THE LONGEST ROUTE, TIME ABOUT SIX HOURS—EMBRACES GARDEN OF EDEN ROUTE TO CROSS ROADS AND FAIR GROUNDS ROUTE TO ASSEMBLY ROOM, TOGETHER WITH TWENTY-SIX ADDITIONAL MARVELS—SEVENTY-SIX POINTS OF INTEREST ON THIS ROUTE.
The Pearly Gates Route is the longest of the three, requiring about six hours to complete it. It embraces the Garden of Eden Route as far as the Cross Roads, and the Fair Grounds Route as far as the Assembly Room, besides twenty-four other points of varying interest which, excepting the Blue Grotto, are reached on this route exclusively. This is the most difficult route of the three to travel, and children are not permitted to attempt it; infants are checked and cared for at the hotel while parents make the trip.
Leaving the Fair Grounds Route at the Assembly Room we pass under the Bridge of Sighs and find ourselves in CASTLE GARDEN. This is a large room of blue formation, in which may by seen SAWYER'S SEA SERPENT.
A story is told of a venturesome lady who frequented the Cave. She knew the route as far as the M.E. CHURCH, whiter she decoyed her lover who was sixteen years her senior. There she put out the lights, and addressed the following point-blank question to her trembling, frightened comrade. "Won't you be mine forever?" He replied, "Yes, for heaven's sake, if you'll only take me out." She gained a point by substituting darkness for leap year.
From Castle Garden a rugged country is traveled leading to the famous BLUE GROTTO, where the most beautiful of the box-work formations are found. The body of the box-work being dark, the pearly coating of calcite blends with the base, dolomite, upon which it is deposited, producing a product altogether lovely. Even if time must be borrowed, you will never regret taking the Pearly Gates Route via the Blue Grotto. It can not be described. It must be seen.
Bidding this gem of the Cave a sorrowful good bye, we pass CENTENNIAL HALL, with its colored fossiliferous formations, and CHAMBER DE NORKET with its large, lofty ceilings, and enter UNION COLLEGE, where the bell is always ready but never rings. Here stands FAN ROCK, eight feet high, six feet wide, with a base one foot square, always open for the use of the tired college girl. Here also is the LETTER BOX, a very useful accessory to college equipment. The box is sealed open by nature; permitting all students to receive or send mail uncensored.
Beyond Union College is the Y.M.C.A. HALL, a few steps from which is the EPWORTH LEAGUE PAVILION, having a large main room with four smaller ones, corresponding with the four departments of the Epworth League. Next in order is the WOODMEN HALL, dedicated in 1897 by the M.W.A. Its chief characteristic, other than the formations omnipresent, is the FRENCH COACH HORSE which lies by the wayside en route to Klondike.
The rooms next in order are named in honor of the Daughters of the American Revolution, The Martha Washington Memorial University, and The Knights of Pythias.
Near these rooms is the STANDING ROCK CHAMBER, which contains the EAGLE, the POLAR BEAR, and the CHIMES, together with the rock twenty-five feet high, which gives it its name. Here Johnstone found the pin head under the American Eagle after a three days' hunt.
A GREYHOUND stand in the passage way leading to MERMAIDS' RESORT, a nook that seems to make one grow young in spite of time's advance. This bower is roofed with crystals, lacelike, encrusted with white frosting resembling swan's-down. Imagine a canopy studded with miniature cedar trees, their tops downward hanging, spreading, and meeting each other, the roots in the ceiling, and all snow white, with an orange shade in the background, and you have a slight conception of nature's extravagance at almost the farthest point on the longest traveled route in Wind Cave. Great care is manifested by the guides, and not all who start on the Pearly Gates Route are permitted to see that promised land. If the party proves during the first few miles that it will desist from all evidences of vandalism, it may, with great precaution, be trusted to view, without resorting to spoliation, this shrine of the Mermaids.
Passing through the CHICAGO PORTRAIT ROOM and STABLER'S PASS we reach ST. DOMANIC CHAMBER, the home of the HORNETS' NEST, and the sight of several geodes.
Just beyond or toward the Fair Grounds Route is the CROWN CHAMBER with a MOOSE HEAD, and the UNITED COMMERCIAL TRAVELERS' CHAMBER with a LADY'S EASTER BONNET on a three-eights tilt.
By retracing our steps, we reach the TABERNACLE, the largest chamber on the Pearly Gates Route.
At the end of the Tabernacle is the climax of the entire route, THE PEARLY GATES. Lighted with magnesium, the pearly-tinted, calcite-coated boulders, leaning in the form of an arch, thrill one with awe. A U.S. senator stood before those gates, amazed at the spectacle; but his amazement was changed to complete fright when the sweet strains of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" were wafted out toward him from a choir which had taken its position without his knowledge above and slightly beyond the nature-frescoed Pearly Gates. The senator admitted that his hair began to stand on end. Doubtless he preferred to occupy his seat in the senate rather than sweep through Pearly Gates to SAINTS' REST.
Near the Tabernacle is the CHRISTION ENDEAVOR ROOM, beautified with white box-work; and further on and to the left of Saints' Rest is the finest crystal formation in the Cave. It surpasses spider-web or silk in fineness, and measures about two feet. It is called NOAH'S BEARD. It, too, is protected with the greatest care, none being permitted to approach too close lest the breath destroy this very delicate formation. This route is not always traveled in the order given, especially the latter part surrounding the Tabernacle.
Visiting the attractions in any desired order, one is delighted beyond the power of expression, but regrets that nature should have secreted her most perfect and beautiful formations so "far from humanity's reach." Opinion is well divided as to which is the most beautiful and desirable of the three routes. Some prefer the Garden of Eden, some the Fair Grounds, and still others lavish their encomiums upon the Pearly Gates Route, urging without fear of successful contradiction that it is peerless. Regardless of which route possesses the most numerous excellencies, it may be asserted that there is one very noteworthy property possessed by all, that of relieving asthma the minute a patient enters the Cave. Why a colony of asthmatics does not plan to locate in the Cave is an enigma.