Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blast from the Past: Meramec Caverns

Last year we decided to nix birthday parties.  I'd done several in a row and thought we needed a change. Erik and I decided to take turns giving the birthday kid a special day by themselves.  We have four kids and it is almost impossible to get any individual time with each while we're at the house.  This has ended up being the coolest day of our kids' year. 

Carter turned nine this year and it was my turn to take him out on a birthday trip. I wanted to take him to a place he had never been before. I also wanted it to be grand, a place he would remember forever.  I hit gold with Meramec Caverns. 
I was a bit worried that the one hour tour would not hold my active son's attention. I needn't have worried. Meramec Caverns is a boy's dream come true.  It is a huge cave but it is so much more than that. Meramec was once the home of Indians. The union and rebel armies took turns occupying the caves and using it's resources to build explosives. The James gang used Meramec as a hideout and Jesse almost got caught right there but narrowly escaped by using the underground river to swim right past his would be captors. There have even been movies filmed inside Meramec caverns. Yes, they were old movies and one episode of Lassie but it was still Hollywood. 
Even without the history of the place, Meramec was beautiful and intriguing. We saw stalagmites and stalactites. Soda straw sculptures and a huge rock formation called the Curtain were beautiful. We enjoyed an underground light show and were amazed at the reflecting pools.  Meramec Caverns was a sight worth seeing.  When we headed above ground there was still more to be done.

We grabbed the a ticket and hopped on a boat for a guided tour of the river running past Meramec. We saw turtles basking in the sun, discovered a snake swimming our direction and met canoes paddling down stream.  There were also several interactive exhibits that day.  Carter was able to build a bat house and make an arrowhead necklace.  He loved it.  We also treated ourselves to a hard ice cream cone and a little shopping in the souvenir shop. 

On our way home we found this strange animal emporium.  It looked kind of beat up and I wasn't sure whether there were in fact any animals present on the grounds but Carter really wanted to go in and find out.  I really wasn't sure but it was his birthday. We went in and we were very surprised with what we found.  The front part of the shop was a strange kind of junk shop filled with Ripley's Believe it or Not type oddities.  The storekeeper assured us that there were animals behind the doors so we paid the fee and waited for our tour guide. Sure enough, he lead us back to several exhibits. Many of which were very hands on.  This was where I really earned the title of Coolest Mom Ever.  Yes, that is my sweet son holding an alligator.  In fact, while we were outside that gentleman behind Carter allowed him to go into the fenced enclosure where the adult alligators are kept.  He even allowed one to get within feet of Carter.  I have pictures but they are very blurry due to excessive shaking on my part.

Here is Carter holding the Albino Python. See how excited he is

Here is my picture with the same snake.  Obviously snake handling is not my cup of tea.  We left soon after this encounter. 

All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  Meramec has been talked about off and on for months and I don't think either of us will ever forget our introductions to the reptile kingdom. 

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