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It’s not always such a bad thing when the groundhog sees his shadow. Sure, it means another six weeks holed up with cabin fever. But why fight it? Join that furry little rodent in the rest of his hibernation, or if you are feeling adventurous, climb underground with him. There are plenty of places this world has for us to explore beneath our feet. Check out a cave, hike a cavern, or join some of the many communities around the world that live underground year round. And don’t worry, if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow, you’ve still got plenty of time before the warm weather returns. Here’s our list of subterranean adventures and cool things to do underground.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. Photo: Shenandoah National Park – Flickr

Skaftafell Ice Caverns, Iceland — Located about four hours east of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, Skaftafell is located at the foot of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier outside of the polar regions. Ice caverns from in Skaftafell only in the winter, when glacial rivers react and the water freezes. The caves are filled with an azure, glacial light filtering through the ice. New caves are formed every year, and tours are very dependent on the weather.

[captionid=”attachment_7771″ align=”aligncenter” width=”1000″]Mammoth Cave A view of Mammoth Cave in Central Kentucky. Photo: Beatrice Murch – Flickr[/caption]

Mammoth Cave National Park — Located in Central Kentucky near Brownsville, Mammoth Cave is the largest known cave system in the world. It has 400 miles of surveyed passageways, making it twice as large as its next closest competitor, the Sac Atun underwater cave in Mexico. Legend has it the first European to discover the cave found it while on a hunting trip, when he pursued a wounded bear into the mouth of thecave. The National Park Service offers routine tours of the cave.

Whittier, Alaska

Most of the residents of Whittier, Alaska live in this 14-story building. Photo: Jessica Spengler – Flickr

Whittier, Alaska Most of Whittier’s 220 year-round residents live in one 14-story building that was built as somewhat of a bunker during the Cold War. Actually, every part of the town is in that building — the hospital, the school, the grocery store. And for good reason. The southwestern Alaskan town withstands 22 feet of snow a year and six months of rain. Most of the town’s residents are commercial fishermen, and cruise ships come into town sometimes, delivering patrons to the local watering holes. But it’s probably safe to assume that Whittier residents don’t rely too much on the predictions of a groundhog.

 

Marble Caves

Marble Cathedral at Marble Caves in Patagonia.Photo: Javier Vieras – Flickr

Marble Caves, Patagonia — Carved smooth by more than 6,000 years of waves washing against the calcium carbonate, the Marble Caves reflect the blue waters of Lake General Carerra beautifully. The remote, glacial lake spans the border of Chile and Argentina in the Patagonian Andes. The caves are only accessible by boat or kayak, and the weather has to be just right. But the trip is worth it. Catch a tour from the nearby town Rio Ibañez, on the Chilean side of the lake.

 

Ape Cave

A view of Mt. St. Helens from Ape Cave. Photo: Greg Willis – Flickr

Ape Cave, Mt. St. Helens — Ape Cave is the longest lava tube in the continental U.S., stretching over 2 miles. There are a couple different routes hikers can take through Ape Cave, which is open year-round and located about an hour’s drive from the Mt. St. Helens’ visitors center. Upper Ape Cave, the more strenuous of the hikes, takes about 2.5 hours to complete and involves scrambling over boulder piles and scaling an 8-foot lava wall.

 

Coober Pedy, Australia

Many residents choose to live underground where it’s cooler in Coober Pedy, Australia. Photo: Martin – Flickr

Coober Pedy, Australia — Temperatures in this southern Australian town often exceed 100 degrees F in the summer, and most of the residents prefer to live in below-ground residences called “dugouts.” A dugout can be carved into the hillside for about the same price as an above-ground home, but it remains cool in the scorching heat and saves money on air conditioning. The name Coober Pedy comes from the Aboriginal term “kupa-piti,” meaning “white man’s hole.” Most of the shops and restaurants are underground too, including an abundance of jewelry stores. Coober Pedy is the world’s leading supplier of opal, and is surroundedby more than 70 opal fields.

Ordinskaya Cave, Russia — One of the largest underground glaciers in the world lies in the western Ural Mountains outside Orda, Perm Kai in Russia. The area was completely inaccessible to outsiders during the Soviet Union days, as many of the mountainsides around it housed tank and missile factories. The cave stretches 3.2 miles, most of which is under water struck crystal clear by its mineral-rich surroundings. Divers usually have visibility for more than 50 yards. The cave is cold, though, with temperatures hanging well below freezing, facilitating its icy nature.

Tagged: Holidays, Off-season, Uncategorized

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