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Caves and Wild Animals
We were back on the road this morning, taking Route 66 north out of Kingman, Arizona.
Stretching towards the distant mountains, our thin ribbon of asphalt paralleled its ever-faithful traveling companion--the railroad tracks.
A long train accompanied us on our journey:
The Kozy Korner Mart at Antares Junction was more than just a market.
It was home of “Giganticus Headicus,” which captivated all of us:
Next to the large green head was his companion, with water flowing from her lips:
Inside the market, we met the owner, Myra Arnold:
She has been here for six years. Her son Gregg created “Giganticus Headicus” in 2004.
Outside, Genevieve posed as an astronaut:
A yellow barrel in front had chicken wire over the top, and cautioned “Baby Rattlers”.
We all had a good laugh at what was inside!
Across the street was a long line of mailboxes:
Our next stop along Route 66 was the Hackberry General Store, which had a large eclectic assortment of cars, antiques, and other memorabilia.
Inside the store:
Sebastian tried to work his charm:
Before leaving, we visited the mules:
They were very curious (and sweet).
Across the street was the small town of Hackberry:
We continued onward, through low hills covered with rounded tan rocks.
Near Valentine, Arizona, we were surprised to find a colorful sign marking the entrance to a “nature park.”
The park hadn’t been mentioned in my guidebooks, so we stopped to check it out.
We discovered that the Keepers of the Wild Nature Park is a non-profit wild animal shelter dedicated to providing a clean, safe and loving environment to neglected or abused “exotic” animals.
The founder, Jonathan Kraft, was known as a Dutch “Dr. Doolittle” when he was growing up because he rescued and cared for many birds and other small animals. When he was working in Las Vegas as an adult, he encountered an 8-month old lion named Sampson. Sampson had been purchased as a small cub and kept chained up so that people could have their picture taken with him. He was getting large, however, and the common practice was to simply euthanize the lion and buy another small cub. Jonathan rescued Sampson and then went on to rescue many more big cats and other animals from all over the world.
Three years ago, Jonathan opened the Keepers of the Wild Nature Park along Route 66. The site currently provides homes for over 100 rescued animals, including lions, tigers, jaguar, cougars, wolves, leopards, birds, primates, and more. The park's website provides more details, as well as stories about many of the rescued animals: http://www.keepersofthewild.org/.
The entrance fee ($18 for adults, and $12 for children) is considered a tax-deductable donation. We walked around the pens and marveled at all of the magnificent creatures. The pens also had signs that provided information about the animals, such as their natural habitat and whether they are endangered.
This black leopard (also called a panther) normally lives in the tropical rain forests of south-east Asia, and is endangered.
When we peeked our heads into the bird house, this white parrot called out to us, “Hello!”
As we turned to leave, it called “Goodbye!” and “I love you!” We left the bird house with big smiles.
This cougar fixed her eyes on Sebastian when we walked up.
Sebastian is the smallest person our group, and we thought perhaps she was scoping him out as possible prey. She never took her eyes off of him, watching him intently until we finally moved from her line sight.
There were a large number of tigers. We were able to get a good look, up close, of their tremendous beauty.
Sebastian wanted his picture taken with the white Bengal tiger, whose name is also Sebastian.
When I started talking to the tiger Sebastian (in that voice that adult women reserve for babies and animals), he rolled over to get a better look at us.
These emus were definitely giving us the eye.
We learned that male emus have the responsibility of caring for the babies—sitting on the eggs for 8 weeks and guarding the chicks for up to 18 months.
Genevieve and Sebastian were excited to find a couple of Capuchin primates—like Dexter in the movie “Night at the Museum.” Capuchins are very intelligent and are found throughout Central and South America. The ones here named Max and Lola.
Lola had a loving male owner for the first 9 years of her life. One day, however, the man came home with a girlfriend, and Lola was jealous; she bit the woman’s ear almost completely off. The woman had to have reconstructive surgery, and the man decided that Lola needed a new home. He felt that Keeper’s of the Wild would be the best choice.
Sebastian’s small size attracted this free-roaming deer:
This purple cactus was growing in the park grounds:
We all enjoyed our time at the Keeper's of the Wild, and we were so glad that we stopped for a visit.
Further east along Route 66, this mountain had a line of rocks on top that looked like a natural fortress.
A beautiful home:
I was still getting used to the image of snow in the desert.
One of the planned activities for today was a tour of the Grand Canyon Caverns, a series of caves over 200 feet below the ground. This unusual split in the road marked our turnoff:
The caves were once called “Dinosaur Caverns”, and there were some large dinosaurs near the entrance. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian with a 3-toed T-Rex:
This was a funny bumper sticker:
Inside the building were a small restaurant and a gift shop where we bought our cave tour tickets.
Genevieve and Sebastian found a large chunk of coprolite, which is petrified dinosaur poop.
Our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide was Stefani.
She first took us down an elevator, 220 feet, which is equivalent to 21 stories.
The Grand Canyon Caverns are dry, not wet; this means that they are not growing any new cave formations such as stalactites or stalagmites. Only 3% of the caves in the world are dry. The Grand Canyon Caverns are the third largest dry cave system in the world, and the largest in the United States.
The inside of the caverns stays 56 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, with 6% humidity.
The caverns are privately owned. In 1927, a man named Walter Peck was taking a short cut in a rainstorm and fell into a 3 to 5 foot hole, which was not filling with water. The next day he lowered himself 150 feet into the ground with a kerosene lantern. The interior of the cave glittered with all of the selenite crystals, and Walter thought that he had discovered a gold/silver/diamond mine.
Walter bought 800 acres of the surrounding land before he learned that the selenite crystals were worthless; as soon as someone touches the crystals, they discolor and deteriorate. However, he started giving tours of the caves to make money.
We entered a large chamber called the Chapel of Ages, which contains the largest deposit of selenite crystals in the world.
In the middle of the Chapel was a brand new “hotel room” that was in the final stages of completion.
The hotel room will be offered to the public at a rate of $700 per night for two people (check-in is at 3 p.m., and check-out is at 11 a.m., for anyone who is interested). Tours will continue while the room is occupied, so any guests will have to share the surrounding space with strangers for a short time in the morning and late afternoon.
In the chamber called Halls of Gold, there was a stash of Civil Defense boxes and barrels.
In 1962, after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. government designated the caverns as a fallout shelter, which it remains to this day. The government provided enough supplies for 2000 people to survive for 2 weeks. However, they forgot to put any lights in the stash. The food supplies consist of crackers and hard candy. The water has gone stale, but the government has provided purification tablets.
In a large cavern called Snowball Palace, the walls and ceiling had countless bulbous formations. Over the years, people had damaged and discolored the formations by touching them.
One form of selenite crystal is a delicate arch, called a helictite:
The workers at Grand Canyon Caverns had arranged a couple of fake skeletons in a humorous pose near the Mystery Room, which extends downward 318 feet below the surface.
Looking down into the Mystery Room:
Fresh air enters the caverns near this area. In 1958, a test was done to discover the source of the fresh air. A device was activated that produced red smoke, and the smoke was finally detected coming out of a wall along the Grand Canyon, 40 miles away on the Supai Reservation.
Looking back through the cave while climbing a steep path called Heart Attack Hill:
The caverns also contain a mummified bobcat, nicknamed “Bob.”
Bob died around 1850. He was about 5 years old when he fell in the cave and broke his hip. He suffocated from his lungs drying out. When he crawled around inside of the cave, the limestone accumulated on his body and mummified him after his death.
Here is the wooden walkway leading to the original entrance.
That entrance, however, had been used by the Hualapai tribe as a sacred burial ground for two men in 1917. In 1962, a new entrance was completed with the installation of the elevator, and the original entrance was sealed out of respect for the Hualapai.
The next sight was truly amazing—a 15 foot 4 inch, 2000 pound, giant ground sloth, nicknamed “Gertie.”
Gertie’s bones were found inside the cave, and she has been recreated. She is a vegetarian animal that lived about 11,000 years ago. On the wall above her head are multiple scratch marks, which Gertie presumably made in her attempt to escape the cave. One of her claws was found embedded in the cave wall.
We all agreed that the tour was fantastic!
The road ahead:
Seligman, Arizona, was full of old neon signs, as well as businesses that proudly announced their Route 66 locations.
We had read about the delicious milkshakes and fun atmosphere at the Snow Cap restaurant, and we were looking forward to frosty glasses of cold goodness—but the place was closed.
Some horses were grazing outside of town.
We passed a few series of Burma Shave signs. Here are two sets:
And this Speed Offender.
When You Can’t See
May Get You a Glimpse
We crested a mountain pass at 5700 feet, with snow along the side of the road.
The small town Ash Fork calls itself “The Flagstone Capital of the World” due to the number of quarries and stone sellers around town; the stone is shipped to places all around the world. Sheets of stone were stacked in long rows along the main street.
Other photos of Ash Fork:
We followed a sign and arrow that pointed to a historical marker.
The marker had been placed by the Arizona State Historian in 2001.
A plaque traced the history of the Ash Fork area from the 1850’s, and attributed the town’s current decline to two “devastating events”: The building of Interstate 40, which bypassed Ash Fork, and the decision of Santa Fe Railroad to move the railway line 10 miles north in 1960.
In town, a water tower still bore the Santa Fe name.
As we got closer to Flagstaff, with an elevation of almost 7000 feet, the snow on the ground grew deeper.
We pulled into an RV park and found an open spot where the snow had been plowed. Genevieve and Sebastian were thrilled. They grabbed their gloves and hats and ran out to play, throwing snowballs, and building a snowman in the dark.
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