Eva Turpening, a visiting equestrian from the Lake Placid Horse Show, wandered off the Cascade Mountain trail while searching for an herbal remedy for her horse’s chronic skin condition.
“I had heard that witch hazel grows in these woods, and a fresh witch hazel brace always works so much better for Gus’s skin than the store-bought variety,” said Turpening, who discovered the rare grotto just 0.25 miles off the footpath.
“I had my head down, scanning the shrubbery as I walked, and what do you know but I slipped right down the hill. I slid for what felt like 10 or so feet, and when I looked up, I was inside this massive cave!”
Scientists think the more than 80-foot-high, 200-foot-wide marble grotto—which dates from 1,200 million years ago and contains a small waterfall and a collection of rare, stromatolite algae fossils—is one of the most important geologic finds in the State of New York in more than 150 years.
“It’s really remarkable—it takes my breath away,” said Adirondack Park Ranger Pat Smith. “The cave, sure, but the fact that this woman was an actual horse show participant who left the show grounds and discovered something of this magnitude just boggles the mind. We see many, many tourists in Lake Placid this time of year from all over the world. But none of them come from the horse show.
“Those people arrive at the show grounds and they’re like woodchucks—once they’ve got their spot, they dig in, and they don’t leave. We have this beautiful mountain setting, and, clearly, this bounty of natural wonders, and they might as well be in Dayton, Ohio for all they know.”
Located on public land, the Adirondack Park Agency has determined that the new cave should be named for its discoverer, in keeping with a long-held park tradition. ‘Eva Turpening Cave’ will officially be christened with its own trail marker and brass nameplate when it opens to the public later this month.
When asked if she plans to visit her groundbreaking, eponymous discovery when she returns to Lake Placid next summer, Ms. Turpening didn’t miss a beat.
“Lord, no,” the rider chuckled. “I’ll be far too busy at the horse show!”
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