Adventures cave of the mounds

Getting in Touch with Nature this Halloween at Cave of the Mounds

Thursday, October 29, 2015 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

In a digital world, the idea of disconnecting can be daunting for some. There is this unease in our culture that stems from the idea of inconvenience. We live in a world where instant gratification is a top priority. The notion of walking somewhere is quickly overshadowed by the fact that driving will get us there faster. The thought of having to see someone in person is sideswiped by the convenience of just texting them instead. I can think of just last year when my oldest daughter said, "Mom, why do I have to play outside?! I just want to watch my iPad." It was at that moment that I realized we had been "too connected". It was at that moment that I said, "You have to play outside because mommy had to play outside. I didn't have an iPad in the summers, I had adventures."



We've become so connected with technology that we have disconnected with the world around us. When was the last time you marveled at the sky above you, without getting distracted by your phone? When was the last time you let the breeze hit your face and closed your eyes to just be in the present moment? I will be the first to admit, I am ruled by my technology. It's a part of my job, a part of being an entrepreneur and working in creative media. Yet, slowly I am working towards change. Each day I am making it a point to be present in my life. To put down the phone and be present in the moment with my girls or with the world around me. Even if that means missing the moment to take a pic (it didn't happen if there isn't a photo, right?) or share a special memory on social media.

I've noticed that the older I have become, the more I feel like I need to disconnect with technology and reconnect with nature. I need to reconnect with quiet solitude and cherish the beauty in the world around me. I started gardening 2 summers ago. The idea of getting my hands dirty or going on a hike is a far cry from the city girl I once was. We barely had a plot of grass in our yard in Humboldt Park and the longest walk was to the bus stop. Yet, it seems that gardening hadn't quite filled the void. So, I started hiking and going on nature walks with the kids. There was something to that. The adventures we had, although small, made an impact.

Photography: Dwight Bejec for Halfstack Media

I can recall many years ago watching nature documentaries on PBS and WTTW with my younger brother. The documentaries that fascinated me the most were about caves, exploration, history and jungles. I remember climbing our rickety old stairs with a jump rope alongside my little brother pretending to go spelunking. Pretending to be an explorer like Gertrude Bell fed my imagination and inspired me to create my own destiny. Although, I haven't explored as much of the world as I would like, I recently kicked one adventure off my bucket list.



For someone who has a fear of enclosed spaces, cave exploration seems like an odd adventure. Yet, last weekend I faced my fears and fulfilled a dream all the same. When the team over at Cave of the Mounds reached out to invite the Halfstack team to explore the caves in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, I thought twice and then said, what the heck! Because, why not?! On Friday, despite having a ratchet cold, I bundled myself and my youngest up and hopped in the truck with my trusty photographer and #1 poppa: Dwight and we drove almost 3 hours to explore Cave of the Mounds.



The fact that an adventure is merely a few hours away is incredibly exciting. You don't need to fly to some uncharted territory. You can explore the wonders of the world right in your own back yard. Cave of the Mounds takes its name from the Blue Mounds, two large hills which have long been Wisconsin landmark features. The West Mound, at 1716 feet, is the highest point in Southern Wisconsin; the East Mound reaches 1489 feet. Cave of the Mounds lies under the southern slope of the East Mound.



The Cave of the Mounds is as unassuming as can be. The nature park that surrounds it sits on beautiful rolling hills. The entrance is through a gift shop. Upon entering the cave, I felt as if I was a part of living history, transported momentarily to a land before time. The view is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. My two year old exclaimed, "Mom, this cave is awesome!". I couldn't put it any better. What is most inspiring is the connection you feel to history and to the earth when exploring a natural wonder like Cave of the Mounds. The journey through the cave wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. The tight spaces are tight enough to keep you going, but don't close you off so much that you stop breathing. The caverns are quite wide and the tall ceilings and formations keep you wanting to explore more. There were no bugs and bats to spook you. Just natural beauty all around.



The Cave was formed within limestone, a sedimentary rock formed from compacted seashells and other marine sediments. This rock dates back Calcite Crystal over 400 million years to the Ordovician Period of the Earth's geologic history. During the Ordovician Period, warm shallow seas covered the continent where we find Wisconsin today. Cave of the Mounds itself began to form 1 or 2 million years ago when the Galena dolomite was still beneath the water table.

Often, the top layer of the water table becomes acidic because rainwater and melting snow absorb carbon dioxide as they seep through surface soils. The water combines with the carbon dioxide to form weak carbonic acid, which can dissolve limestone and create cavities within the rock. When a major crack lets large amounts of acidic water into the limestone below the water table, large amounts of rock dissolve along this crack. This is what happened at Cave of the Mounds. The Cave was formed along a major crack that can still be seen today.



There are many formations throughout the cave. Every droplet of water entering the cave below carries dissolved calcium carbonate. As the water drops enter the air-filled cave, this calcium carbonate is precipitated in the form of calcite. Each drop leaves calcite crystals on the cave ceiling, walls or floor. The crystals adhere to each other and grow into different kinds of formations, called speleothems. Eventually, stalactites reach down from the ceiling, stalagmites tower upward from the floor, and sheets of flowstone cover the walls. The beautiful formations can be seen throughout the cave. It's almost as if mother nature has been slowly creating sculptures of rock with water for millennia.


In May 1940, Cave of the Mounds was opened to visitors. Millions of visitors later, the Cave's wooden walkways were replaced with concrete; a large stone building replaced the original entry building; and theatrical lighting has been installed to dramatize the colors and shapes within the Cave. Picnic areas, walking trails, rock gardens, gift shops and a visitor center have all since been developed. Today, visitors can explore one of nature's wonders year round. The landmark only closes 3 times a year for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.



When we spoke with Kim Anderson, Operations Manager at Cave of the Mounds, about what visitors can expect when visiting Cave of the Mounds, she highlighted a variety of activities for people of all ages. From family friendly tours, to educational programs for scouts and school aged kids to adult only exclusive night time events that are the perfect mix of night out and adventure. The programs are evolving in order to continue to bring history into our modern times. There are even virtual tours offered online so that anyone in the world can marvel at the beauty of the caves.

When asked what the goals were for the organization in the coming years, Kim mentioned that despite all the technology we are surrounded by, she hopes that Cave of the Mounds can continue to be a connection to nature for people of all ages from all walks of life. A place to reconvene with the natural wonders of the world.



If you're interested in connecting with nature and doing something fun with the kids over the next week, you might want to head down to Blue Mounds, WI and check out the Halloween Festivities at Cave of the Mounds. Their annual candlelit trick or treater tours are in full swing from October 27th-Nov. 1st. Kids receive a collection of gemstones and fossils and minerals on the tour as they go through the educational stops along the way in the warm, lighted cave!

You can learn more at www.caveofthemounds.com.






 



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