|Here is a part of the trail we hiked.|
|The boys charging ahead.|
|Mules hauling things up the trail (Look familiar, Steve?).|
|There's always enough energy left for a hug.|
Steve and Bradley will hike here tomorrow. Except they will go all the way down and come up again the same day (12 miles roundtrip), which is so very, very macho, if you ask me. If anyone can pull it off, it's these two! At least it won't be dangerously hot like it is in the summer. In fact, the weather forecast calls for snow... It will be an interesting descent into the underworld for them!
Talking of descending into the underworld: A couple of days ago, we were at Kartchner caverns, 30 miles away from the Mexican border. Steve kept trying to explain to the boys that we are 30 miles away from Canada where we live in the Pacific Northwest, and that now, we are 30 miles away from another country as well, but somehow, the kids don't seem to quite get it.
I asked Steve how to describe Kartchner caverns. Here is what he said: “It is an awesome spectacle of nature's grandeur.” Yes, he's right. He said it's an inside joke, but I'm not in on it, and I don't need to be, because the fact is: The caverns ARE a spectacle of nature's grandeur. We slapped down $70 to participate in a tour of the caverns. Usually, we are very thrifty and spend that much money for four or five days of campground fees, but it was worth it. There are very strict rules when visiting the caverns - you can't touch anything at all, because otherwise, bacteria would grow and mess with the cave's delicate environment. Someone spit out a cough drop once, and in three days it had grown to the size of a baseball.
You can tell this cave is alive. There are stalagmites and stalactites, columns, and mineral deposit formations that look like popcorn and slabs of bacon. I kid you not! And since it's a wet cave, the awesome formations keep forming.
The main feature of the cave is a 60 foot column that is hundreds of thousands of years old. Even Eva was awed by it, staring up at it in stunned silence. I think she realized that we were in the presence of something sacred.
It broke my heart that I couldn't take pictures. I wish I could show you the beauty of these caves, but you just have to take my word for it.
Here is a picture of a huge sloth, whose bones were excavated from the cave.
After the tour, we went for a 2.5 mile hike around the perimeter of the cave, which was so unreal because the hills that hide the caves underneath are the plainest, most boring looking brushy hills you can imagine. It's crazy to imagine what beauty is hidden underneath. On the hike, Steve and I served as Eva's mules, as usual. We got quite sunburnt while following tracks of Javelina (a kind of native pig), chasing lizards, and marveling at towering yucca and agave seed talks.
|Sunrise at the campground. The boys slept in a tent for several nights because it was so warm.|
The day before Kartchner caverns, we visited an ancient native American site in the Catalina mountains – the remnants of a walled village. We meandered along an interpretive trail with a lot of great information about the site and the people who lived there. This is homeschooling at its best!
|Learning from one of the interpretive signs.|
|Old growth Saguaro cactus.|
|Eva playing in one of the ancient "houses".|
And here are some pictures from the past week just because.