The Mojave’s subterranean secret
California’s Mitchell Caverns “introduced me to a world I’d never experienced,” said James Dorsey in the Los Angeles Times. Entering these limestone caves in the Mojave Desert, I stepped into a “colorful subterranean wonderland” that seemed made for an adventure movie. “Surreal sculptures snaked their way down from the towering roof or ascended majestically from the floor, forming towers, pillars, and chandelier-like protrusions.” Although the caves were occupied for centuries by Chemehuevi Indians, they are named after Jack Mitchell, a businessman who retreated to the Mojave after 1929’s stock-market crash. He built a house near the caverns, and guided tours by torchlight until the ’50s. Today his house is a visitors center on state park land and a launch point for weekend tours. “No spelunking experience” is necessary for two of the caves. A third, though, can only be entered via a 300-foot drop. Contact: parks.ca.gov/?page_id=25146
Southwest Louisiana’s cultural gumbo
Situated halfway between New Orleans and Houston, Lake Charles, La., is part Cajun, part Creole, and “a little rough-and-tumble Texas,” said Laura Reiley in the St. Petersburg, Fla., Times. It’s this “wild, eclectic mix of cultures” that gives Louisiana’s fifth-largest city its “unique spice.” There’s so much flavor, the only question is what to taste first. Because Lake Charles is the state’s “festival capital,” your visit is likely to coincide with one of 75 festivals held annually; if it doesn’t, you may want to stop at the Mardi Gras Museum, home to a costume collection that comprises amazing “confections of feathers, glitter, sequins, and jewels.” The turreted and filigreed homes of the nearby Charpentier Historic District are also worth seeing; you can detour into it while following the Boudin Trail, a self-guided driving tour on which every stop serves a version of the city’s famous sausage.