Friday, December 7, 2018

Antarctic ice grips your senses

Vertical blue streaks interact with horizontal layers of ice at Portal Point.
On our Antarctic excursion, the first sight of glaciers outside our cabin window was totally exhilarating. Later that morning, as we skimmed the ocean’s surface in a Zodiac from the expedition ship to our first continental landing at Portal Point, the peninsula’s glacial plateau came ever closer. Beautiful slopes of snow and ice and a spectacular rocky peak of a nunatak rising out of the glacial masses was simply breathtaking.

Variations in color, shape, and texture make each iceberg unique.
For me, seeing the indescribably beautiful ice of Antarctica was emotional. The enormous ice sheet stretches as far as the eye can see and is even visible from space. Viewing this distinctive sight seemed surreal, unlike anything else on Earth.
Maneuvering around brash ice can be tricky.
 It’s this amazing visual that brings most visitors to Antarctica—the full kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and sizes. Shades of green, blue, and white. Some icebergs smooth and glistening; others with a grainy or crunchy appearance. Pointy, triangular, chunky, or flat on top. Small bits of brash ice or giant islands moving slowly through the water.

Compression of ice over layers of air make interesting structures
in the ocean.
But if you listen closely, you realize that the ice has a voice. The most noticeable sound is the loud crack heard when a chunk separates from a larger mass and falls into the ocean, a process known as calving. If the chunk is very large itself, the noise can be almost deafening—and the situation dangerous. But there are more subtle sounds such as the whoosh of gases releasing from floating bits of ice or the gentle swishing of movement in the ocean.
It's hard to imagine than 2/3 of the iceberg lies underwater!
Touch a piece of glacial ice, and you’ll immediately feel a stinging cold. Glacial ice is denser and has larger crystals than ordinary ice, so it feels much colder and melts much more slowly. Put a piece in your drink, and it will last all day.

Sharp points are common since pieces of ice often break off
from large icebergs such as this pure white beauty.
Another sensation created by icebergs surprised me. At times, when we were floating in a Zodiac, it felt like the sea was shifting under the weight of these enormous ice sculptures. Since most of an iceberg is underwater, the whole structure could heave with the rolling waves. One day, as we approached Cierva Coves at the southern end of Trinity Island, our Zodiac dodged brash ice while we watched icebergs surf the swells, rising and falling with ominous force. Needless to say, we kept our distance.
Wind and water can create peep holes like this in the ice.
From our guides we learned that even though many glaciers are retreating and there is 40 percent less ice worldwide than 50 years ago, sea ice such as in Antarctica is advancing and as a whole is increasing in volume (surface area and thickness). Still warmer temperatures affect the food chain and wildlife in different ways, which is an ongoing cause for concern.

The blue color of this smooth iceberg contrasts with clouds in the sky.
The ice of Antarctica is a wonderland of incredible beauty. To me, the experience felt like skimming through a dream—like Alice in the rabbit hole viewing impossible sights that couldn’t be imagined unless you were there. I never tired of watching the infinite ice forms move through the ocean water. What a thrill it was to discover this magical land!
The bumpy surface of this iceberg resembles a half-eaten snow cone.
 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Adventure of a lifetime


When it comes time to retire from the working world, do you know what you want to do next?
For many boomers (and boomer pluses), having the time and ability to travel is a dream come true. But where do you start? And how do you plan travel? Taking short trips (a week or two) can ease retirees into a travel mindset and test their tolerance levels for lengthier sojourns away from home.

For David Moore and his wife Helene, retirement was an opportunity to plan the trip of a lifetime—15 countries in 10 months. After that monumental adventure, David, a
Brit who worked in advertising and marketing before retirement, wrote about their adventures in a book he called Turning Left around the World, a title that is appropriate since they decided to follow the sun and go west on their journey.

This is a delightful book that recounts of their adventures; it is nostalgia but a whole lot more. Moore has shared good times and challenges of long-term travel in an entertaining account, starting with the intriguing method they used to decide where to go and the company that helped them plan their custom journey.

In addition to describing the destinations and highlights along the way, he includes fascinating facts about the history and culture of places they visited.  Using a chipper British conversational style, Moore describes the landscapes, food, and people they discovered while traveling on 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, a hot air balloon, and a multitude of other transportation means.
A map included in the book follows the path they took—a path that led them to Chile, Ecuador, and Peru in South America. They continued on to New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and Japan—all the while sharing personal stories and impressions of the exciting places visited and adventures experienced.

If you have a sense of wanderlust and an empty  or nearly-empty nest you’ll enjoy reading this memoir. Along with more than 100 colorful photos, Moore’s warm and witty writing style might just convince even reluctant travelers to set up a similar personalized journey. According to Moore using one-on-one guides in notable destinations can make all the difference in what you get out of traveling to far away and exotic places.
For more information check the author’s website  
The book is available in paperback and eBook at Amazon and other online retailers.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Penguins in Antarctica


Although I was initially more intrigued by the incredible beauty of the ice and snow in Antarctica, I soon discovered that this is a magical land much more thrilling than I could ever have imagined. The reason? Abundant wildlife and especially penguins.Watching these peculiar animals of the Southern Ocean was exciting and quite riveting.
When landing on the mainland where large groups of penguins lived on our Antarctic expedition, we didn’t want to disturb or frighten them, so we stayed at least 15 feet away (even though sometimes they came closer to us). We learned that wildlife always has right of way in Antarctica. So we kept our distance from “penguin highways,” distinguishable paths they take to go in and out of the ocean.

Yes, penguins are fun to watch, partly because they are social animals and their interactions often resemble those of humans. Moms feeding chicks, youngsters cavorting on the snow, splashing in the sea, waddling on the ice—it was all delightful to see as we observed several different colonies during our journey down south.
Chinstrap penguins are plentiful and easy to distinguish because of their black back and head and line across the chin. We learned that a male will build a nest from rocks and then wait for a female to come ashore and accept his nest. In the process, the male bows his head as the female comes by and watches her rearrange the rocks. He might even offer her another rock to entice her to stay. Quite an interesting ritual.

When our ship anchored at Point Jougla, the main attraction was a gentoo penguin colony. It was molting time (February), so many of the penguins were stuffed full because they would not eat again until new feathers came in (two-three weeks). The reason is that penguins are not waterproof during molting, so it’s dangerous for them to go into the ocean to look for food even though they are excellent swimmers.
We watched the gentoos for more than an hour as they waddled on the rocks and snow. Many were conserving energy during this fasting time by moving very little. However, when a vulture flew into the colony intent on swooping down on a dead penguin, the others squawked noisily and scattered immediately to protect the young chicks.

Adelie penguins are the key species on Petermann Island. Some babies were still being protected by mother penguins during our visit. Others were getting feathers and were close to going to sea. We were fascinated by their antics—chasing each other, sliding on their bellies, and testing their position in the social structure of the colony. For example, two penguins ran off from a third who tried to keep up and dejectedly turned back, while the other two playfully scooted down the hill.
However, as the ocean water warms and ice melts, Adelies have been decreasing in number and moving south, following the food supply. Gentoos are also gradually moving south although their numbers are increasing because they have a more flexible diet. They also feed their chicks longer before going to sea, which results in better survival rates.  Chinstraps, on the other hand, are generally heading north. Scientists tag and track penguins in Antarctica to better understand their movement and the reasons for seeking new territories.

Still we marvel at the ability of penguins to adapt to life on the ice. For example, they fluff their feathers underwater, a technique that releases bubbles that act as lubrication allowing them to move through the water faster. Adaptations like this allow penguins to survive in this generally inhospitable place.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

 


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Chicago's famous bean


As street art and public sculptures gain popularity, there are some that simply capture our imaginations because they defy normal artistic description. Such is the huge metal sculpture in the middle of Chicago’s Millenium Park.
Although its official name is “Cloud Gate,” most people know it as “The Bean.” Shaped like a huge, shining kidney bean, this metal structure that was inspired by liquid mercury stretches across 66 feet of the AT&T Plaza. It throws off weird reflections like a crazy mirror in a carnival.

Created over a two-year span by a British artist who welded 168 stainless steel plates together, the sculpture was unveiled in 2006. Since that time it has become a major tourist attraction in Chicago. Located on the east side of Michigan Avenue, visitors won’t have any trouble finding it.
Because of its spherical shape, buildings and people take on a concave reflection in the polished sculpture. Of course, that means kids (and adults) line up to take photos of themselves looking distorted and goofy in the mirror’s image.

Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate's 12-foot high arch. It’s a fun experience that hundreds, even thousands, do on a daily basis. On the underside is the "omphalos" (Greek for "navel"), a concave indentation whose mirrored surface provides multiple reflections of any subject situated beneath it. To keep it all shiny bright—and remove smudges from curious visitors’ fingerprints--workers wipe the bottom section daily and polish the whole thing two times a year.
I found it’s best to stand back a bit to take in the full mesmerizing effects of The Bean. In a city known for outstanding architecture, this remarkable piece of public art stands out; it’s just quirky enough for everyone to love while admiring its artistic dimensions. In every sense it truly reflects the heart of the city.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

 

 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Three more adventures anyone can do


Hang gliding in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Soar through the clouds, feeling free as a bird while gliding through the sky over Lookout Mountain Flight Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  After being strapped into a protective harness, first timers ride tandem with an experienced instructor. 

The ride starts when an ultra light plane tows the glider and its two passengers up to 2,000 feet and then releases it for a gradual descent (about 12-20 minutes). Bask in the quietness of air-propelled flight without having to jump off a cliff  while hanging onto the  kite-like structure.
While the instructor maneuvers the craft by catching thermals and wind drifts, you just stretch out and relax for the duration of this magical ride. Floating through clouds gives an incredible sensation of freedom—at the mercy of the winds, yet controllable with body movements.  Too soon, the glider drifts down, and you’re on terra firma again—looking up where you just floated through the sky.

Hiking in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is known for stunning vistas of red rock formations, natural arches, deep gorges, and lofty peaks. Dramatic landscapes surrounding this Arizona town just beg for exploration—and excellent hiking opportunities for all skill levels are within easy reach.
Popular hikes include Bell Rock Trail, a leisurely stair-step climb up and around the prominent bell-shaped landmark. Fay Canyon Trail goes through a gorgeous box canyon to a red rock arch. If you dare, take an exciting walk across Devil’s Bridge, a massive 54-foot-high sandstone arch just inside the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. Best not to look down, though

Raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
A visit to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim many years ago left me fascinated with its natural beauty and magnificence.  I vowed to return and traverse the Colorado River from the depths of the canyon, to see the massive walls from the bottom up instead of top down.

For 10 days my companions and I camped on the banks of the dam-fed river, hiked on narrow ledges and scrambled over jagged rocks, splashed through 160 rapids, bathed in 45 degree water (or  held-out for frolicking in waterfalls), and brushed away blowing sand.
I learned skills I’d never needed before--pitch a tent, go potty in the river, brush my teeth in the dark--put up with daily hat-hair and wet feet, and listened to unfamiliar sounds while trying to snooze.

But I discovered, as you will too, that stretching one’s boundaries in order to view spectacularly beautiful and ever-changing vistas of the Grand Canyon's walls--while learning history and geology of the region--were worth any inconveniences.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Give your kids a love of adventure and travel


If you have a love of travel and want to pass along a sense of wonder and curiosity to your children or grandchildren, I have a book to recommend. Atlas Obscura:Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid would be the perfect holiday gift for any child or grandchild ages 9-12.
With plenty of pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions of 100 extraordinary places to visit throughout the world, Atlas Obscura (Workman Publishing) becomes a passport to some of the world’s weirdest, exciting, most mysterious, and often obscure wonders. Destinations in 47 countries represent every continent in this incredible journey. GPS coordinates and useful travel advice are also sprinkled throughout the pages, so parents and grandparents may also find themselves dreaming about these fascinating places. 

What will young readers learn about? Caves filled with giant crystals seven times taller than a person in Mexico. The hottest town on Earth in Ethiopia and the world’s coldest town in Russia. The massive migration of blue whales through the North Atlantic in Iceland. A hot spring filled bacteria that create rainbow colors in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The planet’s largest ice cave in Austria. A theme park in Malta built on a movie set created for a live-action Popeye film 40 years ago.
Other fun facts that whet one’s appetite for more: Sticky rice was added to the mortar in the Great Wall of China to help glue it together. Don’t pat somebody on the head in Cambodia as the human head is considered sacred.  Until about 8,000 years ago sea levels were lower, and you could walk (rather than swim!) from England to France.

Many kids—and parents, too— will take away a sense of wanderlust, a desire to know more about this wacky and wonderful world in which we live. Information about cultures and history is presented in a fun way and illustrated by beautiful full-color illustrations. Wouldn’t it be great for your favorite young person to start a bucket list of places they’d hope to visit in future years?
Authors Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mossco, with illustrator Joy Ang, have created a lovely coffee-table book that the whole family can enjoy. The book is available from the website www.atlasobscura.com or at other book sellers including Amazon or Barnes and Noble

 

 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Don't let winter weather spoil your trip


Living in central Texas we don’t think much about winter weather affecting our travel plans. But if you’re flying to a northerly destination, ice or snow could wreak havoc on your plans.
It’s not just weather in the city that you’re flying into that can be a problem. If the plane you’re taking is scheduled to arrive from an airport that’s experiencing a winter storm, it may not be able to arrive on time—so you won’t leave on time, either. If the unthinkable happens in a southern city such as Austin and the plane needs de-icing, the flight could be significantly delayed as the airport may not be set up to handle that situation efficiently.

In fact, you could be delayed a day or more, not just hours. Or the flight could be cancelled. Spending a night or two in an airport isn’t fun for anyone, and airlines often run out of available hotel rooms for which they might offer a voucher (if you’re lucky!). So think about a back-up plan before booking your flight.
Of course, no one can predict what the weather will be when you plan a trip months in advance. But if the situation looks dicey a day prior to travel, consider booking another flight to an alternate (still close) airport or on a different airline. Yes, that means you have two reservations for the same trip.

Many airlines let you cancel a reservation within 24 hours of making it with no charge. Others might charge a fee but reimburse you later. Just be sure you know the cancellation policy in case your original flight is able to go as scheduled.
Another option is to contact the airline ahead of time and ask to be rerouted or rescheduled because of weather conditions without additional cost to you.  The airline might be willing to accommodate your request if it looks like hundreds or thousands of delays and/or cancellations are imminent. On a recent trip abroad we were scheduled to fly through Atlanta just as Hurricane Florence was approaching the East Coast. At my request the airline rerouted us through Detroit, so we missed the madness and confusion taking place in the Atlanta airport at that time.

Consider purchasing travel insurance for any parts of the trip that are pre-paid and non-refundable.  That might include flight, hotel, rental car, or excursions--but don’t include anything that is refundable. Just be sure to buy the insurance prior to travel and print out a summary of your policy with contact numbers to take with you. If you get stranded it’s a good idea to check on what the insurance will cover while deciding what course of action to take.
You can get insurance through a travel agent, the airline, or purchase it yourself online from many reputable companies. Check with consolidators and comparison sites to get the best policy for your needs at the lowest price. (I like QuoteWright). Policies are generally based on cost of the trip and age of the insured person.

If you paid for your flight, cruise, or tour with a credit card, check to see if travel interruption, delay, and lost baggage coverage are included on that card. Quite possibly, you already have insurance and just aren’t aware of it.
Images from free sites.

 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Three adventures anyone can do

Willing to try something different?  These fun activities will provide thrilling adventures for anyone who loves a new challenge.

Kayaking on a glacial lake in Alaska

If you visit Skagway, Alaska, either on a cruise or on your own, a popular tour combines a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Scenic Railroad with kayaking on a glacier lake.
A most beautiful setting for kayaking in Alaska
You’ll learn history of gold rush days while on the train, and then arrive at pristine Lake Bernard at the edge of the historic town of Fraser in British Columbia, Canada.           

Guides give expert instruction before participants slide into stable, two-person kayaks, zip up the protective covering designed to keep them warm and dry, and paddle onto the glacier-carved lake.  It’s smooth gliding across the same cold, clear water that Klondikers paddled more than a century before. 
We got good at paddling in tandem.

Marvel at vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks surrounding the lake. Paddle over gentle waves to coves, and admire alpine plant life while breathing in crisp mountain air.

Riding in a hot air balloon over Steamboat Springs, Colorado


The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo is a summertime staple of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Visitors can go to the launch grounds early in the morning to watch as balloons inflate—perhaps even joining ground crews in preparing brightly colored balloons for flight. Then watch as gleaming balloons dot the Yampa Valley sky at sunrise.
The Yampa River is a gorgeous place to view hot air balloons
during the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.
After the spectacular professional competition has ended, plan a ride of your own. Several participating hot air balloon companies offer exciting rides over the Yampa Valley with views of the Yampa River and green mountains stretching for miles around. Your pilot might even thrill riders by dipping the basket into Bald Eagle Lake. It’s a special way to experience Steamboat Springs and add to your appreciation of the skilled balloon competitors.
Don't miss the spectacular Balloon Glow at night.
For a different look, attend the Balloon Glow in the evening. Spectators can walk among beautiful displays of tethered balloons that illuminate the evening sky with brilliant colors.

White water rafting in Taos, New Mexico

Prime time for exciting whitewater fun is from late April through early July.  The Taos Box Canyon is one of the premier Class III and IV whitewater runs of North American, if you’re up for the challenge. 

Entirely contained in the black lava walls of the Rio Grande Gorge (which range up to 1000 feet high), the Box begins with two miles of fairly gentle Class I drops—a warm-up before nine miles of more difficult rapids that require precise boat handling. 
Rafting through the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, New Mexico
You and your mates will learn to paddle as a team, execute 15-foot drops, and flow with the current as you wrap-up the ride with six miles of Class IV drops—with names like Powerline, The Gut, and Pinball. Afterwards, celebrate success and trade splash stories during a provided gourmet lunch.

White water provides a thrilling ride in the Taos Box!
If that sounds like more excitement than you really want, calmer rafting and flat-water trips are also available that show off the natural beauty of the area to the less adventurous or families with young children. 

Photos by Beverly Burmeier and provided by free sites.
 

 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Nashville is more than music

It’s true that Nashville is like Mecca for country music fans. But if you think that’s all there is to this Tennessee city, you’re only hearing the chorus of a multi-versed song.  Yes, music is a draw, but if a steady diet doesn’t enthrall you for more than a day, can Nashville entice you to stay longer?  Sure can, if you include these stops on your itinerary. 

Hatch Show Print
A wall of posters printed at Hatch Show Print
In this age of cheap ink jet printers, some people have lost appreciation for the intricate work that old-fashioned letterpress printing entails.  But not Hatch ShowPrint in downtown Nashville.  Using techniques from the 1500s that meld designing and printing into a creative art form, this shop produces posters for stars, businesses, and individuals. 
Type is set and printing is done by hand

Inside you’ll see an entire wall covered—clear up to the ceiling—with posters for stars like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline, as well as contemporary clients including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain, Wynona Judd, and Coldplay.

Thousands of people come every year to Hatch Show Print to
watch this historical printing process in action.
Hatch Show Print became an historical property of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992. Today it is the best place to observe traditional letterpress printing techniques using 10,000 old-style wooden typeface blocks and 14 historic printing presses.

Manuel, Exclusive Clothier

Elaborate embroidery on a
colorful jacket. 
Walk into the workshop housed in an old Victorian building and you might start a new craving, as I did.  I’m not a star, but I can dress like one—for a price. I’m coveting a pair of jeans created by Manuel Cuevas—jeans that fit perfectly, embellished with crystals and intricate embroidery and expressing my personality in a way no other clothing item can.

That’s exactly what this famous tailor has done for stars including Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, and Miranda Lambert. Ever wonder how Johnny Cash became the Man in Black? Or why Elvis began wearing gold jumpsuits? Or who came up with Dwight Yoakum’s skinny leg look? 

Larry tries on a special Manuel jacket.
The answers lie in Manuel’s expertise at creating image.  His custom-made outfits are the result not only of superb craftsmanship at the sewing machine but also of getting to know his clients sufficiently to express their personalities in a visible way.

Manuel’s embroidery and design skills earned him the nickname of Rhinestone Rembrandt—and his artistic pieces are worthy of display in museums like Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Smithsonian, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The Parthenon

Athena at Nashville's Parthenon
At 65 feet high, it’s the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in existence and the centerpiece of Nashville’sCentennial Park.  The building, which faces east like its Greek predecessor, serves as a monument to classical architecture—and it houses the city’s art museum.  Not to be missed is the 42-foot gold statue of Athena, an amazingly detailed creation sculpted just like the original including representations of 11 snakes on her breastplate. 

The Parthenon is also Nashville’s art museum with a permanent collection of paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.

Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

Cheekwood Botanical Garden is gorgeous in spring.
Stroll through 55 acres of beautiful gardens and fine art.  Tranquil streams and ponds meander through gardens filled with colorful blooms, wildflowers, herbs, and perennials. The unparalleled Boxwood Gardens that surround the museum lend a touch of formality in an otherwise relaxed motif.  Set on the Cheek family estate (originators of Maxwell House Coffee), the Botanical Garden and Cheekwood Mansion are perfect for weddings and special events—or a picnic while touring the grounds.
Special events are held at Cheekwood Mansion
Although traditional paintings have a home at Cheekwood, the museum is especially known for its contemporary art center and the Sculpture Trail with works that blend into natural surroundings. Modern American artists whose works are featured include Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

Nearby historical sites

Venture to Belle Meade Plantation and Belmont Mansion to see how the upper class lived in the 19th century, or tour Jack Daniel’s Distillery for a whiff of its charcoal mellowed whiskey.  History buffs will enjoy the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, and Travelers Rest Plantation and Museum.

Music too

Don't miss outstanding collections at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Still, you can’t miss Nashville’s music standouts. Grand Ole Opry is a mainstay of the Nashville scene. Whether you’re a foot-stomping fan or not, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum serves up familiar names and memorabilia that even tone deaf visitors recognize.  The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a major North American concert hall, satisfies classical musical tastes.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Texas Longhorn Cavern--a river ran through it

Unlike other Texas caves, Longhorn Caverns was created by rivers surging through cracks and holes in the earth millions of years ago. Water dissolved and cut on the limestone bedrock of the area, leaving behind unusual rock formations, domed ceilings, large sinkholes, sparkling crystals, alabaster dolomite (mistaken for marble or diamonds by early explorers), and rock carvings resembling animals and human faces.

Our guide on a recent tour was a historian, so he shared some facts about Texas history and Hill Country geology, especially as it relates to Longhorn Caverns. Prehistoric peoples used the large room next to the main entrance for shelter and a place of refuge. Because a thick layer of mud and debris was left in the cave a million years ago, early visitors could only use a small part of the cavern. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), dug out much of this debris and opened up several rooms beyond the large room next to the main entrance. Following the CCC’s work and further development, Longhorn Cavern was opened to the public in 1937.

Fossils dating to the Ice Age have been discovered in this prehistoric place, and evidence suggests Comanche Indians inhabited the cave at least 400 years ago. After Anglo settlers discovered the cavern in the mid-1800s, the Confederate army used bat guano found in the cave to secretly manufacture gunpowder during the Civil War.  Popular legends claim outlaws used the cave for a hideout perhaps hiding stolen money there (which people later tried unsuccessfully to find). In the 1930s ladies and gents dressed up to enjoy an evening of dancing and drinking in the cavern.

Our group of five took the walking tour which covers 1.25 miles round trip and lasts about 90 minutes. Tours are offered year-round multiple times a day, and you must sign up when you arrive as they do not take reservations.

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, sign up for the Saturday Wild Cave Tour. With a guide, you’ll crawl through tight spaces for two hours using only a headlamp for light. If you like a good mystery, learn about unexplained happenings on the evening Paranormal Tour, or book up to three hours of photography time in the cavern.

Located in LonghornCavern State Park on Park Road 4 near Burnet, the cave is less than 90 miles from Austin. Temperature inside holds at a pleasant 68 degrees. Hiking trails through scenic oak and juniper landscapes, shaded picnic tables, a snack bar and gift shop are additional attractions for visitors to enjoy.
For hours, tour times, and information, go to www.visitlonghorncaverns.com

Photos by Beverly Burmeier