Missouri Caves & Dilla

Our first night out from Indiana. Hagle B and I made camp in the hot humid river valley where the Meramec runs quick and clear through Missouri cave country. The night guy at our little campground allowed us to camp on the gravelly bank and told us about some wild caves in the area. He gifted us glow sticks for sticking in the cave mud to mark our routes.

The next morning we hiked into forest instead of the Meramec Caverns show cave. Our 1st cave (in Meramec St. Park) had heavy abuse--broken stalag.’s, beer cans and filthy underwears in mud. The second ran much deeper / muddier and huddles of hanging bats irked little wispy chirps at the shine of our headlamps.

Down the highway, Hagle and I stopped off I-44 at Fantastic Caverns, a “show” cave just north of Springfield, MO. “The only drive through cave in America,” and according to our tour guide, “the only cave with a movie theater.”

We rolled through Fantastic caverns in a red adorned jeep with a guide, a couple from Texas, and an empty 40’ trailer with sitting benches. The place had some interesting history—a speakeasy in the 30’s, a gambling sneak-spot, and in the 50’s a Saturday night music venue with, at times, an excess of 1000 humans drinking and dancing. The whole grab of the cave is the fact that it is this or it is that, “a drive through cave, the only one in North America,” “the only cave with a built in movie theater.” The autos made the drive accessible to everyone, effortless to everyone, indefatigable to all. You need $25 and the willingness to duck your head a few times when the rock roof is a little low.

Missouri was pleasant. 6,470+ discovered caves in the state, the heavy rolling green forests, the Mark Twain Nat., a hint of the Ozarks, and all those dilla. The incessant roadkill of deer, foxes, box & snapping turtles, coyotes, squirrel, hawks, waterfowl, rabbits, and many many armadillos testify to the abundance of wildlife in the area.

There had been, in what is now the U.S., a creature coined a glyptodont, or a giant armadillo, something like the size of a volks beetle. According to the overkill theory to the extinction of large mammals, this beast vanished from the earth when Homo sapiens arrived to the continent about 13000 years ago. Unfortunately, my only encounters with those little prehistoric tanks have been postmortem, on the roadside or the standing taxidermy’d one I regretfully failed to purchase at a shop back in western Illinois.