As tempting as it was to concoct a Vortex 10 list that included the perks of last week's expedition to the Texas hill country, rife with references to bat guano, Pocahontas-style canoeing and peaches straight from the orchard, I'm firmly tapped into my serious side this week. I've surpassed the distracting phase of summer and curled back into the routine I've longed for for six weeks. Mind-bending, page-counting productivity. So, for now, I offer a small installment of there's-a-story-there-somewhere:
The Longhorn Cavern State Park represents only five percent of cave formations found on earth, those carved by underground rivers. Similar to Mammoth Cave in
As exciting and potentially lethal as the physical science of it all was--hundred foot plunges, scorpions and my complete lack of outdoorsy-foresight to wear something besides beaded flip-flops--the human element is what captured my interest most.
In an area known as the Subterranean Ballroom, a rich and varied history unfolded. The Civilian Conservation Corp of the 1930s cleared away debris and found the remains of a confederate stronghold, including weapons, dynamite and some unfortunate souls still in uniform. During Prohibition, industrious locals crafted a raised wooden floor and stocked a limestone bar with the county’s finest bootlegged whiskey. Free drinks to the sheriffs from nearby
A nearby ante-chamber known as The Church attracted the fervent Christians of the area, who felt closer to God in sixty-eight degree comfort. Ballroom stragglers who never quite made it out the night before found that closeness in slumber, laid out on the back pews.
Legend has it, Sam Bass, the notorious outlaw responsible for the Union Pacific gold train robbery in 1877, hid his stash from the Pinkerton Agents and the Texas Rangers in these vast caverns. The fortune he amassed during his short, but lucrative train and stagecoach-robbing career remains a secret of the caves.Thankfully, the only snakes I tripped over happened to be the industrial cords to the cave's mood lighting. I left with only a fleeting sensation of white crickets in my hair as an afterburn of the adventure.