Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Deep, Dark, and Glorious

Leeba Leichtman

Caves and caverns. We are entering a world of mystery and beauty; a world one can walk right over and never realize exists

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

 Mishpacha image


"W atch your step and hold onto the railing,” announces our guide as he swings open a door that reveals a dark, narrow passageway leading far down into something we can’t see. “Oh, and put on your sweatshirts. It’s about to get really chilly.” Chilly? It’s 92 degrees outside. But moments later, as we trek through the stone tunnel, I’m grateful for his advice. We are entering a world of mystery and beauty; a world one can walk right over and never realize exists.

Skyline Caverns is an underground wonderland in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains. It was discovered by Dr. Walter Scott Amos in 1973, when he and his crew were digging in what is now the parking lot. Dr. Amos was a retired geologist contracted by government agencies to seek out caverns in the area around the picturesque Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. When Amos spotted camel crickets, a species that lives only in dark, damp places, he knew he’d struck gold. But although it is breathtaking, Skyline Caverns is only one of many such caverns around the globe.

What is a cavern?

A cavern, or underground cave, is a space beneath the earth often formed through natural processes like earthquakes, volcanoes, or erosion (the process of wind, rain, and water wearing away at the earth.) Rivers or streams filled with minerals flow through cracks in the hard rock, eventually crashing through with all their force and creating an underground river.


While most caves develop only in dissolvable rock materials like limestone, gypsum, or marble, a strong enough flow of water can form beautiful, elaborate caves even in the toughest forms of rock — like granite, the type of rock your countertops might come from. Remember the story of Rabi Akiva before he began learning Torah? When he saw a rock in which a tiny, yet steady drip of water had created a cavity over a long period of time, he declared, “If little droplets of water could bore through hard rock, then surely the Torah — compared to water — can make its way into my heart.”

Most times, the water eventually diverts its path, leaving the cave dry. Thank goodness… Now we can go exploring!

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Thankfully, these caverns have installed lighting that enables us to see through the darkness… and what we see is amazing. Incredible cave formations, most famously stalagmites and stalactites — those icicle-shaped things that first come to mind when you think “caverns” — transform these dark, dirt-encrusted places into underground museums.

Stalagmites, which grow up from the floor, and stalactites, which grow down from the ceiling, grow only about 1 inch every 100 years. Eventually, they may meet and create stunning, floor-to-ceiling columns, like the marvelous ones exhibited in Luray Caverns, just a short drive away. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 669)

Related Stories

Bubbling Over

Rochel Burstyn

Bubbles make us think of dreams and hopes and rainbows and fun and summer. Join me as we find out mo...

Jr. Tales: Summer and Fall

Rivkah Small

If she hadn’t been looking at the flower banner but had gone directly to the manager, would Layli be...


Malka Katzman

I am the Girl Who Has Everything in Camp — from existential items like safety pins to fun stuff like...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"