You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Cave reunion brings back memories, makes new ones
Wilson County resident Barbara Knight and her son, Brian, enjoy the Discovery Tour during the Natural Bridge Caverns tour guide reunion June 7. Knight’s first job was as a tour guide at the caverns in 1974-75.
By Barbara Knight
Exclusive to the Wilson County News
Wilson County resident Barbara Knight saw the article, “A gathering of the Cave people,” in the May 28 Wilson County News about the Natural Bridge Caverns 50th anniversary tour guide reunion. As a former tour guide, she was excited to revisit the caverns and shares her experience here!
My first job was as a tour guide at Natural Bridge Caverns from September 1974 to May 1975. When I worked there, we had two or three tour guides during the week, and I took as many as six to eight tours a day. There was a small petting zoo and the visitors center was only a third the size it is now. Today, the attraction has as many as 200 employees working there in a day. They have come a long way!
My son, Brian, and I went to the June 7 tour guide reunion. We were greeted by Travis Wuest and his older brother, Brad. Brad was a baby when I worked there.
We were given a badge to wear; mine stated that I was a member of the staff. The pass gave us access to both cavern tours and all the activities.
Brian and I immediately set out for the Discovery Tour. This was the original tour that I used to lead 40 years ago.
The temperature inside the caverns is 70 degrees year-round, with 99 percent humidity. These caverns are over 95 percent active, meaning they are still forming from the water that drips through the layers of limestone above. I could not believe I used to walk that cavern so many times a day at age 18. With all that humidity, it feels like 85 degrees. The tour was basically the same, except they’ve added handrails and new material on the walkways. It was just as fantastic as it was 40 years ago.
After the tour, Brian went on the zip line, while I explored the rock shop and received my complimentary bag of “pay dirt.” In the mining sluice, I sifted the gems and minerals out, surprised to find many pieces of semi-precious stones, including amethyst and quartz.
Brian and I took the last tour of the day, the Hidden Passages Tour. This cavern was developed after my time with the caverns and is completely different from the original tour. The cavern goes 180 feet below the surface; as there is no opening to the surface, it provides some wonderful, long “soda straws” that are not found in the original cavern. As the first cavern had bats in it at one time, any delicate formations were generally destroyed by their presence.
I believe the guide said there are 186 steps into the caverns and we had to come up the same way! I absolutely had to take the Passages tour, but was concerned I wasn’t going to make it out. Going down was fairly easy; coming back up was exhausting. I was one of the oldest people on the tour and ended up the last out of the caverns. But it was so well worth it!
Meeting ‘Cave’ people
We exited the Hidden Passages tour just in time to join more than 400 former and present employees for a catered meal. Before eating, Brad Wuest thanked everyone for attending and introduced Travis and their families.
He also introduced his mother, Joy -- one of my bosses in 1974. She expressed her gratitude to all for being part of the growth of Natural Bridge Caverns.
Everyone visited with people they knew from their past. I visited with Joy and several of the employees who have been with the caverns since the beginning. I also found the woman I worked with at the time -- we ran the ticket counter, cleaned bathrooms, cleaned the caverns, fed the animals, and gave tours. Laverne was the mother of one of my classmates in high school; I was surprised to see that she really hadn’t changed much through the years. I was glad to see she and her husband were doing well.
Thanks to the Wilson County News, I was able to join my former employers and had an absolutely fantastic time. Brian learned about my past and was also amazed at the caverns and formations. We are both nature “nuts” and found plenty to explore and interest us.
We were like one big family, sharing memories and learning more about this beautiful place where we worked. The Wuest family and employees did an excellent job of planning and providing for the number of guests attending.
I believe we all left there with a feeling of worth and achievement, knowing we all worked for a very important and magnificent part of Texas’ natural history.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Austin’s oldest museum offers daily tours (June 22, 2016)
Dine out with The ROCK (June 22, 2016)
Esparza reunion planned for July 9 (June 22, 2016)
Free guided hikes at Enchanted Rock (June 22, 2016)
Getting your hands dirty — in the garden with Iris Seale (June 22, 2016)
Men: Pay attention to your health (June 22, 2016)
Movies in the Park (June 22, 2016)
New Pioneer Playroom offers hands-on learning (June 22, 2016)
Old newspaper makes memories ‘Local and Personal’ (June 22, 2016)
Poth church to celebrate 90 years (June 22, 2016)
See Legacy of Leadership exhibit in Washington (June 22, 2016)
SS museum plans meeting (June 22, 2016)
Tips for a safe trip to the beach (June 22, 2016)
Wall pocket (June 22, 2016)
Area seniors invited to Bingo Tuesdays (June 15, 2016)
Art Walk America contest deadline is June 23 (June 15, 2016)
Attend picnic at Dewees-Remschel House June 15 (June 15, 2016)
DRT receives honors at state convention (June 15, 2016)
Hear patriotic tunes in Pleasanton (June 15, 2016)
It’s gone! The Spot is gone! (June 15, 2016)
Join WASP for summer season (June 15, 2016)
Jubilee offers fun for the whole family (June 15, 2016)
Martinez Social Club keeps you dancing (June 15, 2016)
Meet 2016 Stockdale Watermelon Jubilee, rodeo court candidates (June 15, 2016)
Moms walking group invites members (June 15, 2016)
Napoli Glass (June 15, 2016)
Oak Hills Church plans yard sale (June 15, 2016)
Ramirezes celebrate golden anniversary (June 15, 2016)
See free movies at Arcadia (June 15, 2016)
Sutherland Springs seeks volunteers (June 15, 2016)
Vendors needed for Freedom Fest (June 15, 2016)
Witness Summer Solstice performance (June 15, 2016)
Add amphibians to your landscaping (June 8, 2016)
Enjoy free summer movies at Rolling Oaks Mall (June 8, 2016)
Enjoy Pilgrim Opry (June 8, 2016)
Gene Watson in Kerrville (June 8, 2016)
Hear ‘Bach to Luckenbach’ (June 8, 2016)
Hummel plate (June 8, 2016)
June dances in Geronimo (June 8, 2016)
Meet for Play Dates in the library (June 8, 2016)
OLPH names 2016 Mother of the Year, May Queen (June 8, 2016)
Prepare to enter cool creation in Ice Cream Freeze-off (June 8, 2016)
Remember Flag Day June 14 (June 8, 2016)
Running group plans June 11 run (June 8, 2016)
St. Ann Teen ACTS plan 5K Color Run (June 8, 2016)
Take Dad out to FatherFest June 19 (June 8, 2016)
The old Wagenfuehr house in Bleu Casa Village (June 8, 2016)
Tracking an icon in the ‘horned lizard capital of Texas’ (June 8, 2016)
Building communities (June 1, 2016)
Cowboy penknife (June 1, 2016)
Garcia receives Linda West Scholarship (June 1, 2016)
Garner State Park celebrates 75 years (June 1, 2016)
Libraries prepare to launch ‘Reading Is So Delicious!’ summer program (June 1, 2016)
Lutheran Church windows relocated for a little TLC (June 1, 2016)
St. Helena Men’s Club plans picnic (June 1, 2016)
Stockdale’s early beginnings (June 1, 2016)
The progression of the classic ‘koozie’ (June 1, 2016)