First Time at Kartchner Caverns

We have been incredibly blessed to meet so many wonderful people in this lifestyle.  The support and friendship we have received has not only enriched the experience for us, but also in my case has really made this much personal growth possible, and no one has logged more hours in “help Tracy not be a crazy person” time than Kelly and Cori. We have been there for each other since the very beginning.  Truly the very beginning since the first RV thing we ever did was go to the Hershey RV show in September 2013 and Kelly/Bill/Cori/Greg were were in the same first full timing seminar we attended.  They had contacted each other on the RV-Dreams forum and actually met for the first time at the Hershey show.  We had plans to meet a totally different couple, but they flaked out on us and we ended up being alone.  So initially when we went into the seminar and I looked around,  all I saw was older people.  Keep in mind this was my very first experience with full time people in person and the presenter was pretty awful.  He was very dry and even a little negative. and his wife didn’t say two words. and honestly I was feeling a little panicky about the whole thing.  We were there to select a fifth wheel and I was still VERY on the fence about whether full timing would be for us and the presenter was not helping.  In desperation I started scanning the room and  in the back corner saw four people who looked like they were close to our age.  Kelly had a smile on her face and looked so friendly and Cori looked her usual professional self and just seeing them made my anxiety level go down a ton. I had no clue who they were, but they helped me even back then!

Fast forward to the 2014 RV-Dreams Spring Rally, and I got to meet both of them in person.  It was clear by this point (through the forum) that we had lots in common, but I still had no idea they were the people from the Hershey Rally, and I would love to say I recognized them from that even when we first met in person but it wasn’t so.  Not until we were sitting around talking one night and Kelly mentioned they had been there that it all clicked.  Over the next 7 months as we were all preparing to full time, they were both a huge part of my support system.  I will never forget talking through having my near panic attack at giving my notice at work with Cori or calling Kelly in tears  when I missed the initial basic training phone call from my daughter who was in the Air Force. The unconditional support from all of our RV friends is something that is very important to me.  Common circumstance and common fears have created wonderful lasting friendships that have only been solidified by time spent in person on the road.  Schedules being what they are though, we haven’t seen Kelly and Bill for over 6 months and we were all very excited to be together again in person.

Cori and I had booked Kartchner Caverns State Park last spring, and luckily Kelly was able to add the same days there.  So finally our wandering routes met in the same place, and what a great place this is.  The campground is $30 a night, but it’s really nice.  The sites are very deep and level and the campground has a community fire pit with wood.  The campground is in the same state park as the caverns and visitor center, but also close to Tombstone, Tucson, Benson and multiple other attractions in the southeast corner of Arizona. Plus, there is lots of foliage and the state park even has a 2-1/2 mile walking trail.  We are also within walking distance to a great visitors center and a hummingbird garden, which is nice.

Very deep sites

Very deep sites

Front slide view

Front slide view

In our side yard but no so close it's dangerous

In our side yard but no so close it’s dangerous

The communal fire pit

The communal fire pit

Love this view from our desk window

Love this view from our desk window

So what do we all do when we are together?

We talk

We talk

We laugh

We laugh

And Bill make drink's

Bill makes drinks…

And eat.Lot's and lot's of snacking and easting

And eat. Lot’s and lot’s of snacking and eating

We all sort of work off a communal kitchen when we are together.  It’s great because since space is limited I always have recipes that call for items I don’t have, but invariably either Cori or Kelly will have it.  We also just start throwing out what we have together then wham! a nice meal is put together. One night we had Hawaiian chicken, fruity rice, and mixed vegetables together.  Another night we had fajitas and in every case everyone pitches in what they have and it all comes together.  As a side note, the communal kitchen think works great as long as everyone involved is very careful to contribute somewhat equally in either labor or raw products.  Otherwise, the cost or labor burden ends up being unequally distributed which is not sustainable.  This time we came together with pretty full pantries and are all trying to get rid of stuff we have been hanging onto for awhile. Since none of the guys are picky eaters, it has worked out great so far.

We also share ideas with one another.  We somewhat jokingly say we can’t hang out together too much because it costs us money because every time we are together we end up buying something else.  I bought my Magma nesting cookware set after Cori showed me hers.  I bought my Instant Pot once Bill and Kelly tried theirs out and gave it two thumbs up. This time I was sharing my new Chefmaster Indoor Grill,  which I have been using all the time and Kelly tried out by grilling some pineapples on.  It’s just relaxed and easy and fun.

We all like to do things as well, so once we got settled we  all went to the caverns together on Wednesday.  Each tour cost $23 a person so we decided to just pick one and since Bill has seen the most caves we let him pick.  They both looked pretty good but he ended up picking the Big Room Tour.  When he was doing the research to decide he googled which cave tour was the best and a post by Howard and Linda at RV-Dreams showed up in the search engine.  He ended up deciding by re-reading Howard’s blog and then checking various reviews.  One of the downsides to this particular cave though is absolutely no pictures of any kind are allowed.  Actually you can’t bring anything into the cave, not even a bottle of water.  So any pictures you see here were taken from the internet and I will give credit the best I can.  Not being able to take pictures was dumb.  I understand no flash photography, but their reasons for no pictures at all were pretty lame.  That being said, in general I do really admire the lengths they have gone to to protect the cave. 

It’s a pretty interesting story really.  In 1974 two college aged amateur cave explorers were searching the area (based on the childhood memories of one of them) and discovered a grapefruit sized sink hole.  They enlarged it to barely large enough to squeeze into and discovered a huge cave which no man had discovered.  What is interesting is the lengths they went to to keep it a secret.  First they tried to buy the property, then they entered into partnership with the owner of the land who also kept it a secret, and finally in 1988 it was sold to the state as a state park.  They kept it a secret because so many other caves had been seriously damaged by visitors and they wanted to keep this one as pristine as possible.  The movie that they show in the visitors center was very good and then the Big Room tour itself talks about how they found the cave and shows both the outside entrance and the very small area they crawled through.  This is a living cave and they go to great lengths to keep it that way.  They add humidity to your clothing when you are headed in, close the caves for bats from April – Oct, and tag any area you accidentally touch so that it can be cleaned overnight.  These ecosystems are very fragile and although the measures seemed extreme, the cave itself is so beautiful that I also felt they were necessary.  All except not allowing any photography  of course.  Lee said he would pay extra for a photographers-only tour that allowed folks to take some pictures.

One of the many beautiful formations

One of the many beautiful large formations  (tuscon.com)

Somewhat unique turnip formations which are only found in one part of the cave

Somewhat unique turnip formations which are only found in one part of the cave

A living formation where we got to see the trips coming from the ceiling and going into the pool (azcentral.com)

A living formation where we got to see the trips coming from the ceiling and going into the pool (azcentral.com)

 

Lots of beautiful "bacon" formations

Lots of beautiful “bacon” formations (mikeswebcorner.com)

The tour guide, a retired naturalist, was excellent.  She has been full timing for 8 years and wintered here for the last several.  The tour was jam packed full of information, which was a good thing because as many of you may remember I am claustrophobic.  I was nervous about doing a cave tour at all, but decided to give it one try and overall it was OK.  My claustrophobia is directly related to ceiling height and in most of the tour the ceiling was quite far away.  During those sections I started to get uncomfortable I either held Lee’s hand or Greg told me quiet jokes under his breath. They are both sweet like that.  After experiencing it, I am glad I did it once, but I will definitely  never be a spelunker. The thought of that tiny hole those guys originally climbed through puts me in a cold sweat. But I am glad I did it at least once.   Oh, and on a completely side note they also found several cool skeletons in the cave.  One was a giant sloth from 70,000 plus years ago and was a major scientific find as it shows the climate used to be very different in this part of the world. A sloth isn’t really all that interesting, but this particular variety is is almost as big as a bear.

Giant sloth recreation in the visitors center.

Giant sloth re-creation in the visitors center.

While we were there we also bought a Tuscon attraction passport book that Cori had found.  For $20 you get numerous 2 for 1 deals in the area, and the book will definitely pay for itself with all of the day trips we have planned.  So, look forward to several posts on local attractions.  We are really in a nice jumping off point for several places and plan to do Old Tuscon, Tombstone, The Biosphere, and the Earth Space Museum over the next several days. Plus more drinks, food, and laughter I am sure.

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5 thoughts on “First Time at Kartchner Caverns

  1. I just read your post for the first time. We too have a lot in common. We went to fall 2014 rally with RV dreams and hit the road full time in spring 2015. We are mid 50s and looking for an adventure.

    We just left Arizona area. Beautiful. Warm. When you head to Tombstone consider stopping at Monestary in St David. Nice grounds. Church is beautiful.

    We are headed across Texas looking to join boondocking rally with Howard and Linda in Tallahassee.

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