I absolutely LOVE caves! There is just something about the drippy damp cool air, and the amazing shapes that are found deep beneath the ground that puts a huge sense of awe and joy in my heart.
I wonder how much it has changed since then.
Timpanogos Mountains. It actually is a series of three caverns. The first was discovered back in 1887 by a guy named Martin Hansen. He "claimed" it, and led visitors straight up the mountainside and into the cave as a business. Pictures of people clawing their way up the face of the mountain...whoa. I think they were crazy.
Across the way (pictured above) are the mountains facing the cavern. Professional climbers avoid climbing those faces. Too many slides...too dangerous.The cave we were visiting was once equally difficult to access. Back in 1887 Hansen tracked a cougar up through the snow and discovered the cave. I'd say he was one crazy guy to go up such a mountain for one, and even more crazy to go inside a cave with just a small candle or lamp for light.
Later two other caverns were discovered. People had taken "souvenirs" from the first cavern, and when the last cavern was discovered in 1922, (by the son and grandson of Hansen) they realized that the cavern's beauty needed to be protected and preserved for all to enjoy.
In 1922, at the urging of Utah citizens,the caverns were established as a National Monument. The National Park Service were charged with their over site and care, and (bless them) put in a reasonable way to get to the caves and made a path to walk through the caves that were joined via some stonework passages that they created with minimum damage to the cavern scenery.
Darn near straight up....
We were give a tour time, told to go eat lunch or look around for an hour, and then start up, giving ourselves about an hour to climb.
We decided to just start climbing, knowing I would dilly-dally along the way.
The tap root spanning the rock belongs to the tiny tree atop.
Knowing that the root is growing straight down and the tree is growing straight up helps illustrate how much the mountain range has shifted since creation, and how the caves were formed.
Remember the valley floor below is 4327 feet (1320 m) above sea level. The air is thin up here!
A set of grandparents and a little granddaughter kept pace with us. People heading down the mountain cheered us on...promising (falsely) that the end was just a little ways ahead, and (truthfully) that the cave was totally worth it.
Eventually...pant pant wheeze pant huff whoo...we made it to the cavern door! A small crowd had gathered...and our ticket time was still an hour away. Much to our surprise, we actually had made pretty good time getting up there, climbing the 382 meters in just an hours time.
Lucky for us, the crowd waiting around us for the upcoming tour was just part of a group, and the group's tickets were held by someone still down the mountain.
The ranger agreed to let the eight of us who were already present for the next hour's tour "jump line" and begin the tour ahead of time. Since the scheduled crowd outside included several howling babies, this was WONDERFUL news for us! We waved a cheery bye-bye as we left them to enter the cave.
(Why would anyone want to haul a baby or toddler up to see a cave? Strollers were not allowed on the trail! This experience would mean nothing to a baby, and the protesting howls would just make the rest of us miserable! Just sayin' is all...)flowstone, it was created by a flow of water across a wall of the cave.
Even though I have been in several caverns in my life, I am still in awe of what water and mineral and time creates under ground.
stalactites still drip water.
Stalactites, like icicles hanging from the ceiling, form via the minerals left behind as water seeps down through the cave roof drip after drip after drip for centuries.
I can still hear a teacher's voice instructing: Stalactites hang TIGHT to the ceiling....
stalactites, others create drapery like forms, also known as "cave bacon." They form when water trickles down an incline. They are rarely more than an inch thick and are often translucent. A friendly Park Ranger will often delight tours by playing a flashlight behind a drape, creating a beautiful glowing piece and ooohs and ahhhs from the tourists.
shining a light up to the forms. Some where translucent, others quite solid. She nicely explained what each color represented in terms of mineral content...I was too busy admiring the forms to remember what she said.
Later (about two seconds ago...) I re-read in the brochure that the mineral is an orange-colored calcite.
I feel much better now...details like that are SO important to know!
(I'm just glad I turned down dessert the night before. Just sayin' is all....)
And Looking Glass Caver was so much more easy to reach.
A vistit to that cavern required just a walk across a small parking lot!
The star/vein/root like forms are called Helictites. Timpanogos Cave's claim to fame is the tremendous number of helicitite forms, coupled with anthodites, which is very uncommon.
Helicitites twist and turn unpredictably in all dirctions, seemingly defying gravity as they grow. Usually less than 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and a few inches long, they are as delicate-and fragile- as hand-blown glass.
(I am so glad I hung on to the free parks department brochure that explains all this...)
Early scientists thought that the forms were created by minerals being deposited on spider webs or fungi, and other thought they were formed by electrical energy, cave wind or earth tremors.
And just to show you that science is constantly being updated...
Modern scientists note that the forms are like soda straws, and the water flowing through the central canal is pushed or pulled by capillary action under hydrostatic pressure.
The push-pull of the water tension is stronger than gravity, and causes the twisting formation.
But...scientists are still thinking this idea through.
Stay tuned for futher updates..or just be blissfully ignorant of the mechanics and be thankful God makes such cool things!
The "heart" of the cave!
The heart like structure is five and a half feet long, weighs 4,000 pounds, formed drip by drop, from three or more stalagtites that joined gracefully together.
4,000 pounds deposited a grain at a time. Amazing.
(It is sort of like me...able to gain weight while hanging around via a bite of this and a nibble of that...over time.)
The guide told us that when the tours first started decades ago, they had a red flashing light installed within the form that made the "heart" appear to beat. I remember visiting Carlsbad Caverns when I was about 10, and each "room" was lit up with different colors glowing behind the various forms.
Later the National Park Service re-thought this practice, and the caverns were re-lit with plain white light, so as not to confuse people about the true cavern colors.
At that time, the red heart beat light was taken down.
The local people went ballistic, and wrote letters to their congressmen to complain.
Congress relented...and this is now the only National Park Cavern that is allowed to have a colored light inside.
Power to the people!
Can't you imagine this underwater? I can...it looks so much like when I go snorkeling in tropical waters!
Now here is a mind blower:
This entire cavern, a couple of miles above sea level, was once AT sea level.
Outside the cavern you can clearly see seashells and fish in the rock walls. I'm not clear if the mountain rose from the sea or if the sea rose up to the mountain...and then retreated. Or a little of both.
The park service says the mountains rose from the sea 30 million years ago, fracturing the sedimentary rock. Since the scientists and the park service have no records of anyone observing this 30 million years ago, I'm taking the information with a grain of salt.
(Hint: There are three kinds.)
Stalagtites hang TIGHT to the ceiling.
Stalagmites MIGHT reach the ceiling.
Oh, and drip of water that hit you from above are called Cave Kisses. I'm such a sucker for that kind of thing...I grinned like a big sap each time I got a tiny splash.
Isn't it cool that the two are side by side, yet different colors?
(My Answer: the earth continued to move over time, and drips followed the updated paths of gravity. I have no idea if that is true...but it is fun to make stuff up occasionally. Check back for a new made up answer in a few years!)
Let me tell you though...it is hard not to want to touch, and even harder not to try to steady yourself by holding one while you scoot through narrow and winding AND decending passage!
The second cavern was discovered by two bored teenagers who didn't want to tour the first cave with their folks back in 1915. The teen's parents filed a claim, covered the opening, then moved to Idaho. The opening was "re-discovered" in 1921, a few months before the third cavern was found.
The first cavern was named Hansen's Cave, the second named Timpanogos Cave, and the third one (the one discoverd by the son and grandson of the Hansen) was called Middle Cave.
It's a bit like imagining images in clouds. You see what you see...and that is that.
(The dog was about three times life sized.)
(????-Because we had gone DOWN inside the mountain and had to hike back up toward the path that lead to entrance.)