Over the Independence Day holiday weekend, the family went on a day trip to tour Bridal Cave at the Lake of the Ozarks. Evidently, Missouri is known as “the cave state” and has more than 6,000 caves. I’ve lived in this state most of my life, but have only seen Mark Twain Cave, and that was on an elementary school field trip when The Golfer was 10 years old.
But, if memory serves me, it was nothing like this one.
There is a fascination with caves that even the most claustrophobic person may not be able to explain. If you’ve ever toured a commercial, “show cave,” you know what I mean. For many, there is a primal appeal to descending into the unknown…the mysterious. Descending into a cave, wild or commercial, feels like eerie time-travel back to the dawn of creation.
Caves are the antithesis to our modern, twenty-first century lives. We live in a laser-fast world of instant access. We measure value in how quickly things get done. We want them done yesterday. We want our information in a split second. We have difficulty wrapping our minds around things that take more than a few hours to complete. A cave simply refuses to conform to this mindset. A cave is the epitome of patience and delayed gratification.
Caves take millions of years to complete…if they are ever considered completely finished because it’s an ecosystem in itself; continually growing and changing. And, the results are magnificent. Intricate and delicate formations contrast with breathtakingly massive, cathedral-size rooms. Walking along the man-made path through the cave, I was struck by the sheer awe of Mother Nature’s patient efforts. And I cannot even imagine what it was like for the original spelunkers who discovered and explored this ancient, underground world. Remnants of their past presence are seen as we pass a board connecting two crevices about 30 feet above our heads, and a primitive, wooden ladder for their descent. More remnants of broken ladders lay at the bottom of Mystery Lake, a clear-water pool that lies 200+ feet below the surface. Perhaps a less successful attempt? Now, hundreds of white lights help visitors navigate narrow crevices, stairs and caverns, and show off the cave’s many natural colors within the formations.
The “bridal chamber” features an amazing “pipe organ” formation. Legend has it that an Osage Indian wedding ceremony took place in the cave in the early 1800. Whether true or not, in 1949, a couple was inspired by the legend and held their own wedding here. Since that time, more than 3,000 couples have been married underground in this chamber.
Humans have always gravitated to caves for numerous reasons. Early civilizations took shelter from the elements in caves; humans decorated them with artistic expression over the centuries; they’ve been used for religious ceremonies and temples; the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found preserved in caves; they’ve been used for wine an food storage; David and 400 followers hid in caves while eluding King Saul and his army; David also wrote a few of the Psalms while hiding in a cave. Jesus was buried in a cave.
Whatever your opinion is about caves….fascinating or creepy….they are without a doubt one of nature’s most amazing and mysterious wonders.