Tombstone, Arizona – 11 April, 2006
We started the morning at Karstner Caverns. These were discovered by cavers Mark and Gary in 1974. They kept the discovery secret for fourteen years until they could work out a deal with the Arizona State Legislature in 1988 to make the cave a highly protected state park. The State spent eleven years developing the caves and then opened them as a new state park in 1999.
You enter the caves through a series of four stainless steel airlocks. Between the second and third doors you are misted heavily to reduce the amount of lint you leave in the cave. Computers monitor cave humidity and ground and air temperature to ensure that the environment maintains the same baseline that was established during the pre-construction period.
The cave lights are turned on and off as each group moves though the cave. 24 groups of 20 people are allowed in the caves daily. The cave is closed from 15 April to 15 October to avoid disturbing the migrating bats. Misting devices have been set up at strategic locations to maintain the cave humidity at 99 percent. No pictures are allowed.
The cave itself is incredible and unspoiled. We've seen Luray, Carlsbad and Mammoth and some grottos in Italy and this one is world-class. Delicate soda straws over 20 feet in length grow 1/64 of an inch a year. One formation called Kubla Khan and raises five stories.
In the afternoon, we drove the motorcycle 30 miles to Tombstone. It's a highly commercialized little town. The Tombstone County Courthouse museum and state park was worth an hour. I had forgotten that Doc Holiday's girlfriend was named Big-Nose Kate. The shoot-out at the OK Corral was a brutal 30-second affair that left three dead and three wounded. Doc used a sawed-off shotgun and he and the three Ear brothers killed three cowboys. Ike Clanton begged for his life and ran away. Later, he took $1,000 to kill Wyatt and immediately left for California