Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Historic Description of Lehman Caves from Old Brochure

In May 2018, I had the opportunity to visit the new National Cave Museum and Library in Kentucky. It's a marvelous resource, with rooms and rooms full of historical documents.

I found a Nevada box and was granted permission to look in it. 

Then I found this little booklet, Unrivaled Beauty of Lehman Caves, published under copyrights of Beatrice L. Rhodes, K.J. Waters, Baker, Nevada.

Inside it begins with the Discovery (typed out below if you need help reading it). This is one of the stories still shared with cave visitors today, one of the many stories of the discovery of the cave. This one refers to Absalom Lehman finding the cave because his horse fell through a hole. At the time Lehman owned a ranch a couple miles east of the cave opening.
A horseman rode across the hill
And cursed his luck which was so ill
Thought he "Indeed I seem to be
The larget of adversity."
Just then a miracle was wrought
As though in answer to his thought
His horses hoof had broken through
The hillside's shallow crest.
The loyal broken-legged steed
Fell helpless on his breast.
The man knelt by his horses side
The rock and turf away he pried
And through the opening in the ground
Here's what our gallant hero found.
Of volume great, a spacious room
Enveloped in a twilight gloom.
As on and on he winds his way,
For naught his footsteps hold can stay
Our hero stands in black amaze
At what now meets his anxious gaze
Let's follow him, our trusty guide
And see what Nature doth confide.

Then it goes on to Niagara Falls.
 Niagara Falls is next in line
Here Nature's work is most sublime
Silent water over terraced walls
As dazzling irridesence falls;
Its though by spirit hand twere stilled
Or petrified as sculptors willed
Take a fountain's sparkling spray
Or waterfall in elfish play,
And there escaped in crystal drips
Like jewels from stalactites tips.

 Some of the places mentioned aren't obvious today. And they don't quite go in order for the current tour route. The Bridal Altar is now known as the Wedding Shield. Music Hall is the Music Room. But I don't know what the Eagle Gate is.
 Bridal Altar
And in a sweet sequestered spot
Where e'en the angels dare tread not
a fairy 'Bridal Altar' stands.
Here fairy lovers hand in hand,
Were wont to plight their sacred vows,
Then venture forth their souls espoused,
And travel onward with their kind
To mingle till the end of time.

Eagle Gate
From here we pass through Eagle Gate
Where volumes more of treasure wait
To greet our ever watchful eyes
For there is naught here to despise.

Music Hall
We now approach the "Music Hall"
Where the sublime masterpiece of all
Confronts us, and enraptured stand
With ear attuned, while in the hand
We hold aloft a padded gong
The while our hearts vibrate with song.
We touch each chiseled tongue of stone,
Each one a note of perfect tone;
And as we listen dumb and mute,
To music sweeter than the lute,
Through caverns old the echoes swell,
Like some grand old cathedral bell.

 (Horrors! Gonging the draperies in the Music Room is no longer allowed. You can see how some of them have been broken, possibly from this early practice.)

The Gothic Palace is actually the first big room entered after the Natural Entrance, which is what tourists used back in the 1920s, when Beatrice Rhodes and her husband operated the cave.

Gothic Palace
Oh what sight could the vision greet
That with these marvels could compete?
These stately pillars, grey and old
Of picturesque and Gothic mold
Towering so massively on high
Do all descriptive words defy
Some are suspended as from space
And poised with such artistic grace. 

Just a bit farther on, in the Rose Trellis area, is this scene.
While standing out in bold relief,
Behold a snow white coral reef
With diamond luster over all,
A thing of beauty mystical.
What Nature here hath wrought so great
No human hand can duplicate
For he who copes with Nature grand
Or tries to imitate her hand
Is building hopes, alas, in vain,
For such heights ne'er can he attain. 

These beautiful draperies are now unnamed.
The Navajos
While just across up overhead
Such gorgeous blankets are outspread.
The 'Navajos," Oh sight of sights,
On which the coldest eye delights
To rest, and on them spellbound gaze
So doth their gorgeousness amaze
Of colors, rich in orange hues,
With stripes so varied and profuse,
These things, so flawless in the weave,
Almost the Indian would deceive
Who mastered this art years ago,
The brave and dauntless Navajo. 

None of these names remain.
Pompeian Pillar
We pass the 'Pillar of Pompeii,
This stately sentinel guards our way 
For nothing ill can us befall
While he stands bracing cavern wall.

Eden's Bower
And as we enter 'Eden's Bower'
We feel the spell of some strong power
That seems to hold us in its grasp,
Nor do we will it to unclasp
And free us from its magic spell
So we can leave this mystic dell.

Caldron of the Gods
What is this thing that greets our sight
And fills us with a strange delight
Suspended thus on marble rods?
'Tis called the 'Caldron of the Gods'
At night when all is hushed and still
This urn with incense doth fill;
'Tis said the fairies round it prance
And do their graceful spirit dance.

Fat Man's Misery
Now folks, if stout you chance to be,
Avoid the 'Fat Man's Misery'
And go through 'Dublin's Rocky Road 
Into the Cave Witches' Abode.
Here sits an old and wary gnome,
Her hair in silence she doth comb.

The Madonna
Included in a sacred place,
Expression raps on upturned face
And in her arms the 'Christ Child fair
In attitude of fervent prayer.
The 'Virgin' pure in splendor stands
And deepest reverence commands,
In all the realms of human art
This vision has no counterpart.

The "Angel Wing" is a large shield in the Grand Palace.
 The Angel Wing
Suspended in a lofty place
And poised with most exquisite grace
Its wing outspread in feathery frill
A thing defying sculptor's skill,
Hovers an angel, guarding all
As though awaiting Gabriel's call
A crystal pool lies at your feet,
Reflecting this scene so complete.

 Cypress Swamp
We enter now a fairy realm
That doth our senses overwhelm
For here construction doth pursue
The task he started out to do
Each inch of these stalactites take
A century in which to make
And here the water gods did choose
To decorate with art profuse
The walls and ceilings all around
White lily ponds doth strew the ground
Snow-tinted festoons from on high
Fantastic, weird, delight the eye.
Soft, lacy drapes of structure Fine 
Embraced by dainty clining vine,
Or fancy scroll, or clever braid
That eons ago the fairies made
And left a feast for human eyes
Their wondrous, perfect enterprise.
 The Parachutes
Now glance again up overhead
At what before the eye doth spread
Such flawless marvels hung in air
These things so perfect and so rare
The water gods did sculp with skill
And when their mission was fulfilled,
These 'Parachutes' you see on high
Were hung like pendants from teh sky.

 Leaning Tower of Pisa
To the right, carved by painstaking hands
The 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' stands,
While over it in grace doth lean
A deftly balanced submarine.

Lake Como
While here 'Lake Como' placid ties
And sometimes the searcher's quest defies
So clear the water and so cool
In this transparent, crystal pool
That mirrors on its surface, white
Fantastic forms of stalagmite.

Royal Gorge and Colossal Dome
The Royal Gorge we now pass through
And then 'Colossal Dome' we view
Over the 'Alps' our footsteps wend
For we are near our journey's end
We'er loath to leave this wonderland
So richly carved by Nature's hand; 
For pen of poet could not write
Or artist paint the wondrous sight
Nor other tool than Nature's grave
The unrivaled beauties of Lehman's Cave.

What was called Liberty Hall is now known as the Sunken Garden.
 Liberty Hall
We now pass on to "Liberty Hall"
By far the largest room of all
Where "Liberty Column,' massive, grand
In strength and eloquence doth stand
As though to challenge every law
To find in it a single flaw.

The Rhodes ran the cave in the 1910s-20s. In 1922, Lehman Caves National Monument was declared, and the US Forest Service started caring for it. (In 1933 the National Park Service took over.)

The Centennial of Lehman Caves National Monument is being celebrated this year. You can find more info and photos on the NPS website and on the Great Basin National Park Foundation website

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Hike up the Abandoned Big Pine Road

On a warm spring day, my husband, son, and I decided to go for a hike. We left the house without a firm goal in mind, and as we were driving up the Baker Creek Road in Great Basin National Park, we decided to stop at the old Big Pine Road. It starts with a small meadow and then we huffed and puffed our way up (at least I did) a steep slope through pinyon and juniper up to a ridge. We started seeing snow banks.

Desert Boy wanted to turn around, but we kept going until we could eventually see some of the big pines, aka ponderosa pines. They were down in the gully. I had a faint recollection of hiking to the spring in this area about 20 years ago. My husband remembered as a young child bouncing in the back of a pickup truck up the road (in a 4WD vehicle that didn't have low gear, so they had to go rather fast and hold on tight). He said his older brother and sister didn't enjoy moving cows up into this area (which was Forest Service at the time), because the slope was steep and it wasn't obvious to the cows that there was good grazing and water ahead, so they didn't want to go. One time he fell asleep near the spring and everyone started looking for him. When he eventually woke up, he asked what all the shouting was for. 

The views of Snake Valley are quite nice. I was particularly drawn to the Baker Creek overflow channel, just slightly to the right of center of the photo, the jagged white line. The straight line is the concrete ditch that takes 26 cfs of water down to town--otherwise it sinks into the alluvium and wouldn't get to town. On big water years, the excess goes in the overflow channel. This only happens every few years, because we just don't have much water here. 

I was enjoying getting my blood flowing, hearing stories, and also seeing spring flowers. Here are snow buttercups, one of the first flowers to emerge along the Baker Creek Road.

The Big Pine road has been abandoned for at least 25 years. Nature is slowly reclaiming it.

Here's a desert biscuitroot blooming.

I'm not sure of this yellow flower, maybe a bur buttercup.

And this is a Blue-eyed Mary, so tiny.

The abandoned road quickly got very steep.

I noticed a lot more old cable on the way down than on the way up. They used the cables to move the cut ponderosa pines.

Down at the bottom we found some of the huge logs with cables around them disguised by the rose bushes.

It was an interesting outing, and we're hoping to head back up there and go all the way to the spring.
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