So far, the best experience of this trip has been the Kartchner Caverns, outside of Benson, AZ. Discovered in 1974 by two cavers, they kept it secret for 14 years. In 1999, it was opened to the public.
They have two different tours of the two biggest areas of the caverns. Of course, since we don't know if we'll ever be back, we had to do both. They last about an hour and a half each. The first one was called "The Big Room." We learned so much about how they are formed by hard water (calcite) at the rate of 1/400 of an inch every 500 years! The bacon formations were fascinating. No photos are allowed, so I can't show you pictures (the photo above is from their website). But we felt the second tour, "The Rotunda Room and the Throne Room" was even more thrilling. It is here that the massive 58ft tall Kubla Khan column is. They do a lovely light and music show that really makes you stop in wonder.
Female bats roost in the Big Room from Oct to April, so it is closed. The bat only weighs half an ounce and her one pup is half the weight. There were bones from a 86,000 year old sloth found here--think about that.
We camped at there campground for two days while we explored the area. We were told that usually you need reservations to get in, but tourism is down by 50% here. That's pretty scary.
Yes, I was "Cave Kissed," meaning that a drop of water fell from the ceiling and kissed me.