Underground caves and caverns have always fascinated me, and on a getaway in northwestern Virginia this weekend, I visited Shenandoah Caverns, where I saw something new. I’ve visted a number of different caverns, and seen my share of stalactities and stalagmites, flowstone and anthodites — but I don’t recall having seen bacon.

The Shenandoah Caverns have a number of “breakfast bacon” formations, so real-looking that they were once featured in National Geographic, according to the guide. The “bacon” is a type of speleothem generally referred to as a curtain or drapery formation. It’s made of calcite and iron oxide deposited by mineral-laden water dripping over many thousands of years. When the water contains mostly calcite, the bands formed are light in color: when iron oxide (the same compound as rust) predominates, reddish brown bands are formed. 

Looking at beautiful formations hidden beneath the earth, and knowing that they were formed over hundreds of thousands of years, always takes my breath away. Some of God’s most beautiful gifts require much patience to create.

I thought of that in comparison to a news note that Answers in Genesis, the fundamentalist young-earth organization that built the mega-million dollar Creation Museum near Cincinnati, is planning a $24.5 million expansion that will include a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark. No one knows exactly what Noah’s Ark would have looked like, of course. A few specifications are given in Genesis 6:14-16, beyond the basic dimensions it’s mostly guesswork.

The developers of the Creation Museum believe in a seven-day creation just over 6,000 years ago, and assume that everything that appears older than that can be explained in some pseudo-scientific fashion, though some posit that God just made things that appear really old in order to throw us off track. The museum features fancy animatronic dinosaurs interacting with humans, for example.

I’d much rather contemplate the columns in Shenandoah’s “Cathedral Hall,” trying to imagine the thousands upon thousands of years it took to form them. While a literal interpretation of Genesis might float the boat (or Ark) for some folks, I’m content in marveling at the beauty of an earth that can be billions of years old, something that isn’t a recent thought, but a wonder that God has loved for a long, long time.

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