Visiting a well-loved tourist attraction decades later with your kiddos can be almost as magical as experiencing it for the first time! The Cave Without A Name is a field trip staple for every elementary school and summer camp in the Boerne area. As a child, I remember being in awe of the massive formations and having my mind blown by the amount of time that it took to create them.
Fast forward more than 30 years – I’m back at the mouth of the cavern with my daughters (4 and 8) who have never seen the inside of a cave. The anticipation is killing them as we are being given the pre-tour spiel about how the cave was discovered by a group of kids who shimmied down a sinkhole and explored the magnitude of the caverns below in the 1930s.
As we descend into the cave via a very windy staircase, massive levels of self-control are necessary on the part of the wee ones to not haul down the steps in front of our guide, Patty, to see the treasure trove of cave formations that we had discussed during the scenic car ride to the cave. A quick google search of words such as “stalactites”, “stalagmites” and “soda straws” in preparation for our exciting and educational trip was enough to boost their interest and intrigue.
Once the group makes it to the bottom of the stairs, our guide paints a picture of the geological history of the cavern. My 4-year-old is a little less than excited about the facts, but you can see the awed look stretch across her older sister’s face as she starts to comprehend how ancient the space really is! A few steps further takes us into the “Food Room” filled with “cave bacon”, and other formations that look like popcorn, grapes, ice cream, and of course soda straws. This is one of the highlights for the little one – she’s ready for lunch now.
The tour continues, and we make our way through 6 rooms of well-lit formations, each one more impressive than the last with huge columns and pools of water. The end of the underground trail brings us to a ring of benches just short of an underground river; which our guide explains continues for miles. The group takes a seat and Patty explains to us that our walking adventure has taken us 100 feet underground and that once she turns the last set of lights off we will be in 100% darkness. She flips the switch, and we all take a moment to truly appreciate our environment. Now, our other senses kick into overdrive. The cool humidity prickles our skin, the sound of trickling water all around us rings in our ears and the smell of that water and ancient rock (yes, rocks have a smell) fills our nostrils.
The darkness only lasts a few short minutes, but it’s an experience that one won’t soon forget. The little one spent her time in the dark bouncing on my lap waving her hands in front of her face in awe that she couldn’t see them, no matter how close they were to her eyes. My older kiddo, who is a little more cautious, told me afterward that she was glad Patty turned the light back on.
We make our way back up on the same path we descended on and emerge at ground level. A quick stop in the gift shop yields 2 bags of mystery sand for sluicing. If you’re not familiar with sluicing, it’s like panning for gold. Both girls arrive at the shaded sluicing station with a bag in hand and they spend the next few minutes sifting through and washing all the sand “downstream.” Now they each have their own bag of treasures to share and identify with the enclosed cheat sheet; one with “gems” and the other with real fossils.
The cave property does have an assortment of trails available for those waiting for the next hourly tour or folks that are just interested in taking a casual walk about the grounds. We only have enough time to take one of the trails this trip, so we will need to return and explore the others on another day. They are filled with informative signs identifying additional karst features and other ecological items of interest. You never stop learning!
Our Cave Without A Name adventure filled our minds with fabulous information and a desire to learn more about caves and our local geology as well as family memories that we will cherish for years to come.
Written by: Tori Bellos, Boerne Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing Specialist