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Underground Rivers, Creepy Lighting, and Hair Bands…

25 March, 2008

As I previously mentioned, this past weekend I went to New York State. I was visiting a friend at Skidmore, and on Easter Sunday we were looking for things to do that were open (relatively few, let me say). We went to the Saratoga Springs tourist site and discovered that New York’s second-most-visited natural attraction (presumably the most-visited is Niagara Falls) was just a short drive away: Howe Caverns. This seemed pretty interesting, although maybe not necessarily something either of us would have really done if other options were available, so we got in the car and went.

We were on the last tour of the day. Correction: We were the last tour of the day. There was no one else there, but us and our guide who must have been our age, if not younger. Now, I have been in a few caves before—the Waitomo caves in New Zealand and a cave system near Tucson, AZ which I can’t remember the name of—and I have to say they all look relatively the same. They have nice walkways, and random colored lights set into the walls in “natural-looking” sconces. They have stalactites and stalagmites, usually named (often with religious motifs), and passages and big balancing rocks. Howe Caverns was no different. But, partially because of our guide, it was a lot of fun. He was pretty frank about things, saying when what he was saying was a lie, telling stories about other tours, and describing how he had explored on his own even though he wasn’t supposed to.

The whole system was carved by an underground river which we walked above for the whole tour, and then took a little boat ride on. It was found in the 1800s by a farmer who was following his cows. One of the most interesting things that he talked about, though, was something that happened much more recently. He told us how another guide once told him a story that he thought was a blatant lie (this was right after I asked about the acoustics in the cave, and whether or not there had ever been any concerts under there). The guide had said that there had once been a music video shot in the cave, about a dwarf. But it turned out to be true. And indeed, some wonderful person has put it on Youtube. It’s by a band called Savatage, and the song is “The Hall of the Mountain King.” It’s pretty bad, but very entertaining. Especially if you can sort of discern places you’ve been through the haze of bad camera-work and Youtube encoding.

So, I just thought I should share the fun of Howe Caverns with you. There was also an “Adventure Tour” which we didn’t take that involved actual spelunking, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. But I’m sure there are better, less commercial places to do that. Have you spelunked? If so, tell me where, so I can go! Also, if you know why it’s called that (spelunking, that is) please tell me!

Incidentally, Savatage is apparently a combination of “savage” and “avatar,” not “savage” and “sabotage” as one might think. 

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