It is strange to know a cave that goes five hundred feet below the earth's surface is just seven minutes away from your college campus. Caves seem mystical, magical even, and spark mystery and adventure to the mind. They seem like places that should be nowhere near your home, but instead far away only accessible to geologists and perhaps a few fairies. When you picture yourself in a cave, it's sort of a cross between seeing yourself dressed in a brown barbarian-esque robe eating a raw chicken bone, or being in the Disney movie Rapunzel and singing about all the lovely creatures of the forest as they chime in and begin to braid your hair. However, Crystal Cave located in Kutztown, Pennsylvania proves that neither vision is true.
When I arrived at Crystal Cave with my classmates for our tour, the first thing I noticed was the beauty and tranquility of the location. The trees tilted a little in the breeze and the birds' chirping filled the air. We all piled into the souvenir shop to register for our tour tickets and to see what we could spend our money on. There were "prehistoric" shark teeth for sale, and dozens of little rocks and stones of all different colors. There were little soap dishes made out of stone, and miniature animal statues. The strangest thing I saw were packets of dried crickets in flavors like sour cream and onion and barbeque...not exactly my taste, but hey, who am I to judge.
The lady in the souvenir shop told us to walk up to the cave entrance to wait for our tour guide, named Ron. So we hiked up an extremely steep hill which resulted in most of us huffing and puffing once we got to the top. We stood around the cave's entrance until Ron, a sixty-something year old man with a white mustache, invited us inside a little cabin to watch an eight minute video on Crystal Cave's history and the formation of caves. I wondered how many times Ron had seen this video. The plastic orange chairs we sat in creaked a little as the screen explained how dirt and mud and sandstone come together to form cave walls.
After the video, Ron led us to the inside of the cave and told us to watch out whenever we saw any red lights, called "wish lights", which were given the name because "you'll wish you had ducked." He also said that there is a curse over Crystal Cave, and that many people have gone into the cave looking young, and have come out looking very old. There is a mirror at the exit just so people can see their reflection at the end of the tour. No one really got too excited about this "curse" so then Ron moved along and told us to spit out any gum we were chewing and to not touch any part of the cave while we were inside. The oil from our hands could damage the stone and could eventually destroy it over time. So we all walked very slowly and carefully through the cave, following Ron and he brought us to our first destination, the smallest room of the cave. In this "room", he showed us a stalagmite, a rock formation that rises from the ground, and a stalactite, a rock formation that comes down from the ceilings of caves. Each one only grows up to three inches every five hundred years. The ones he showed us will eventually grow enough so they can touch, and form a "column."
The next "room" was the largest one in the cave. It seemed snug with our group of about thirty people inside, but then Ron said that a wedding with one hundred guests was held in the room, and a piano was brought in for entertainment. The bats slept in a small crevice in the back wall of the room, but we couldn't see them.
The next room, the "crystal ballroom", had a high ceiling and stairs with a metal banister to guide you to the highest point. In this room there were many rocks that looked like animals and familiar faces. There was a lion, a bald eagle, a seal, Jack Frost, and a Cherokee Indian. Ron explained that when the cave was first discovered, there were no lights so people had to use candles during tours. Groups of people would use a long rope to tied themselves together so they didn't lose each other in the darkness. Tours could last eight or nine hours, and if their candles burned out they would have to crawl and feel their way out of the cave. Ron the proceeded to turn out all the lights in the cave to give us an idea of what it was like. It was pretty creepy. It was darker than any night. Everyone stood there, quiet until he turned the lights back on.
After this, the tour was over and Ron led us to the exit of the cave, where we all checked our reflections. We all still looked like a bunch of twenty-something year old college students. Then we walked out into the bright sun, and the darkness of Crystal Cave was behind us.