Harry T. (Harry Taylor) Gause.

Detailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 online

. (page 11 of 14)
Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 11 of 14)
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We also could easily trace the marks of the wagon-wheels
leading to the saltpeter vats. The guide was very kind and
chatty and he always had a story to tell of other parties that
he had conducted through the Cave ; or would take us all un-
awares by a sharp pun or well told joke on some portion of
the Cave.

It was amusing to hear the expressions of surprise and
delight with which the ladies greeted every new wonder, and
to hear them scream at the slightest slip or slide of the foot.

However, these little exhibitions of feminine excitement
only contributed to make the journey gayer and livelier, and
we gentlemen heartily joined in any chorus of laughter that
might be occasioned by some comical mishap to one of the

Anything to dispel the awful silence of this subterranean
night ! What an element of pleasure is young ladies society,


especially upon such an adventure as this ! They were the
very life of the party, and it, of course, employed every gen-
tleman to protect them from falling, amid the jagged rocks.
What an enlivening effect their bright colored dresses gave to
this natural panorama of moving figures, as they wound around
through the rocks, or climbed a steep ascent only to descend
still deeper into the heart of some rocky recess. But let us
return to the Giant's Coffin.

After a sufficient time had elapsed for the outburst of en-
thusiastic delight, on the part of the ladies, to subside in a
measure, Frank told us that here we had to leave the main
Cave ; whereupon all their sentimentalism was stirred, to
think that they should never see these walls again never,
again, as long as they lived, look upon that Ant-eater, never

All took a long, last farewell look at this spot which
none of us were ever going to see again and we were turning
away with thoughtful countenances after the realization of this
saddening fact, when Frank turned around with a malicious
smile overspreading his good humored face and informed the
party that we would come back that way. This pretty effec-
tually dispelled all sentiment, and we laughed for the next
five minutes so boisterously, that it was with difficulty that
Frank could impress upon us that we had entered the Desert-
ed Chambers, by a side avenue leading down under the Giant's

There is nothing at all remarkable about these chambers
outside of their existence, except the fact that they are the
point at which the water left the Main Cave to reach Echo
River, after it had ceased to flow out of the mouth of the
former into Green River. They are shallow, smooth-bottom-


ed, inverted basins, as it were. We were obliged to stoop to
accomodate our hight J:o theirs. This uncomfortable position
however, did not last long, for in a few moments we stood in
the Wooden Bowl Cave. This is an irregularly shaped hall,
with nothing specially peculiar about it, except that on the
ceiling there is a round hollow, exactly in the form of an in-
verted wooden bowl. This fact partly gives it its name.
Some say that the whole hall looks like an inverted bowl, but
we failed to see such resemblance. But the real reason for
styling this part of the Cave by such a common-place cogno-
men, is that an actual wooden bowl was found in it when it
was discovered, and which is supposed to have been used by
the Indians in early times.

We were now one hundred and sixty feet below the sur-
face of the ground.

Black Snake Avenue, which enterss the Main Cave, near
the Cottages, communicates with Wooden Bowl Cave. It re-
ceives its name from its serpentine course and black walls.

Passing down a sharp declivity and a flight of wooden
steps called the Steeps of Time, we entered Martha's Palace.
The Palace is about forty feet in hight, and sixty feet in di-
ameter. It is certainly not particularly attractive as a place of
residence, and it seemed rather peculiar that Martha should
choose such an humble abode. We did not find the mistress
at home, but, * leaving our cards' we passed on and stopped to
quench our thirst at a spring of clear water that adorned the
centre of the floor of what is called the Arched Way. This
is Richardson's Spring, named after a Miss Richardson, from
Louisville, Kentucky. The ceilings, walls and floor of the
Arched Way bear evidence of its once having been the
channel for running water.


The Side-Saddle Pit over which rests a dome sixty feet
high, was next pointed out on our right. It was a frightful
looking hole ; but, fortunately was covered partly by some
joists that formed the foundation for a future platform, to
enable visitors to walk out upon it, and thus obtain a better
view of the dome. The Pit is ninety feet deep, and at its
widest point about twenty feet across.

Minerva's Dome is situated about twenty feet to the left
of the Side-Saddle Pit. It is fifty feet high, and ten feet
wide. It is a miniature representation of Gorin's Dome. The
Pit and both domes, have been cut out of the solid rock, by
the solvent action of water, containing carbonic acid in
solution, and the guides say they are still enlarging, the
aperture leading down into the Pit, presenting the outlines of
a well-shaped side-saddle ; thence the name.

This was the first pit we had met with, so of course,
the ladies were exuberant. They screamed at its depth ;
laughed at the possibility of falling in, and I was in doubt as
to whether they were about to cry because there was no
chance for a romantic ' scene' by doing so ; but they all event-
ually recovered their composure, and we proceeded without
loss of numbers.

We next came to the celebrated Bottomless Pit
although its name is rather paradoxical ; for it is only one
hundred and seventy-five feet deep, varying from fifteen to
twenty feet in width. A substantial wooden bridge is
thrown across this fearful chasm, and bears the historic
name of the Bridge of Sighs. We all collected on it at
about the center, and gave one huge sigh, for effect. The
effect was, that we all laughed heartily instead of sighing. The
guide was inclined to be jocose when he significantly re-


marked, that although the bridge was called the Bridge of
Sighs, it was'nt of sufficient size to carry us all with safety.
We left without a sigh ; but on the other side we stopped
and amused ourselves for some time, by casting pebbles and
rocks into the abyss, and listening to them as they went crash-
ing down, down, down, each time turning away with a
shudder, at the thought of such a fearful depth.

Shelby's Dome which is sixty feet high, rests directly over
the Bottomless Pit. Frank illumined them both by magnesium
light, with fine effect. It was a grand sight, one hundred
and seventy-five feet down and sixty up ; and we, almost as
it were, suspended midway. He then lit and threw in some
saturated paper ; we leaned over the brink and saw it go
whirling and eddying down, down, until we lost sight of it
behind some projecting rocks. The damp, grooved walls of
the pit were visible for over a hundred feet ; we almost
sickened at the sight.

On leaving the Bottomless Pit, a rock-strewn room is
entered, which is about twenty feet in hight, and forty in di-
ameter, bearing the name of Reveler's Hall. Here, it is the
custom of visitors to rest for a short time, and discuss the
terrors of the Pit. This is generally followed by the bringing
forth of the potables, when the health and safety of all parties
is duly swallowed ; but, by some mischance, our lunch man
had gotten too far ahead to be recalled, so we sat down with-
out any beverage except that of cold water.

Imagine the velocity with which the young ladies
tongues vibrated. Nobody could talk fast enough. Every
one seemed bent on being heard by everyone else, before
everyone else. So that, as may be imagined, we had quite a
merry time ; but at length, Frank, our constant but ever


faithful monitor, warned us that time was fleeting ; so we fell
into line again and were once more on the move.

After passing through a low archway about four feet in
hight, called the Valley of Humility, the ceiling of which is
smooth and white, and appeared as though it had been
plastered, we came to the Scotchman's Trap. The Trap is a
circular opening through which it is necessary to descend by
means of rough wooden steps. It is about five feet in diameter,
and over it, is suspended a huge boulder, which, if it were to
fall, would completely close the avenue leading to Echo River.
It is supported solely by about three inches of its edge resting
against another rock. Should this edge crumble, it would be
precipitated upon the opening below. It looks very danger-
ous, and it was some time before the ladies could be induced
to risk their precious lives by descending, notwithstanding
the knowledge that the rock had been standing in this
position for ages. But at last, one of their boldest spirits,
Miss Mary Withers, of Cincinnati, had courage enough to

After this, we got along splendidly. A short distance
beyond the Scotchman's Trap, in what is called the Lower
Branch, there occurs a curious shaped rock, which is named
the Shanghai Chicken, from its striking resemblance to that
animal. This, it is said to be two hundred and sixty feet
below the surface of the earth.

Now we approached that far famed portion of the
Cave, the Fat Man's Misery. Here was an obstacle which
to less determined spirits, or greater rotundity of persons,
would have proved insurmountable ; nevertheless it was a
rather tight squeeze, but having no large individuals in our
party, we managed pretty well. The young ladies, being


the most active on account of their lightness and the deftness
with which they climbed along over the rough rocks got
along much more easily than the remainder of the party, but
all attempts at conversation proved worse than a failure, for
all the gentlemen were commiserating their awkward and un-
comfortable positions, at the same time writhing and squirming
themselves along in the most comical manner. There is 'nt
much poetry in the Fat Man's Misery. But I had almost for-
gotten to describe it !

It is a narrow, tortuous avenue, fifty yards in length, which
has been cut out of the solid rock, by the mechanical action
of water. The lower part of the passage varies in width from
one to thirty feet, and at the upper, from four to ten feet.
In hight, it varies from four to eight feet. Contrary to the
general impression, their was never a man too large to pass
through the Fat Man's Misery.

The " pons assinorum" of this avenue is, a spot where
there is a sharp and jagged stone, that lies directly over the
cut, so that in addition to this being almost the narrowest
place in the whole passage, one is obliged to bend double,
in order to creep under. Imagine a very corpulent man, in
the act of compressing his body in two ways, both laterally
and perpendicularly in this novel manner. It is too ridiculous !

After much fun and more labor, we marshaled our dilapi-
dated, but triumphant forces on the other side of the Misery,
and prepared for another move. Emerging from the low ceil-
inged, cramped avenue through which we had pushed our way,
we found ourselves in a hall, varying from forty, to sixty feet
in width, and from five to twenty in hight, and it proved in
reality, to be what its name implied, a great relief. On the
floor of Great Relief the direction of the currents of water that


filled these avenues, could be traced. At the side next to Fat
Man's Misery, it is strewn with gravel ; near the center, sand
occurs, and still further on, mud is deposited, demonstrating
the fact that it flowed into Echo River.

River Hall extends from Great Relief to the River Styx.
It averages fifty feet in width and is covered with rough,
pointed rocks that seem as if they had but recently become
detached from the ceiling. It is a wild portion of the cavern
and deserves to possess a more appropriate name than its
present one.

Picking our way carefully over the rocks, and meeting,
every now and then, with a ludicrous adventure, while assist-
ing our young lady friends past the most dangerous places,
we at length reached the Bacon Chamber. It received its
name from the fact that small masses of rock project from the
ceiling, that in size and appearance, resembled immense Bou-
logna sausages or bacon hams. The guides called them the
Odd-Fellow's Link, which I think is more appropriate, as they
are joined by the extreme ends and seem to form a chain ex-
tending across the roof of the cavern. The Avenue which
leads to Mammoth Dome and Spark's Avenue, takes its origin
in Bacon Chamber. Having examined the peculiar features of
interest in this avenue to our full satisfaction, we pushed on.

About forty feet below the terrace which extends to the
Natural Bridge, is a dismal sheet of water, fifteen feet deep,
twenty wide, and fifty in length called the "Dead Sea." It
is quite as gloomy in appearance as its celebrated namesake,
and as you pass it to the right, while crossing the narrow,
slippery ledge that only affords a most precarious footing, and
looking down into utter darkness, hear the gurgle and splash
of deep water, you fancy that the only thing lacking to trans-


form this Dead Sea into a counterpart to the Burning Lake of
the Infernal Regions, is the flames.

Following River Hall for some distance further, we arriv-
ed at the banks of the River Styx, which is one hundred and
fifty yards in length, about forty wide, and, in depth, varies
from thirty to forty feet. It has a subterranean communica-
tion with the other rivers of the Cave, and when Green River
rises to a considerable hight has an open communication with
all of them. The river is spanned by the Natural Bridge,
which is about thirty feet above it. When the far bank of
the Styx is illuminated by Bengal light, the view from the
Natural Bridge, is awfully sublime. We paused upon the high-
est point, and looked across, while Frank lit up the deepest
recesses with magnificent effect.

"What a wonderful freak of nature is this Mammoth
Cave ! " is the thought that invariably presents itself to one's
mind at every new turn. There is always some new thing,
stranger than the last. To enjoy this view alone, was worth
the labor of our long and fatiguing tramp. But we could not
tarry too long, for Frank promised us better things, so we
hastened forward.

We had not gone far, before we came in sight of Lake
Lethe, a body of water of the same length as the River Styx
and extending in the direction of the avenue, the floor of
which is covered by it. It is about forty feet wide and varies
from three to thirty feet in depth. The ceiling of the avenue
in this part, is ninety feet above the surface of the Lake.
We approaced the Lake by descending an abrupt hill that
only terminated at the water's edge. The soil around the
margin of the stream for the distance of a few feet, was
very soft, wet and spongy, yielding under foot, thus rendering


it as unpleasant, as it was imprudent to venture nearer than
the limit of the rocky portion of the floor. However, there
had been a wide plank thrown down, which extended to the
landing, where two flat-bottomed boats awaited us. It was a
most uninviting spot. Everything was wet and dark, giving
a sombre cast even to our countenances. The water flowed
sluggishly along, looking like a great inky sewer, but it only
appeared so from being cast into the deepest gloom by our
lights, but in reality it was pure and crystalline.

The bottoms of the boats were covered with muddy water
which added to the muckyness of the surroundings, and every
thing was damp and dismal, so that before we had accomplish-
ed half the distance to the other side, we fully appreciated the
inappropriateness of its name. We did not go directly across
but had to follow the bed of the lake for about one hundred
and fifty yards, as the rocky banks were too steep to admit
of being scaled. At last we reached the landing and disem-
barked amid the greatest noise and confusion, occasioned of
course, by the young ladies.

We now stood in what is called Great Walk, which ex-
tends from Lake Lethe to Echo River, a distance of five
hundred yards. This is an interesting avenue from the fact
that the ceiling, which is forty feet high, is covered with rocks
which present a striking resemblance to cumulus clouds,
especialy when brought out by the magnesium light. These
rocks are composed of white limestone, a substance which is
extremely abundant in most localities of the Cave.

Echo River is of comparatively easy access by means of
the Great Walk, as its floor is covered with fine yellow sand.
A rise of five feet of water in the former, overflows Great Walk
and gives a depth of water sufficient to allow the boats to pass


from Lake Lethe to Echo River. There are times, when the
Great Walk is filled with water from the floor to the ceiling ;
and, in fact, it is not an uncommon occurence for the water to
rise to a hight of sixty feet in Lake Lethe, by which the iron
railing on the terrace above the Dead Sea, is entirely sub-
merged. This great rise is produced invariably by a freshet
in Green River.

We had proceeded about three hundred yards, when we
were halted by Frank, who told us to listen attentively. We
stopped for a moment ; all was still as death ; then we heard
far distant strains of music, that sounded as though they
issued from the very bowels of the earth. We perceived, too,
the continued reverberation of a thousand echoes, a soft and
sweet accompaniment to the melodious notes of a clarionet.
We listened in breathless silence. A dim light appeared ; then
another and another, until they came in clusters ; groups of
starlike apparitions. We could now hear the sound of oars,
as they splashed in the crystal waters, re-echoing with a hollow
rumble under the vaulted archway of Echo River.

The lights moved slowly, gliding along as if impelled by
some mysterious power, which directed the course of this
wierd procession, as well as sustained its magic brightness.
Now the chorus of many voices swelled up to the ear and
blended in exquisite harmony with the instrumental music.
All defects were lost in the echo, and in the wild grandeur of
the surroundings.

It was a scene of unalloyed romance. The music sounds
doubly enchanting amid those gloom-enshrouded, everlasting
rocks. It was the other party crossing Echo River and sing-
ing upon the water. They had taken the Cave Hotel band
with them. We were obliged to wait some time for the boats


to return, which interval, we employed in resting and com-
menting upon the scene just witnessed. It was certainly the
nearest approach to my ideal of the combination of Heaven
and Hell that I have ever experienced. The fearfully rugged
and strangely shaped boulders, jutting out upon all sides like
huge demons, the red glare of the light from their damp faces,
taking the place of eyes, the intensely black pall that en-
veloped every thing outside the circle of illumination, and the
silence of the grave that pervaded this horrible cavern, repre-
sented the hell of my imagination. On the other hand, look-
ing beyond the pure flowing waters, a miniature Jordan, we
saw the lights glimmering in the Eternal City, and heard the
voices of the angels as they swelled the chorus of glad praise-
anthems to their Lord.

This enchanting delusion was strengthened by the fact
that the other parts were singing the Doxology, and with an
effect that left a deep impression upon us all. We were too
far distant to distinguish any outlines, all we saw was the
slowly moving train of lights, and all we heard was music.
We learned afterward, that we had been particularly fortunate
in hearing this party sing, for they proved to be a company of
professional singers, traveling together during the Summer.

They had four magnificent voices, a second bass, a high
tenor, a contralto, and a very sweet soprano. The rest served
to fill in the intervals of the music.

At last we moved on down the river. Here, we found
our lunch-man serving in the capacity of ferry-boy.

Echo River extends from the Great Walk to the com-
mencement of Silliman's Avenue, a distance of three quarters
of a mile.



The avenue at the entrance to the river, under ordinary
circumstances being only about three feet in hight, we found
it necessary to deposit ourselves along the sides of the boat,
sitting in a row upon the edge of the gunwale. After much
screaming on the part of the ladies, much coaxing from the
gentlemen, and mnch cautioning by the guide, we at last
found ourselves seated in order.

For the first few feet we were obliged to incline our heads,
in order to avoid a collision with the hard rocks above, but after
this distance, the avenue widened out, and the ceiling averag-
ed about fifteen feet in hight. It varied in width from twenty
to two hundred feet, and in depth below the surface of the
water, from ten to thirty feet. When there has been no rise
in Green River for several weeks, the water in Echo River
becomes remarkably transparent, so much so, in fact, that
rocks can be seen at a distance of ten to twenty feet below
s the surface.

The connection between Echo and Green Rivers is near
the commencement of Silliman's Avenue, so that when the
water from the latter flows into Echo River at a temperature
higher than that of the Cave, a fog is produced, which, it is
said, in point of density, rivals that off the banks of Newfound-
land. There have been several very sad accidents, attended
with much loss of life, whose cause has been attributed to
the fact that this fog has so blinded and bewildered those
persons who have become lost in it, that they have perished.

Leading up to the left of the point at which we entered
the boats, is a small and rough avenue called Purgatory. It
takes its beginning at the end of Great Walk and terminates
in the avenue of Echo River, about a quarter of a mile from
the landing in Silliman's Avenue. We had a great deal of


fun while climbing this hill, for it seemed utterly impossible for
the fair portion of our company to surmount some very rough
rocks that blocked the way, consequently, a gentleman in
front and one behind was absolutely necessary to accomplish
the difficult crossing, which was always accompanied by the
most heart-rending but ill-timed screams. There is nothing
like having young ladies along to brighten such an experience,
after all.

A rise of eighteen feet of water, however, fills the avenue
of Purgatory and cuts off all communication with the outer

Among the curiosities of this subterranean stream, is that
of its eyeless fish and craw fish. They possess rudiments of
eyes but no optic nerve, and they are, therefore, incapable of
being affected by the most intense light. Both species are
perfectly white, have the peculiarity of propelling themselves
backward, instead of forward, like ordinary fish.

Their tail resembles the claw of a tack-hammer, except
that, in this instance, the cleft or notch is closed, forming a
mass of white flesh which is considered by some as the dain-
tiest of morsels for the table. These fish range in size from
one to eight inches in length, seldom exceeding the latter
measure. We succeeded, after much engineering, in obtain-
ing some very good specimens of this curiosity, but it was
only through the generous kindness of a friend, who fished
them for us. I will not mention names as, the whole proceed-
ing was directly in opposition to the Cave Regulations.

We were now pushed along slowly by Frank, with his oar
against the ceiling, for some distance, when we came suddenly
around a sharp point of rocks and discovered that we had
reached the second landing. We succeeded in disembarking


without any excitement worthy of mention, and proceeded
up Silliman's Avenue. This avenue is one and a half miles in
length and extends from Echo River to the Pass of El Ghor.
It is from twenty to forty feet high and from twenty to two
hundred wide.

Judging from the rugged and water-worn appearance of
the walls and ceiling, I should think that Silliman's Avenue is
one of the most recently formed portions of the Cave.

First, we came to Cascade Hall, which is two hundred

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Online LibraryHarry T. (Harry Taylor) GauseDetailed description of scenes and incidents connected with a trip through the mountains and parks of Colorado, as accomplished by H.B.B. Stapler and Harry T. Gause, July 21-August 20, 1971 → online text (page 11 of 14)