A few weeks back I and a group of friends decided to take a little adventure and travel three hours west to visit a natural wonder called Laurel Caverns. They are considered the largest caverns in the state of Pennsylvania. And because they are a non-profit, their tourist crowds were not affected by the recent government shut-downs on all government parks and memorials.
When you first arrive atop of the mountain you are presented with a magnificent view of the valleys below. You can actually see three counties at the same time from the observation deck! And since all the trees were changing color the views we encountered were gorgeous. My photos don't give the real moments justice.
There are also several places where you can have outdoor picnics so we enjoyed our lunch and the view before entering into the caverns below. There are tours given for the different levels of the caverns. For our first adventure into the depths of the mountain we choose the general tour which took us well over an hour to complete.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. He encouraged questions and took time to answer them, often pointing out drawings on the cavern walls and boulders, or bringing out attention to fault lines in the ceiling and walls.
The beginning tunnel was a bit slippery because water from past rain had found its way down into the caverns and was trickling down the cavern floor to the lower levels below. We had to walk very carefully. I was so happy that I had invested in a new pair of hiking boots because they really gave me firm footing.
Sometimes the ground would be slippery because of loose gravel on the cavern floors. But there were also places there you could hold on to bar handles. And there was plenty of light too! Below is a photo I took in what the tourist guide called " The Hall of the Mountain King." There were beautiful lamps hanging from the ceiling right next to a fault line for the entire length of the long passageway.
It was very impressive.
There were so many fascinating textures and gradations in the rock exposed to us. Sometimes our tour guide would pause and point to a particular set of rock formation and tell us a story, pointing out the shapes of whales, fish, birds, and even the name John. It was a lot of fun to try and spot some of the shapes before he pointed them out to us.
Some of the passageways we trekked through were very tight, low, and dark like the photo below. We could only pass through single file and very carefully so as to not slip or trip along the way.
At one point we came to a large space that was illuminated with lights of multiple colors that changed according to music the tour guide played for us. Each color illuminated the shapes of the rock formations differently so that we saw so much more variation and beauty than if we had simply seen them with one light source.
The photo below gives you a small idea of what the colors did to bring out different aspects of the rock. You can also see another fault line in the ceiling of the cavern chamber we were standing in.
But my friends and I didn't spend our whole trip underground. The weather was beautiful so once we completed the tour we continued on to Ohiopyle State Park and enjoyed climbing rocks and navigating around, on top, and below boulders and trees to reach Cucumber Falls.
We had wonderful time taking photos and exploring the new terrain. But two people in our group fell into the water after missing a few rocks you had to jump on to get across the river. I was happy that I had brought a clean pair of socks for one of them to wear.
The trees were so beautiful. They all had so much character and a few even had names carved into their trunks. I wondered how many of those people were still together.
Then we decided to visit the Ohiopyle Falls. These water falls were much larger and more powerful than Cucumber Falls. In fact in the warmer seasons there are canoe competitions held on the falls.
Even before we saw the actual falls we could hear them, and the air become a bit more humid.
Once the daylight began to fade away we visited the Falls Market and Restaurant. They also provided a small inn on the upper floors for visitors who wished to stay the night.
The food was delicious and the service was wonderful. My friends and I were quite exhausted by that point but my goodness were we happy. And soon we were energized again and ready for the three hour drive back home.
Now that Thanksgiving is coming up I wanted be sure to share this post because it has given me so many things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for solid, trustworthy friends. I'm thankful for the days when we have good weather for traveling. I'm thankful that we could see all the beautiful colors of Fall on our trip through valleys and mountains. I'm thankful that we all experienced good health and that no one was injured. And I'm thankful nobody got lost in the caverns.
This Thanksgiving I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my health, I have my family and friends, I have a reliable computer with which I can communicate online, I'm thankful for work, food, and most of all I'm thankful that God sent Jesus to save the world. And I'm thankful that Jesus was more than willing come and die for me and for you and for everyone who trusts Him.
I know that there are times in life when we struggle to find something to be thankful for but I think that those are the times when we have to count our blessings. No matter our circumstances we can always find something to be thankful for in God. Its not always easy but it is possible and it is a wonderful habit to nurture.
When I start focusing on what I am thankful for my mood is elevated. I don't feel so sad or discouraged. Instead I feel joy, peace, hope. Hope that my future will, just as my past did, bring more reasons for me to be thankful.
" Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."
~ Psalm 107:1