Visit to Luray Caverns Airport, VA (by Mike Parry)
The day even started with an adventure as a not-quite-as-it-should-be Cessna engine forced a temporary return to N57. But soon all normal engine parameters were attained, all was well and we all headed off southwest. We each took great care going between the extended P40 and the Washington ADIZ controlled air spaces. The corridor required careful navigation, with GPS’s earning their keep on this flight! Perfect, warm and clear weather made for a smooth flight with good visibility and lots to see.
The flight into and along the Luray valley is particularly spectacular. The Shenandoah Trail is visible on the peaks to the left, with equally picturesque rising landscapes to the right. The airport was soon in sight, and all accomplished safe landings. The very friendly FBO staff greeted each aircraft as we taxi-ed back to the ramp area, offering fuel or parking, or both. The same staffs operate the van shuttle service, the five-minute ride (no cost, tips welcomed) to the Caverns. The popularity of the place becomes immediately evident, with many cars and buses in the large lot in front of the cavern entrance.
Food was in just about everyone’s mind and we enjoyed burgers, fries etc (normal pilot fodder) in preparation for our assault on the caverns.
Entrance fee’s paid ($16) we gathered in the cave lobby to await our guide for our one hour, six-mile walking tour. He appeared dressed as the Joker (think Batman and Robin) and introduced himself as such. This was never really explained, perhaps a local thing, perhaps Halloween? Whatever. We descended to the depths, appreciating the cool air and transfixed by the incredible rock formations.Our guide described the forces of nature that had brought about such sights. Stalactites and stalagmites were explained, the effect of erosion, and how the caves were discovered: while exploring in the area local tin-smith Andrew Campbell’s candle was blown out by a draught of cool air on August 13th, 1878. Some excavation followed and the extent of the caverns was slowly revealed, using candlelight! The National Park Service designated the location as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage, in 1974.
The Caverns Company also offers an excellent museum at the same location. Transportation was the main theme, with many historic and classic cars and trucks.
A phone call brought the shuttle service back to the Caverns. We set the record for the number of EAA240 members ever to get into a shuttle, and we were on our way back to our parked aircraft, with lots to talk about on the 60-Cirrus minute flight home.