“Let’s play a game. The one in which you name a place and the next person has to name a place starting with the letter the place you named ends with. For example, you say India, the next person has to name a place from A, and so on.” It sounds like the perfect game for 4 travelers, cooped up in a car for the next five and a half hours or so. By the time we stop for a bio-break, it has degenerated into a desperate guessing game ” Rampur..there has to be Rampur somewhere in India! If not – Ranipur?” ” C’mon..Neverland is a place! Finding Neverland!”
We are on our way to Luray Caverns, Virginia.
After a lot of deliberation we had settled on Luray Caverns as our destination for the holiday weekend. The plan was to drive down to Luray, visit a Holiday Village/Winter Wonderland on the way, explore the caverns and go wine tasting. Almost all the cottage rentals I contacted had a strict minimum 2 days policy for weekends, so we had to abandon our idea of soaking in a hot tub on a cold night, and settle for a room in a hotel without a Jacuzzi.
A starry night; a cottage by the lake; a chill in the air; the clean scent of wood; a hot tub; the very thought makes me sigh.
Somewhere on the way we see billboards for casinos offering free chips to new signups, in the Baltimore area. We know where to find our Wonderland!
A cavern is a large cave or a series of caves, naturally formed in soluble rock with the ability to grow speleothems. So, while all caverns are caves, all caves are not caverns.
Luray Caverns being commercial caves have constructed trails, guided tours, lighting, and regular open hours. There are guided tours of the caverns every 20 minutes. It is not as adventurous as spelunking/caving/potholing, but it is an extraordinary experience. You get the feel of being on an Indiana Jones set, but you don’t have to crawl through holding a torch in your mouth. It could be easily be an incomplete, abandoned palace city, built by industrious dwarves. Grand and imposing, yet so austere. The first thing that came to my mind though, were Arha, Ged, the Nameless Ones and the Tombs of Atuan.
Darkness and silence, broken by the lighting of match. The sharp crack followed by bright yellow light. A torch casting shadows. The high humidity pressing on you like an unseen force. The constant coolness. The stately beauty all around you. Eerie. Magical. Cursed?
Despite the lack of air conditioning and the high humidity, the caverns are not dank and musty and the roof does not drip. The tour is takes around 50 minutes. It is a 1.5 mile/2.4 km walk so wear appropriate footwear. The temperature inside is a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit/ 6 degrees Celsius, but there is no wind and the humidity makes it feel warmer.
The Caverns have other attractions as well, you can check them out here. In addition, the Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful place dotted with wineries. It would probably be better in summer, but we had a great time in winter as well.
We drove down to the Naked Mountain Winery in Markham on our way back. They were nice enough to let us in and give us a full tasting even though we reached just as they were closing for the day. They don’t serve food, but you are welcome to carry your own. While we are talking about food, try the Drunken Noodles at Faang. It’s not too far from the Naked Mountain Winery.
P.S – More pictures on our FB page.