I recently had 36 unattended hours in Texas. My only constraints were to drop my colleagues off at the Houston airport at 0500 Saturday morning, and be on a flight at 1700 Sunday evening.
It was glorious.
I had been in Houston for five days, completely occupied with boardroom meetings and wrangling maritime captains and engineers. I was also facing down another five days in a different boardroom, so I needed to chill out: I got the fuck out of dodge and went on a road trip to go Natural Bridge Caverns (Part 1), Pedernales Falls State Park (Part 2), and explore Austin, Texas (Part 3).
Part 1 of 3, discussing my 36 hours of adventures in Texas.
Natural Bridge Caverns
I must admit, the thought of caves makes me quite nervous. When I was small I entered some caves in Tuscon, Arizona with my mother. Allegedly, I was quite scared and upset, which was rather out of character, considering I was a fairly dauntless child who typically had no aversion to tight spaces and rough terrain. I didn’t realize how actively I have since avoided caves and being underground until I accidentally ended up at Lava Beds National Monument a few years ago. I hummed and hawed for a while, before eventually working up my nerve to go into two caverns; we had driven rather out of way, and I would hate for that to be for no reason. Despite clutching my partner rather enthusiastically, I rather enjoyed myself. I don’t like the idea of caves, but I have found, through other similar events, that I do find caves to be very interesting and exciting. I’m not sure that I’m ready to head off on some serious spelunking adventures yet, but I don’t avoid them as actively either.
Needless to say, I was trepidatious as I approached my first stop: Natural Bridge Caverns, just north of San Antonio. Natural Bridge Caverns are some of the largest in Texas and are extensive and stunning. In the classic American way, there is an entire amusement park built up around the caves, complete with a visitor centre, t-shirts, and a concession. There was no option to venture into the caves alone, so I joined a cave tour. The tour drops approximately 180 feet underground and meanders through breathtaking caves and dark crevices. Although I am not usually one for large, slow moving crowds peppered with the occasional screaming child, I did find the companionship comforting, considering my hesitations for being underground.
I’m not sure if it was the lighting in the caves, the high ceilings, or that I’m less timid of caves than I think I am, but I was very comfortable during the entire tour. The guide provided well rehearsed, enthusiastic commentary, and elaborated extensively on the history of the caves. I was in awe of all the enormous, delicate features and surprised by how many different textures and patterns can be formed in such close succession. With the prevalence of rocks, I found myself very much missing my geologist friend, who would have delved into the most extensive details about the formation and science behind the features. I kept finding myself wondering how much more incredible it could be if there was no concrete walkway and large handrails.
It was very rewarding to investigate the caves, and I found myself more confident and enthusiastic to explore more underground realms closer to home. Vancouver Island is riddled with caves and karst formations, so there is no shortage of adventure potential. Maybe I could get into spelunking after all?