Oct 032014

Wild Cave Tour ticket. Blanchard Springs Caverns

Today we have a fairly full schedule with three planned stops. Even so, we’re able to sleep in and leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee brewed in our motel room. We’re careful to limit our liquid intake this morning as our first activity is at Blanchard Springs Caverns State Park for their Wild Cave Tour  at 9:30 am. There are no restroom facilities once on the tour and we’re expected to be underground for four hours. A lunch break is scheduled halfway through the trek so I grab a turkey sandwich and container of orange juice from a local grocery deli. Once at the state park we meet our guide. Megan is a 30 year old biology major who’s worked at the park for several years. We’re led to a small room to be outfitted in red coveralls, hard hats, knee pads, gloves and LED headlamps for our subterranean hike. A small backpack is also provided for your lunch and any personal items. Looking like a group of Ghostbusters, we then take a short bus ride to the exit doors of the Discovery Trail tour and head into the earth. Right away we spot two large wolf spiders and a few small orange salamanders. Delicate brown bats are seen flicking past with many of their cousins clinging to the ceilings and walls. After a few hundred yards, we walk around the established concrete walkway and guano spattered stainless railings of the Discovery Trail to walk over a well trampled slick red clay trail. Despite her youth and petite frame Megan is an excellent guide, demonstrating knowledge and authority to ensure we all remain safe. Everyone is soon confident in her abilities and we put our wholehearted trust in her hands. And this is a tour where an idiot could definitely be severely injured. Steep assents, descents and crawls over rock breaks with only a headlamp to illuminate your way, this is not your typical cave tour. After two hours we arrive at an area with several huge columns called The Titans and stop to take a lunch break. Then we start back, moving through narrow passages with names like The Sandwich and The Birth Canal. Around 3:00 pm we welcome the beaming sun and shed our filthy cave gear.

Back on our bikes, we ride about ten miles west on highway 14 to Gravity BrewWorks , a nanobrewery in the middle of nowhere. Established in a recently built pole barn, the brewery contains a small tasting room with three tap handles. They offer one beer brewed on-site with two other guest beers from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, California. Two small square tables were occupied but a large round one in the corner was open so we sat there and I ordered a pint of their Brown-Eyed Girl: a malty semi-sweet brown ale. Quite good. After just a few pints, the keg blew and a fresh keg of Mostly Organic Amber Ale was tapped – delicious. The head brewer, Bill Riffle then took us on a tour of the facility. This is a nice place with friendly customers, several of whom drove in from neighboring Stone county for a couple pints and to have their growlers filled. Gravity BrewWorks opened its doors in November 2013 and they already cannot keep up with demand. I wish them continued success.

We then had dinner before riding back to Mountain View and the Jimmy Driftwood Barn for some live music. Wider than it is deep, the wooden interior has about eight rows of church pews set before an elevated stage. We arrived at 7:00 pm, paid a $5 admission and the musicians were already performing a mix of folk and gospel tunes. Instruments played were the Appalachian dulcimer, zither, fiddles, acoustic guitars, mandolin, and double bass. Notably absent was the banjo – no bluegrass tonight. Except for two young girls on fiddle,  everyone else playing looked to be between 50 and 90 years old. With no dancing or refreshment, we bailed about 10 minutes before the two hour set was over at 9:00 pm. Almost everyone in the audience were as old as the performers. Sort of makes you wonder where the younger crowd goes to cut loose on Friday nights.