This post was originally published on WBALTV NEWSAdd to Favorites
BOONSBORO, Md. —
During the hot summer months, everyone is looking for a way to cool down. Many people head to the beach or maybe Deep Creek Lake, but what about crawling underground?
What looks like an old corner store sitting alongside cornfields outside the town of Boonsboro is actually a gateway to a place that looks out of this world.
Jerry Downs is the third generation owner of Crystal Grottoes Caverns. In 1920, his grandfather was building a barn nearby while a road construction crew was tackling a cliff.
“So they’re out front drilling and blasting for rock, and they blow a hole into the side of this thing. So at this point, my grandfather is over on the farm here, and I can see the foreman is sitting outside. They just set off this dynamite, and he says, ‘Alright, clown, get down in the hole and find out what this does,'” Downs said.
They discovered nearly half a mile of passages decorated with white, tan and reddish geological formations.
Downs’ grandfather looked around and saw opportunity.
“He tells the landowner, ‘You know, if you develop this place, it would probably entertain people for the next 100 years,'” Downs said. “So they launch the attack. They hire a 20-man shovel-and-bucket crew, dig this out, and put lights in it, and snap, Crystal Grottoes is born April 2, 1922.”
Downs’ grandfather was right. As many as 30,000 tourists a year from across the world have explored the tunnels. There’s plenty to imagine during the 30-minute guided tours, where it’s always 54 degrees, and where families bond, even in this day and age among children.
“It’s different. It’s not something that I would expect,” said Julian Wiley.
“Caves are for kids. I don’t care how old you are. Don’t forget that,” Downs said.
Take that from a man who’s worked in the place since he was child, keeping family tradition alive with no plans to stop.
“I said to myself this morning riding the mower around, I said, ‘Jerry, you ought to retire.’ But this ain’t too bad. I got a decent place to grow old. I can’t do nothing about that, and I’d rather do it here than anywhere. Take a look around. Wouldn’t you?” Downs said.
He’s sharing something one might not expect just down the road from Baltimore and a few feet underground.
Crystal Grottoes is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for young children.