CAVE OF THE WINDS
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Guide Kyle Martin, center, gives his group information on Aug. 1 about their lantern tour at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Manitou Springs. The 90-minute, guided Grand Caverns Tour includes nearly a mile of walking and navigating dark narrow tunnels, low passageways, uneven stairs and rooms with muddy, original floors.

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Millions of years before the Jicarilla Apache chose this cave near Manitou Springs as home for their Great Wind Spirit, a canyon within a canyon began taking shape in the limestone bed of a dead, inland sea.

Thought to have formed between four and seven million years ago, Cave of the Winds entered the modern historical account almost 150 years ago when a homesteader in Williams Canyon named Arthur B. Love discovered a narrow cleft in the canyon wall.

That discovery had been all but forgotten by 1880, when two schoolboys on a hike went exploring for caves by candlelight. As the story goes, a flicker of flames lured brothers George and John Pickett through the opening Love had found and into a massive chamber that was “unlike anything ever seen before,” according to a history recounted on the cave website.

The Picketts’ pastor and leader of the Boys’ Exploring Association, Rev. Roselle T. Cross, joined the boys in exploring about 200 feet of horizontal passageways. Over the decades that followed, those routes were expanded, improved and extended to include well over 10,000 feet of surveyed passages and chambers boasting “showcase” mineral formations, most of which are fully-electrified and open to the public.

One of the state’s older tourist attractions, the underground adventure now comes with open-air options to spike the adrenaline. In addition to cave tours, the site now has above-ground activities including aerial rides, climbing and challenge courses, and — for the truly steel-nerved — the Terror-dactyl, which sends riders plummeting 150 feet into the canyon, at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. Info: caveofthewinds.com

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Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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