What are you suggesting, Carina?

That you had something to do with all this??  “No sooner do I spout knowledge of gypsum,” blah blah.. “and look what we stumble upon…”

Well, thanks to faithful reader Dan P. we now know that this is the “Cave of Crystals” According to the Wiki, the main chamber contains giant selenite crystals (gypsum, CaSO4·2 H2O), some of the largest natural crystals ever found. The cave’s largest crystal found to date is 12 m (39 ft) in length, 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and 55 tons in weight. The cave is extremely hot, with air temperatures reaching up to 58 °C (136 °F) with 90 to 99 percent humidity. The cave is relatively unexplored due to these factors. Without proper protection, people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time.  So you’d all best get the hell out of there…

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So, yes, we are in Mexico now, bending the space time continuum, sweating our asses off for no apparent reason.  At some point the author needs to understand that a collection of non-sequitur events does not a plot line make…

But as long as we are here, let’s learn about Gypsum… C’mon, it’ll be fun!!  Known through the centuries across multiple civilizations for its properties and usefulness, below are the 2014 stats for mining production:

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Go China!  Now we know where all the wallboard comes from!!

Speleothems of unknown origin…

Googling “cave formations” I came upon a $10 word: Speleothems… but nothing in that picture looks like these columns…  huh… they all look like versions of the Washington Monument…  and since I struck out on the “Helldiver” comment and was earlier schooled on my assertion that firearms don’t have flames shooting out of them, I leave this to you all…

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90 degrees?  Well, Gabe, you are in the desert…  Love the fact that Mark’s coiffure remains intact… even under the most brutal conditions…

Ish hot in here…

Reminds me of the I Love Lucy episode where she is the Vitameatavegamin girl…  Lucy gets all “heated up” spooning her way to health and inebriation…

So as Mark, Gabe and Carina all break out in hives, and lest we dare to believe that Mark’s opening line is some lame attempt to come on to Carina, Gabe seems to think he has found something- certainly his eyes betray his shock and surprise…

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So what’s it going to be?? The lost city of El Dorado? Flowing lava?  Geyser?  Sasquatch?  I guess we shall have to see…

And thanks for all the great comments, and especially for schooling me on the Biplane version of the Helldiver…  learn something new every day!

What is it they say??

Timing is everything??  As Mark goes for the punch-line in panel three, it appears that the other two forgot that Mark has already found a way out?  And nice try, Gabe… but that’s no Helldiver…  And finally, I don’t think the pilot did make it out, Carina… but whatever…

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Sorry for all the flashbacks, gang, but sometimes I feel like part of my duty is to maintain integrity along these long story arcs…

But what if the plane did still work?  Ah… unless it was a Harrier Jump Jet, which can take off like a helicopter and then jet off, it really wouldn’t do them any good…

Makeup!

Time for Carina’s close-up… fresh lipstick and foundation and she’s ready to continue sharing what she knows about cave-ology…  But really?? “Surreal?”

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We have been on this story so long  Ol’ Gabe doesn’t even remember where he is!  You’re not in Mexico, dummy you’re in Southwest Texas

…and by the look on Mark’s face he is getting increasingly bored with this entire situation… he hasn’t had someone to punch in months!!

Karst Processes? Geothermics?

Ka-mon, Gabe!  Get with the program!  Mark throws all kinds of doubt and darkness on your “sunlight” theory -(Remember, Gabe, the Earth ROTATES… therefore the time that the hole would be filled with sun is minuscule relative to the entire rotational arc… or something like that…) I love the look on Gabe’s face (all sheepish again) as he is getting schooled by Mark… All I can say is that Carina is a LOT more attractive when when she is slinking around the cave compared to when she in out of danger and spouting scientific knowledge…  But then I’m a guy and will probably get in trouble for that last statement…

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Good thing, though, that Carina took full advantage of the STEM curriculum at her schools growing up…  And as the proud father of a daughter who is a geologist, we all have to be grateful that walls have come down.  And thank Female Pioneers in the sciences, including Phyllis Kahn a State of Minnesota House of Representative who earned multiple degrees in the sciences against what I am sure were tremendous odds!  Or Florence Bascom, geologist… Or credit to her father John, who (it would seem) supported his daughter in very non-conventional pursuits for the late 19th century… who is no doubt connected or related to Bascom Hall/Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison…

Well, enough history for one morning.

Well, duh…

I am at a loss for what insights might be offered in today’s installment, other than a healthy dose of familiar poses and reactions- Mark assumes his “Naturalist crouch,” Gabe wagging his finger, and Carina doing her best Vanna White impression.  Speaking of the latter, I see that she and Pat Sajak are still on the TV… good lord how long have they been doing that show??  Answer- since 1983.  September to be exact.  In its 33rd year… That’s a mere tick of the Trailian clock, though, as we move through these stories at glacial speed…

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OK, so now that we have been reminded that plants need soil, water and light to grow and thrive, what’s next?  I thought they were going to climb out of the hole and do… what?  Heaven knows.

That Damned Skeleton is Back!!

Seriously!  See it??

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While Carina schools Gabe in Karst Processes… have fun with that one- looks involved…

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…Mark has already begun the climb (or should I say walk) out of the sinkhole… And for now the airplane, with the reappearing and disappearing skeleton (remember The Cave of the Dead??) is causing nary a ripple in the plot.  Wait ’til that engine fires up and the plane takes off with that grinning thing (skeletons have no choice but to grin…) having fun at everyone’s expense…

Kind of makes you wonder how he ever got his degrees…

Gabe, you have proven to be an effective foil, if nothing else, and now your estudiante is turning on you as if to say, “Shut up, Porky, your contributions here are no longer required…”  Before the cave incident, Carina was loath to call the Professor by his first name, now it comes easily, as experience in crisis is a great equalizer…  Separating the men from the boys, euphemistically speaking… the look on Carina’s face is telling- weary of this whole thing and weary of Gabe, who continues to third-wheel his way through this plot line, ____-blocking anything that might erupt between Mark and Carina… But just wait a Trailian minute there, Bucko- Mark is a Happily Married Man- which is why he spends 345 of the 365 days in a year on the road…

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So the WWI era biplane was just a distraction?  Nothing to do with anything?  A mere curiosity along the way that holds no bearing on the plot line?  Well, that’s disappointing…  And we won’t see Mark doff his shirt to expose his rippling upper torso in a free-climb that was foreshadowed in late 2015?  They are just going to walk out of there? OK… carry on…

In other news (literally) there was a nice piece on the Mark Trail Experience in my Local Paper- The Minneapolis Star Tribune- Please see ‘I am a Trailhead’ on Page OW1 of Friday, April 08, 2016 issue of Star Tribune – and in contacting the author, he mentioned that he is aware of “The Daily Trail” and had even mentioned it in an early draft of the piece, but ended up not including it… Doh!  This close to a shout out by a Major Metro Paper!!  Oh well, I shall continue to contribute to the Trail Universe in my own way, comfortable in the knowledge that the small, somewhat crazy, Trail community will appreciate what is done here…

Carina seems to exclaim to the Heavens…

Way to go, Gabe… just hop on up there!  Why don’t you give it a good shake while you are at it and see whether you can get yourself in trouble!!  No skeleton!  Not sure what I was seeing before…  wishful thinking I suppose.

…and who or what exactly is Carina pointing to/at?  To whom is she making her proclamation??

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In case you are all wondering what Carina is going on about (I sure was…) The Marietas Islands form an archipelago off the western coast of Mexico, an hour’s boat ride from Puerto Vallarta…

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…and the aforementioned “Hidden Beach” is a feature of that island, accessible only through a watery tunnel…

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…allegedly formed by man’s testing of bombs and such…  who says everything man does is bad???