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Just how seriously are we to take a cave that is marketed by a hippie looking caveman and an antique picture of a Count Dracula figure?
When you walk into the entrance to the Main Lodge, you still aren?t sure how serious to be. While I waited for a group to assemble to tour the cavern, Brandon, one of these hip cavers, suggested I look at the nearby Ice Cave.
Cows have been credited with discovering several caves and the Secret Cavern is one of them. Brandon led our tour under the fallout shelter sign and down the steps, 103 of them but I wasn?t counting. At the end of the steps we entered a tunnel high enough in nearly all places for most people to stand without crouching.
As in all publicly accessible caverns, the formations have wondrous names?the Celestial Dome, the Elephants Foot, Frozen Niagara Falls and several grottoes.
Brandon explained, too, that there is moss growing in the cavern because people are constantly contaminating it with mold spores.
There are places during the tour where the passageway gets quite narrow, not that it was ever particularly wide (one of those places is called the Lemon Squeeze).
If you do any checking on the Web about Secret Caverns, you might run into a site that suggests that the 100-foot waterfall is, well, enhanced. But there really is a dome that goes up a long way, could be 100 feet, and certainly if surface water came close to it, it would fall down the dome and make a waterfall.
Secret Caverns is open daily from April through November, and closed during the winter months.
In Paleolithic times, artists went deep into Europe's caves to mark the walls with cryptic and beautiful paintings. The Secret Caverns lodge itself, rebuilt after a mysterious fire in 1995, is one big work of art. Secret Caverns billboards fan out along the surrounding highways, tempting travelers with a bedeviling array of bats, dragons, Space Invader aliens, renderings of the Secret Caverns "100 Foot Underground Waterfall," and large arrows faithfully pointing the way. Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in New York.Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks! So-called because the winter ice does not melt until about June, it is a deep fissure cooled by the escaping air from the main cavern and protected by an outcropping of the Coeymans limestone that runs throughout much of Schoharie County. It?s not really a special talent of cows?it?s just that back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries a lot of land was used as pasture for dairy cattle. Then there is the more prosaic Headache Rock, which you need to duck around quite carefully.
Near the light bulbs where it is warm, moist and well lit, you can see large and small smudges of green.
I?ll admit that the tranquility and humble trickles of water of the rest of cavern do not prepare you for the thundering cascade that is the climax of the tour.

These masterpieces were hidden, unvisited, for thousands of years -- and that's probably because early humans had no concept of a billboard. Visitors enter through the mouth of a half-skeletal 80-foot-wide bat, and encounter a day-glo mural of earth's prehistory and the mummified remains of Secret Caverns' first visitor.
A mural depicting the geological history of the Caverns overlooks displays full of non-sequitur souvenirs.
This is karst country, where caves and sinkholes have been created by water flowing through limestone.
There are few icicle-type stalactites hanging from the ceiling, but the ability to touch the calcite formations more than makes up for the lack of the splendiferous. In modern times, the evolved cave artists at Secret Caverns in Cobleskill, New York, know that the cave should be left in its pristine state, and that a better canvas is a 30x20-foot piece of plywood propped up along a highway.
Todd and Kurt have covered the bathrooms, floor through ceiling, with a menagerie of painted dinosaurs, Neanderthals, and cows. No portion of this document may be reproduced, copied or revised without written permission of the authors. Behind the counter where you buy your tickets are a couple of college-aged young men presenting themselves as a bit punk, ready to make a joke, but as I talked with them I realized they are serious cavers and knowledgeable about local geology. Secret Caverns owes its existence to the glacial period of 10,000 to 40,000 years ago?geologically speaking just a tick of the clock.
It must have been quite disconcerting to a farmer to find the missing Bossy, in this case two of them, Floyd and Lucky (who would ever name a cow Floyd and how lucky was Lucky? A family from Massachusetts was part of our tour and had just visited neighboring Howe Caverns earlier that morning.
Caves are formed by water dissolving the minerals in the limestone; the silt is washed away, creating holes and cracks until a cavern has been created. It?s a reminder to all of us that no matter how careful we are, we change things just by being there. You can make a fun day of it by visiting Secret Caverns, neighboring Howe Caverns and the nearby Iroquois Indian Museum. They make great souvenirs and you?ll be glad you have them underground and later to remind you of your cool trip. A floor grid in front of the men's room urinal progressively extends: "Novice, Professional, Tour Guide" -- or it did until worn away by corrosive overuse after only a couple of summer seasons. The rock outcrop of Ice Cave is covered in thick green moss and the fissure you look down into appears to be very deep.
If you get the opportunity, tour both places, but as one of the kids said, ?Secret Caverns is a better cave experience.? Tour guide Brandon encouraged us to touch the intriguing formations. The calcite formations occur where the dissolved minerals are then deposited by slowly dripping water. Old ones collapse (or are obliterated by wayward cars), new ones are built in new spots, some of the smaller signs are stolen, many simply get repainted with new ideas.

If you were to come upon such a formation while out for a walk, you would be quite impressed by it. That entrance to Secret Caverns was sealed with concrete as part of the civil defense activities of the 1950?s when the Cavern was designated a fallout shelter. That is forbidden in most caves, including Howe Caverns, but Secret Caverns is a ?wet? cave.
So a ?growing cave? is one in which the cavern, over eons of time, slowly gets bigger and so do the deposits.
The greatest mass of signs stands along Caverns Road, winding two miles from Hwy 7 to the lodge, directly past arch-rival mega-cave Howe Caverns, providing a near-ceaseless barrage of imagery, slogans, and enticements, while deftly avoiding flavor-of-the-month pop culture references in favor of Todd and Kurt's custom cosmology. Brandon told me that apparently at one time the Ice Cave did connect to the main Cavern but now it is silted in too much for an explorer to slip through. Unfortunately, I don?t know one fossil from another, but they were easy to spot and their presence seemed to promise an interesting trip. Titled, "Things You Won't See at Secret Caverns," it featured a bloody clown with a hatchet, a Grateful Dead skeleton, and a flying monkey. Their gag-art bulging eyeballs and ragged teeth, said Todd, were inspired by his reading of too many Mad magazines as a child (Floyd is a nod to cave explorer Floyd Collins; Emily is a riff on a real spelunker with a broken leg rescued in 1991 from deep in a New Mexico cave). The limestone was laid down millions of years ago as creatures of the shallow ocean died and their skeletons piled up layer upon layer.
Some of the mineral deposits felt very smooth, others a bit more grainy; all were wet from the water that makes its way through the cave. The latest billboards continue the folk art that has depicted with great zeal some of the attributes of the Caverns.
You can see these layers very clearly and feel the rounded edges where the water has shaped curves and channels in these layers. Decades after the designation as a fallout shelter, someone realized that it would useless as such because it had surface water running into it, which would have immediately contaminated it. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your opinion of bats), the bats spend the summer mostly outdoors and return to the cave during the winter.
There is an opening left for them, the Bat Hole, so that they can fly in and out whether the Cavern is open for business or not. We've got something they don't have -- a grid on the floor in front of the urinal." (Actually, touring the cave at Secret Caverns is a ton 'o fun, too -- we recommend it highly -- with formations such as "Giant's False Teeth" and "Bob Marley's Evil Twin" and whatever else the guides can come up with on that day).

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