I bought a Groupon for a barge ride at the Crystal City Underground for Lydia and I, but I wouldn't tell her where we were going until the last minute. She likes tortuous surprises. I tried to get some friends to come with us but they were all too lame. The weather was pretty cold, and they theorized it would be even colder in the cave. If they had even bothered to glance at a subterranean temperature textbook they would know that the climate that far down is fairly constant regardless of the weather. Amateurs. Moving on...
The approach to Crystal City was quite tension building. It's in the middle of nowhere, and at the time the parking lot was near deserted. Steam bellowed out of the caves.
Once inside the place had sort of Lost Boys/adult tree-house quality to it. Like if there was some sort of apocalyptic event and I had to live in a cave for a few years, this is how I would set it up. The first thing I noticed were lots of random large artifacts that the caves' ample space had no problem accommodating. A large parade float, a Christmas tree, a faux Mayan pyramid.... why? Why not?
Bar? Check. The cave bar had reasonable prices, and I may have had a cave Jack on the rocks or two.
Movie theatre? Check.
Beach volleyball? Check. There was naturally find sand spread out everywhere inside the giant caves. The caves exist because they were being mined for the fine silica that could be found here, which was used to make glass, hence the name Crystal City. The main attraction was to take a barge ride on the underground lake. The mining went deep enough that once abandoned it naturally filled up with water.
The barge was pretty cool. It seemed both homemade and awesome at the same time, with a fishing boat motor welded to the front for propulsion. We were the only people on the boat, so we had the friendly captain/tour-guide all to ourselves.
The lights on the barge interacted with caves and the water in a very interesting way. Rather than show us what was on the cave floor, the light produced a vivid reflection of the caves. It's a bit hard to describe, but the water's intense shininess was like floating on a lake of mercury. Our guide had a powerful searchlight that could penetrate the liquid metal and reveal what was below. Ghostly artifacts were above and below. Tire tracks could still be seen, along with various mining tools. Large antique light bulbs were stuck to the walls.
I believe this was a rusted out drill bit.
Back on dry land there was a display case of a few artifacts brought up out of the water.
At one point our guide turned off every light on the barge, and the cave was completely devoid of light. I could have touched my own eyeball and not seen anything.
Crystal City Underground was unexpectedly awesome. I'd like to go back with some friends sometime. Maybe play some laser tag too.