Sunday, September 12, 2010

Goodbye, Kartchner Caverns

We have finally left Kartchner Caverns, a bitter-sweet exit to be sure. The people were wonderful and the cave exquisite, but it had begun to feel a bit like work. So now we have "re-retired" and once again are on the road to unknown adventures!

We enjoyed living in the high desert for a while, and learning what we could about it. Our exciting-to-see Creature Count includes: coyote, deer, white-tailed rabbit, desert jackrabbit, bat, tarantula, diamondback rattlesnake, and sonoran coral snake. We would have loved to see a Gila Monster, but those elusive creatures just kept being elusive. We discovered that bright colored insects in the desert are to be avoided -- the tarantula hawk and red velvet ant (both actually wasps) are very bright and have horribly painful stings -- fortunately we learned that from books, not first hand experience!

Leaving the cave was emotional. It is beautiful, amazing, impressive, and inspiring. It literally formed over thousands of years in total darkness, and, through a series of accidental happenstances became a show cave for all to see. We never tired of being inside the cave, and letting it show us its wonders. There was always something new to be found, lurking in corners or hiding right in front or our eyes.

And I can't forget to mention the territorial hummingbirds, fighting for control of the feeder. Or the ants that carry away dead moths, sometimes helping each other carry particularly large ones. Or the huge grasshoppers, one being mistaken by a new volunteer for a scorpion (her "help me" call for venomous-critter removal was a source of great merriment!). Or the beautiful night sky, with the Milky Way Galaxy glowing steadily next to Scorpius, the scorpion of the sky.

We have also enjoying watching the desert change over the season, seeing the variety of flowers, insects, and birds change as summer approached and left. As mid-summer arrived, the clear, blue skies of spring became daily afternoon monsoons -- and that meant violent localized thunderstorms, often with rain areas so small that several simultaneous showers could be seen in the valley below, each with a little circle of sunlight surrounding them.

During our stay, we have made wonderful friends, and learned a lot -- geology, hydrology, etymology, botany and microbiology are just a few of the areas we now understand a little bit better. We have certainly taken more than we have given during our stay, but it is time for us to move on.

So goodbye Kartchner Caverns. We'll see you down the road.

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