In reading tips by VT member 'Kazander' on this upstate New York tourist attraction, my interest was piqued! As it happened, Howe Caverns are located almost exactly half-way between Albany and Cooperstown, so I decided to take a look for myself.
Pulling off onto some back highways just east of Cobleskill, I wound my way through the rolling hills of upstate New York until I finaly came upon this scene perched on the hillside. I had not realized that the Caverns had been developed so extensively for tourism, with it's adjoining motel, but I guess I should have realized it given their location in NY state!
In 1843, local farmer Lester Howe was puzzled why some of his cattle did not take shelter from the sun on a hot summer day. Instead, they were standing beside some bushes in a field. On closer examination, he found that a cool breeze was blowing out of a hidden hole in the ground! This led to the discovery and exploitation of this large complex of limestone caverns, complete with an underground lake. As they say, the rest is history!
In my case, I arrived minutes too late to catch the guided tour, which takes you 156 feet (48 m) underground into the constantly cool 52 degF caves for an adult fee of US$16. The next tour was not due to leave for about an hour and it takes more than a hour to complete, so I had to give it a miss. Instead, I enjoyed viewing their many photos of the caverns and displays of minerals in the lobby. Then it was onward to Cooperstown.
After leaving the Cobleskill area, about half-way to Cooperstown, I struck off on Highway 165 to see what the back-country away from the Interstate highway had to offer. There are lots of small roads and little villages throughout this part of New York state, so it is best to have good road map if you want to go 'exploring' like this!
It was interesting to see the landscape changing over from Summer into Winter mode. Although it was sunny, the high temperature for the day was only 8 degC and I could see a thin skiff of ice on the surface of the many ponds that I passed.
The terrain is rolling here, with many small brooks cutting channels in the hillsides that are a mix of forests and fields. I stopped to take this picture only a few miles east of Cooperstown.
I haven't taken this tour in about 10 years, but I went several times as a kid and loved it every time. My friend worked as a tour guide there last summer and enjoyed it (at least the first 100 times!). This is one of the biggest caverns available for tours. The tours last 80 minutes, and take you through several parts of the cavern, including a boat ride. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors and "juniors" 12-15, $9 for children 5-11, free under 5.