We headed up into the Great Basin National Park and went on a tour of the Lehman Caves. Up being the operative word.
It was 50 degrees in the cave with 95% humidity, a welcome relief from the hot, dry air above. Though Native Americans likely knew of the caves long before, credit is given to Absalom Lehman for their discovery in 1885. The cave boasts all variety of formations including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, flowstone, soda straws and shields. All formed by water, slightly acidic from carbon dioxide gas, percolating from the surface and along the way dissolving limestone and then depositing it as calcite.
Visitors in the early years were encouraged to take souvenirs. “If you can break it, you can take it” was the practice before preservation efforts were initiated. So people would walk through the cave breaking formations but then finding a more preferred formation further on they would drop the first to break another. By the 1930s, the cave was littered with broken, discarded formations. Today visitors are discouraged from even touching the walls or formations.