"Gary Tenen couldn't do these things, because word would get back to other cavers that Randy and Gary had found something," says Tenen. "And they'd know where, because everyone knew we hiked the Whetstones."
But the cave's location wasn't kept a secret from everyone. Tufts and Tenen took into their confidence a small cadre of friends, some of whom were capable of mounting a low-key rescue if one of the cavers suffered an accident at the site.
In their obsession with protecting Xanadu, they asked those who were told of the cave's existence (with the exception of the Kartchners and, later, the governor of Arizona at the time, Bruce Babbitt) to sign an agreement threatening, as Tufts puts it, "theological punishment" to anyone who revealed its location.
Inevitably, leaks occurred. One came to Tufts's and Tenen's attention in the mid-'80s when Steve Holland, a caver and one of those who knew about Xanadu, overheard a group planning a trip to the site. Holland played ignorant and wangled an invitation to go along. "I became a mole," says Holland. He told Tenen when the group was planning its foray, and a strategy for getting rid of the interlopers was devised.
On a Saturday morning a few months later, the live cavers, including Holland, arrived at the site. As arranged, three Kartchner brothers, Paul, Rex and Fred, rode up on horseback, one of them carrying a pistol. In a scene out of a John Wayne movie, one of the brothers squinted down at the cavers and said: "What are you doing on our land?"
Holland played dumb, but he found the scene more than a bit amusing. "The Kartchners acted like rough and tough ranchers, even though one of them was an anesthesiologist and another a teacher," he says.
After the Kartchners decided that opening the cave themselves would be too costly, another idea arose—state development of the site. Governor Babbitt was interested, but he wanted to see the cave first. "So in April 1985, the governor of Arizona disappeared for a day, accompanied by two security agents," says Tenen.
On his expedition to the cave, Babbitt took with him his two sons, Chris and T.J., who were 10 and eight years old, respectively. But before setting out, Babbitt made the boys promise to keep Xanadu a secret. He lectured Chris and T.J. on the importance of doing exactly what Tufts and Tenen told them to do, and of not touching anything.
"After this great lecture, the only person who knocked over a stalagmite was me," says Babbitt, a geologist by training who now practices law in Phoenix. "We were climbing up an incline, and my heel knocked over a baby stalagmite. My kids have never let me forget it."
Babbitt was taken with the cave. "I couldn't believe it was in Arizona." he says. "I thought we'd flown in the wrong direction."