Called “the Jewel of the Underground” by its devotees, Lechuguilla is a wonderland of sublime vistas, its secrets unrolling in more than 135+ miles of passages – and that’s only what has been explored so far. It’s both the deepest limestone cave in the U.S. and, so far, the fifth longest in the world. No one, however, has chronicled in detail the secrecy, exploits, victories, accidents and inevitable politics surrounding the cave’s emergence into public consciousness. This book entitled The Mother Lode is the fthird and final installment of The Lechuguilla Cave Trilogy and chronicles the final years of this two decades long adventure. This is a landmark work aimed at a broad audience that enjoys armchair adventure, vividly told, regardless of whether they’ve ever set foot in an REI. Quick background: Two decades ago, Lechuguilla was considered an obscure pit near Carlsbad Cavern that could be thoroughly explored in less than an hour. Yet visitors repeatedly noticed a howling wind beneath the dirt floor, indisputable evidence of a great cavern beyond. A determined team of “cavers” dug intermittently for 18 months before breaking through to one of nature’s grandest mysteries – one that Indians had known of at its mouth, but that had lain anonymous for who knows how many generations. We’ve taken a dual approach to the book: high adventure and obsessive attention to factual accuracy. The former describes five of Lechuguilla’s most significant and colorful explorers, nearly all of whom participated for the entire 20 years. The collection of personalities and “real” professions is, to put it mildly, eclectic: a genius Mensa beekeeper, an exuberant emergency room physician, a Luddite hermit, a gung-ho rock climber and myself, an optometrist and onetime goldmine operator. The narrative includes our agreements, revelations, arguments, near-fatal accidents, partings and coming together of ways with an intensity that only a first-person experience can. Yet the real main character book is the cave itself – a splendorous, world-class natural treasure by virtually any definition. It’s hard to imagine anywhere as stunning, magnificent, ethereal and simultaneous alien as Lechuguilla. Knowing that words can’t possibly do it justice, Elusive Majesty has been lavishly endowed with photographs and maps from internationally recognized cave photographers and graphic artists. As one of the most important and interesting exploration stories of the last century, Lechuguilla Cave’s story deserves to told – and brilliantly illustrated photographically – in full. This is the book to do it. I am most pleased to present The Mother Lodethe final installment of The Lechuguilla Cave Trilogy for your consideration.