The Big Room

April 15th, 2011

topless_cave

Strange day today. It’s our first day back in the desert after a nice week in the mountains around Prescott. Rain and I went out for a walk this morning and stumbled into a cave.

By stumbled, I mean we were well inside of it before we even realized we were caving. We were just walking along a wash, minding our own business when a room full of formations jumped out and nearly tripped me.

As near as I can tell, we’re camped on top of an ancient cave system, whose roof has eroded and collapsed, leaving the entire cave open to the sky. You can still see many formations and someone has been spending their spare time putting the pieces together… literally.

exposed_stalags

Broken pieces of stalagmites have been stacked together in what might initially look like random rock stacking. Upon closer inspection though, it is easy to see that these ‘stacks’ are in fact a reconstruction.

The entire area seems like a geologist’s playground. I think we’ll do some more exploring tomorrow.

Best Summer Job Ever!

April 29th, 2010

Hall of White Giants

After a lackluster winter at Amazon’s Fernley facility, Jenn and I decided we’d be better off looking for a job we enjoyed than one that promised big bucks and may or may not deliver. As one of our interests is caving, we decided to try and get jobs at a cave for the summer, even if it meant working the gift shop and cleaning restrooms. It turns out that we lucked into one of the most amazing jobs we could hope for.

Our first choice of positions came through and we got workcamping positions at Caverns of Sonora. For those of you that have never heard of it, Caverns of Sonora is one of the most decorated caves on the planet. While there hasn’t been a study that I’m aware of, I believe it could very well be the most decorated cave in the world based on formations per square inch. We are lucky enough to be spending a fair portion of every day guiding tours in this cave.

The tour is a very up close and personal experience. We are literally inches away from formations throughout much of the tour. On top of that, we are working for some of the best people you could hope to be around. The cave is owned by a family that has owned the land surrounding it for five generations and the general manager has been a true caver for forty-six years. I can’t imagine a better work experience.

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Words cannot begin to describe this beautiful cave. But to give you a general idea, we spent a week training with two to three tours a day that are close to two hours long and on our first day off, we took two tours through the cave just to enjoy it and take photos. I snapped five hundred and forty some odd pictures in three and a half hours. Almost eighty have been uploaded to the gallery. The pictures do not do the experience justice, but they are far better than words could ever be. I only wish I had half the photographic skill of the professionals who have done the off-trail photos.

The pictures for this post are chosen more or less at random as I would be very hard pressed to pick favorites from the photos we’ve taken so far. At twenty bucks a person, the tour pushes the limits of our budget, but it really makes me stop and think what beautiful things we may have missed over the past two years by being thrifty. I hope none of them were nearly as beautiful as this, but I will definitely think twice the next time we pass a ‘tourist trap’ by because we don’t want to throw our money away. Some of those traps are probably every bit as worthwhile as this one. Please take a look at the gallery. I’ve yet to see someone come out of a tour disappointed; in fact, the most frequent comment is ‘this is the prettiest cave I’ve ever seen.’

NCAR 2009

June 2nd, 2009

View of Mt. Adams from our campsite - NCAR 2009

View from the campground

One thing the east coast has that you don’t have much of on the west coast is a large number of caving conventions. There just aren’t very many conventions out here, even if the cavers are at least as active. As luck would have it, we stumbled across the Northwest Caving Association Regional. It’s a little coincidental actually, since it changes areas every year. Regardless of all the random factors that could have prevented it, we did find out about the NCAR in time and make it down to Trout Lake, Washington for Memorial Day weekend.

As with every caving convention we’ve been to, the people were awesome. You don’t meet nicer, more down to earth people than cavers. On Saturday, we bummed a ride with members of the Silver Sage Grotto (out of Idaho) where we had a rather massive trip through Butter and Stairwell. I think we had twenty-four people underground at one point, counting the infant strapped to his Dad’s chest.

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Carlsbad Caverns

March 29th, 2009

Group Shot - Parks Ranch, NM

I hate to post two stories so close together, but since our internet connection is about to go from ‘two tin cans and a string’ to ‘no one can hear you scream’, I’m going to go ahead and put up the Carlsbad post along with a link to the fancy pictures.

One of the sights we were both looking forward to since we hit the road was Carlsbad Caverns. Neither of us had been here since we were children and while I couldn’t recall anything about the cave, I remember being fascinated throughout the entire trip. Since we’ve taken up caving as a hobby, Carlsbad has taken on the aspect of your run of the mill holy shrine and a required pilgrimage.

We knew our America the Beautiful pass would get us into the Big Room for free, but one day underground wasn’t going to do it. We’re trying to stick to a budget here, so rather than paying for a guided tour of other sections of the cave or other caves in the park, I emailed a couple of people in the local grotto and asked if they had anything going on. It was short notice, but they both responded and took us on two separate trips in two days with two caves each day!

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Ridge Walking – New Mexico

March 19th, 2009

The great thing about ridge walking in New Mexico is that there aren’t any trees. Well, at least not in the areas that we were looking for caves. As we drove down many a dirt road in the Guadalupe Mountains, we saw quite a few caves from our vehicle. The bad thing is that they were on mountains across the desert and we were pressed for time to find a place to sleep. Still, its quite a bit easier than on the East Coast. There, we spent hours upon hours searching for caves. In the summer, we searched through dense brush. In the fall, we shuffled through the fallen leaves and turned up nothing. In New Mexico, we could see the caves from the comfort of our truck.

In New Mexico, the mountains were dotted with cave systems. On one dirt road, North West of Carlsbad Caverns, I saw four of them on the same mountain. As usual, Johnny wasn’t able to scout, because he was driving, so I showed them to him. He then pointed out that they were moooving.

Maybe I should wear my glasses more often. That way I wont end up sticking my head in a cow.

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