I have a confession. Our Friday field trips almost never take place on a Friday. Because honestly, we have to fit in our fun where we can. Most of the breaks from our daily grind (me = in front of the computer, Evan = in front of the computer while watching TV) include a quick trip to the pool or a planned visit to check out the latest movie.
Last weekend, I had had it. I needed to get out of the house. I had to get out of the house. And I didn’t want to hear Evan whining about where we were going and what we were doing and when we’d be back. So I told him to get ready and wear sock and shoes.
Then we set out on a one hour drive to the west of our small town in Maryland. I wasn’t exactly sure of where we were going but I knew the final destination: Crystal Grottoes Cavern.
Here’s what I knew about it before I set out: it’s a privately owned cavern in Boonsboro, MD that was discovered in 1920 and opened to the public in 1922. I had also read the following on their website:
This natural phenomenon has more formations per square foot than any cave known to man. It is also the most naturally kept cave in the world. You are going to see this piece as it was developed back in the 1920’s.
I wasn’t sure if we needed boots and hardhats or if we were fine in our summer clothes (even though it’s 54 degrees year-round in the cavern). So I read some user reviews and found a few positive reviews and others that made it sound like there was an angry old man running the show and if you look at him cross-eyed, he won’t let you in his cave.
So we took our chances.
It turns out this little family-owned cavern is one of the most amazing geological sites I’ve ever been to. Our tour guide, in his country-tainted voice, explained the cave discovery and formations in a very unassuming way and made sure that everyone in our small party had to chance to look at everything.
Evan was amazed and, frankly, so was I. I was even more impressed to find out that the portions of the cavern open to the public only encompass about one-third of the overall cave. But to access the rest, there are many winters of gently digging out tons of clay (yes, they accept volunteers for this task). When I heard that, it made the steep entry price much easier to swallow ($10 for kids, $20 for adults, CASH ONLY).
And when the tour was over, I knew it was time for the dreaded gift shop visit. But in this case, I didn’t mind shelling out a few bucks for my little rockhound. There were no highly polished stones sitting in a bin. All of the rocks were actual specimens from the cavern so I let Evan pick out a $5 sample of smoky quartz.
We could have ended our day there and been completely happy. We even enjoyed the warm weather after spending 30 minutes inside a chilly cavern. But since we were in a new part of Maryland and close to a historic site, I extended the trip a little longer and made our way to Antietam National Battlefield.
In case your U.S. History is a little rusty, let me remind of you what, unfortunately, this battlefield in Maryland is so well known. It was the site of the bloodiest One day battle in American History.
23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Since this was an add-on trip, we spent about 45 minutes before the visitor center closed to take advantage of the view.
Oddly enough, it’s beautiful there.
We sat outside looking out over the fields while enjoying a cool breeze. It’s tough for me to imagine the thousands of soldiers who died here and ever tougher for Evan you really had no idea what a battlefield should look like.
There is a self-guided driving tour of the massive battlefield area that most visitors do but with our limited time, we posed with a few cannons and made plans to come back with my husband another day.
It was another unexpectedly good day and I know this because Evan told me so. It’s amazing what can happen when you just push your to-do list aside and spend some quality time with the people you love.
(But before you think I’m too sappy, I did trick Evan into heading to the Hagerstown Premium Outlets just 10 miles away where we scored three pairs of shoes for school!)
Tell me how you plan to get out and enjoy the few remaining weeks of summer!