Thursday, January 31, 2013

Woodward Cave

Secluded away in the hills of Millheim, Pennsylvania sits another of Mother Nature's most beautiful places. I find myself enthralled while inside caves. Something about the fact that you're in a place that has been possibly enjoyed since the beginning of man and yet will still continue to grow after we all pass.

 Since 1926 the Woodward Cave has been fascinating travelers from all over the world. The cavern is one of the largest in the state and consists of 5 large rooms. Woodward cave is often referred to as "the Big One", due to its massive size and cathedral ceilings. Rooms such as the "Ballroom" are large enough that it's been used to host functions within the cave. Another room measures over 200 feet in length. The cave also features one of the largest stalagmites in the state.

Besides the stalactites, and stalagmites you find in other caves, the Woodward also offers a glimpse at cave icicles, cave bacon or ribbons, cave coral, and the rare helictites. They also boast formations resembling a lion, and a camel sitting down. Both remarkable examples of millions of years of Mother Nature at work.

Aside from all the beauty and mysticism the cave has to offer, the grounds are also available for camping. Cabins are nestled throughout the property offering a quaint, quiet stay in a serene location. The cave doesn't get nearly the tourist traffic most others receive. In my opinion this doesn't diminish the attractiveness the cave offers, it only adds to it's natural intrigue.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Phantom of Penn's Cave

The Seneca Indian tribe originally discovered the majestic beauty of Penn's cave. They would often use the cave as a refuge during bad weather. The natural creek that flows through offered them great opportunities for fishing, provided natural refrigeration, as well as supply clean drinking water. But there are much darker tales on ways they used the cave to their benefit.

One particular legend that's popular in the State College area tells the tale of a Lancaster county trapper, who fell in love with a local Seneca tribeswoman. In the early 1800's a Frenchman named Malachi Boyer scoured through the mountains of Centre county looking for game to trap. While camping at Mammoth spring near the town of Bellefonte the man was introduced to local chief O-Ko-Cho, the two quickly developed a kinship and exchanged gifts. The local chief had seven sons and one daughter named Nita-nee. The young woman was often closely guarded by her brothers, but one day Malachi caught a glimpse of the beautiful maiden cleaning a deerskin in the nearby stream. It's believed the two immediately fell in love with one another. Native American tradition would never allow the two lovers to maintain a relationship, smitten with each other, the two planned an escape. They were subsequently captured by Nita-nee's seven brothers and were returned to an angered Chief O-Ko-Cho. The Chief instructed his sons to take the man to the cavern of water and dispense of him.

The brothers following through with their orders dragged the man to the Earth's opening and threw him into the dark waters below. For a week the desperate man swam through the murky abyss hoping to find an exit from his inevitable doom. The only pathway out was being blocked by the Seneca tribesmen, exhausting all his efforts the man crawled to deepest recesses of the cavern to pass away. He vowed to not allow the Native Indians watch him suffer through his death. The brothers eventually retrieved his remains, weighted them down, and disposed of them in the deepest cavity of the cavern.

The young Nita-nee has had her legacy remembered forever, her name has been bestowed upon the mountains of the area, as well as the famed mascot of Penn State University. Malachi Boyer's legacy may have been lost but many believe his spirit may still live on. Centuries later it's said on quiet summer nights you can hear echoes from out of the cave that resemble a person crying for Nita-nee. Even in death maybe love still lasts forever.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Penn's Cave & Wildlife Tour

As you navigate down the sidewalk and approach the steep steps you begin to feel the natural coolness rush across your body. As you descend down the stairs, the hairs on your body begin to stand on end. The cavern breathes its cold air across your body. You are now standing inside America's only all water cavern. As the group drops into the boat it rocks back and forth erratically, the thoughts inside your head hopes everyone knows how to evenly distribute their weight. If they don't your guide will help them even things out. As the motor of the boat fires up, a sense of mystique enters my mind.

The guide begins to maneuver us through the pitch black darkness of the cavern with only the help of a flood light. You often duck or tuck yourself in order to squeeze through some narrow passages. Along the way your guide will point out stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and curtains. All sculpted through thousands of years of cascading water passing through the rich limestone. The guide points out formations resembling a Nittany lion, the Statue of Liberty, and the ever impressive Garden of the Gods room. You see some of natures most pristine beauty as you pass through the 1,300 feet cave. During one part of the tour you'll see nothing as the guide will extinguish the light.

The cavern was originally discovered by the Seneca Indian tribe. They would often use the cave as shelter during times of inclement weather. In 1885 the cavern was opened for public tours, that same year the Penn's cave hotel was established. Since than the cave has become a popular tourist destination, and in 1976 both the cave and hotel were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cave also offers a wildlife tour through their 1,500 acres of preserved forests and fields. The focus is mainly on animals that are or at one time were native to Pennsylvania. Elk, deer, mountain lions, bison, and black bear can all be found within the preserve. Offering a perfect day of all the true beauty the world has to offer, we just gotta get out there and find it!