We took a trip to the Katchner carverns over the weekend. OK, really it started as a trip to Willcox to get some real apple cider - Stouts Cider Mill has the unpasteurized stuff I like to use in making my yearly batch of hard cider. We headed down on at 8:00 aM Saturday morning for our scheduled tour at the carverns for 1:00 PM. That gave us just enough time to stop for lunch in Benson before we got there.
The tour starts with a ride up the hill to the entrance of the cave. The state put in an airlock system to preserve the integrity of the cave. They even have you walk through a light mist to weigh down any lint, hair, etc. so that anything that falls off you goes straight to the floor. The guide on the tour was very knowledgable about the history of the cave and the formation found inside. We walked through for about 50 minutes getting to see various formations and learning about how the cave was found, what steps have been taken to preserve it, and how the state works to preserve the caverns for future generations.
When we got to the throne room there was a nice area where everyone could sit down and enjoy a lightshow time to some music. They lit up the various formations in the room from different angles so that you could fully enjoys the beauty of the formations. The show lasted about 10 minutes then they lit the whole room up so you could get the whole picture at once and ask any questions. The trip back out took about 5 minutes - make sure you take sunglasses with you into the cave - you'll want them when you come back out into the sunlight. I highly recommend this outing for any family - just make sure you get your reservations ahead of time. We will be going back in the spring to take the Big Room tour - they close it during the summer to allow the bats to do their thing.
We then continued our journey over to Willcox, stayed the night at the Holiday inn Express. A word of warning - we had a hard time finding a local (non-chain) restaurant to eat at, so we ended up at the Pizza Hut for dinner.
In the morning we visited the local winery where we sampled some very nice wines and bought a couple bottle to bring back home. We visited Aplle Annies's Orchards to do a little shopping, buy some fudge, and grab a bite to eat. As there didn't have the unpasteurized apple cider, we made a quick stop at Stouts on the way out of town - picked up 10 gallons of the good stuff, put it in the cooler and iced it down for the 4 hour trip back home. That cider is now starting the fermentation process and should be bottled up in about 3 more weeks!
That's all for now...