs and acquire a smashed penny for Anne, and forty minutes to hang around and enjoy the view.

Cave of the Winds Shop!

Rustic furniture, hardwood floors, panoramic scenery. This would make a lovely summer home for some upscale family looking to get off the grid.

Rocky Mountains!

#DemRockies

Gorge!

Angling down toward the gorge at the feet of the mountains.

Mountain Birdhouse!

A peculiar place for a birdhouse.

At 10:45 sharp I joined the first group, a few couples older than me and some college kids. I tried not to dwell on loneliness and made the most of the opportunity for a souvenir photo. I bought this largely for my wife, who likes having photos of me for reasons of her own. And asking another tourist to take my pic just felt too weird.

Me!

Little did I know back on November 2nd that my shirt would become a harbinger of unpredictable future events.

As for the cave itself…the parts that the public is allowed to see on the basic Cave of the Winds tour look a lot like other caves I’ve been inside, such as Indiana’s own Wyandotte Cave, or Tennessee’s Ruby Falls, which we saw on our 2007 road trip. I took photos where I could, experimenting with my camera’s “handheld nightscene” setting for kicks.

Cave Lights!

A few manmade constructs are installed here and there for safety purposes. I’m sure there’s a pricier danger-zone tour for hardier hikers who need no such training wheels.

Cave Ladder!

Several old access points have been discontinued and/or cordoned off, either for preservation or redundancy, such as this ceiling ladder into darkness.

Cave Tunnel!

The Cave interiors are a surprisingly not-freezing 54 degrees. In hindsight my heavy jacket was probably unnecessary.

Stalactites!

Wire mesh protects itty-bitty stalactites from the ravages of destructive, sweaty human flesh. We were warned to touch nothing on threat of legal discipline.

Romeo + Juliet!

This stalactite and stalagmite are nicknamed Romeo and Juliet because they were once a single column, rent asunder by geological shifts and never to be reunited.

Dreams of Mountains!

“Dreams of mountains as in their sleep they brood on things eternal.” This quote comes from an essay collection called Titan of Chasms: The Grand Canyon of Arizona” and I understand it’s posted above an entrance to that much more prestigious natural wonder. But some previous benefactor thought it sounded really cool and ordered it carved into the wall here.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]

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About Randall A. Golden
Hoosier since birth, geek since age 6, father at 22, Christian at 30; launched Midlife Crisis Crossover at 39. Full-time service rep; part-time internet contributor; former message board admin; inhabits Twitter as @RandallGolden. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

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