Today I’m a lucky, lucky girl. I got to tour Kartchner Caverns, a marvelous experience carefully tailored to protect the living cave from the likes of us messy humans. We weren’t allowed to take anything in so we couldn’t drop anything by accident. No cameras, since flash photography can be destructive and people can’t be trusted. No gum lest someone decide to spit it somewhere unseen. No touching anything but the metal handrails. Our guide carried little flags, and if we accidentally brushed a rock in passing, she marked it for later cleaning.
At one point our guide directed her flashlight upon the tracks the discoverers of the cave left in a mud-flat on one of their first explorations back in 1974. Every scientist who has had to cross since has walked in those tracks. Because of care like this, despite the cave having been open to the public for twenty years, over 80% of the cave floor has never been touched by a human.