Hunter and I having scouted it first, the ladies decide to join us for another foray into the dark and dusty Kuna Cave.
Having seen the photographs of our last trip,¹ Laura wanted to visit Kuna Cave on her birthday. And having learned from last time, we’ve come prepared with filtration masks.
After driving some thirty minutes from home to the unmarked middle of a field, we descend in a caged ladder fifty feet from the barren surface to the dark and dusty environs of a cave formed not of water, stalactite dripping to stalagmite, but fire coursing through the earth.
The bright spring sun creates an almost tangible shaft of light within the cave’s lingering dust, making credible an early belief “that the cave, which is said to be one of rare beauty in its formation, will be set aside by the government for the public use.”¹ But that has yet to happen.
At the end of the walkable series of northern chambers, we stop for some light painting, a fun exercise well known to the children of photo enthusiasts.
Having seen enough of it last time, I’m content to let the kids explore the tunnels beneath the rainbow. We watch their light receding into the small dusty hole.
The [Snake] river is five miles away and [Surveyor] General Utter is of the opinion that there is an opening all the way to the river … ‘From the fact that there is a strong, wet breeze blowing from one direction and a hot, dry breeze blowing from another, it is apparent that there are two other openings in the cave, one to the river and another to the plainland.’¹
Early accounts of Kuna Cave exploration describe a steady breeze that would blow out visitors’ candles. When the Army Corps of Engineers blasted shut the cave’s further reaches (I can find no firsthand references) the air fell still and dust lingered.
While the kids are finding their way through the dust on hands and knees, Jessica and I hang back in relative comfort and take pictures of ourselves.
In addition to wearing masks this time, I also brought a purpose-made clear plastic wrap for the camera. I recommend it.
Back at the ladder, I ask for some family poses. Hunter needs a little help climbing with his arm in a cast.
Human remains found on these rock shelves near the entrance when the cave was first explored in 1890¹ were thought to be those of a Native American, banished or lost. A formal survey concluded otherwise.
There is a popular belief in the district that the Indians used the cave as a burial place but investigations made by the party of [United States Surveyor] engineers which went from here establishes the more probable theory that the body found … was that of a white man who had climbed the shelf after having vainly tried to find other means of escape.²
With a final pose, we call it a day. Happy birthday Laura, you nut.