But there's not a speck of limestone to be found in Alabaster Caverns. Like much of the surrounding countryside, Alabaster Caverns is found within a thick layer of gypsum rock. In fact, that's where the name comes from - alabaster is a type of gypsum. And it is the gypsum that makes this cave so special and unique.
You won't see any of those typical cave formations that you'd expect from a limestone cave, but what you will see is just as impressive and inspiring.
I arrived at the park about 25 minutes early, and decided to wander around a bit before my tour started. There is a network of (above-ground) hiking trails leading off from behind the visitor's center. I didn't have time to fully explore them, but there is a pretty spectacular view behind the visitor's center, less than 100 feet from the cave entrance. Check it out:
The temperature in the cave is in the 50's year-round. It's a bit cool, so you may want to bring a light jacket, but you won't need a heavy coat or anything. I went in without a jacket and was pretty comfortable throughout the tour.
One of the first things our guide told us once we got inside is that it's perfectly ok to touch anything in the cave. Usually touching is a big no-no in caves, because the oils in our skin can damage limestone cave formations. But they apparently can't damage gypsum, so we were able to touch the walls and exposed crystals as we went through the cave.
Did I mention there are a LOT of crystals? I hardly put my camera down for the first half of the tour because anywhere you looked there was just so much to see.
The biggest crystal mass we saw was this one, which had to be at least ten feet long.
The small stream that was responsible for the formation of this cave crisscrossed the path at several points. Even when you couldn't see it, there were a few places where you could still hear it.