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YEAR #2 - STOP #44

Today we drove one hundred miles due south and left the Adirondack Mountains behind. Don't get me wrong, we're still enjoying the mountains, only now we're in the Catskill Mountains.

We arrived at our new campsite here at Thompson's Lake Campground inside of Thacher State Park just a little after noon and had no trouble getting setup in our new home for the weekend. It seems this park is enjoyed mostly by the local population because we don't see too many out of state license tags on the vehicles here.

There was a younger group of six campers on the site directly across the street from us playing all different genres of loud music. It went on nonstop all day, that is until quiet time rolled around at 10:00PM, then it became very quiet. But around 9:00AM it started up all over again. I hope they learn to appreciate nature sounds when they grow older like most of the rest of us!

Serene view of Thompson's Lake early in the morning before everyone else wakes up.

Today our exploring will take us back underground! Not one, but two show caves are within a short drive of our campsite and we intend to visit them both.

Every cave is obviously unique, and the way the cave is shown to the public can also be unique to each cave. Today's two caves are very similar in formation, they are after all only two miles apart on the same road. However the way they are both presented to the public couldn't be more different.

As you approach each of the two different parking lots the difference is immediately felt. Howe Caverns is a multi-million complex, complete with a motel, an indoor/outdoor café, a ropes course, a mini theme park and of course a gift shop. Secret Caverns has a gravel parking lot in front of a wooden building with hand painted signage everywhere.

Howe Caverns prints out tickets like you would get at Busch Gardens and Secret Caverns gives you a cash register receipt to hold on to.

Howe Caverns tour starts out with a 5-minute video of the caves history and ownership changes over the years, which is followed by a 156 foot elevator ride down to the bottom of the cave. Secret Caverns tour starts out through an old wooden door and then 103 stairs down to the bottom of their cave.

Howe Caverns entire tour is upon perfectly level paver stones and stairs. Secret Caverns tour is entirely on irregular stone stairs and walkways carved out of the cave's floor.

Howe Caverns unique feature is a 500 foot long human propelled boat ride in a shallow river which runs next to most of the tour. Secret Caverns unique feature is a 100 foot tall waterfall that starts just 20 feet below the surface which brings warm water and air into the cave.

Howe Caverns employees a dozen or more high school students as tour guides for the busy summer season. They are very obviously reciting from memory a script provided to them with the points of interest the owners want emphasized. Ask them a question about caves and the answer is usually "I'm not sure" or "I don't know". Secret Caverns employees two middle aged men as guides who can answer any question you have about caves because on their days off guess what their preferred hobby is, cave exploration!

I guess what I'm trying to say is both caves were very similar and I enjoyed them both, but if you have children with you then you might be better off with a visit to the much busier Howe Caverns. If you are truly interested in just getting a cave experience then save a couple of dollars and visit the low key, but very informative, Secret Caverns.


A view of the multi-million dollar complex that is Howe Caverns.
After the elevator ride down this is where your tour begins.
A shallow river runs under most of the cave tour pathway.
Everyone is asked NOT to throw coins into the water. Yet look at all the coins!
Here is where the boat ride travels 500 feet further into the cave.
This is a polished piece of flowstone embedded into the walkway.
A section of the 300 foot walkway called The Winding Way.
Nothing left but a 156 foot elevator ride back to the surface.

The following photos are from our visit to

Secret Caverns

The entrance to Secret Caverns

It's 87°F up on the surface today but only 48°F down in the bottom of the cave.

A large flowstone called The Beehive

This section is a one way traffic with no passing!

• • • 100 MILE • • •

31.25 MILES

A mile and a half at each Howe Caverns and Secret Caverns
brings our annual total up to 31.25 miles.

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