Every August the Wasatch Grotto has to meet in a different location than the usual accomodations. This has turned into a tradition of simply a potluck wherever sounds fun each year. This years event was hosted by the Beard’s, and as always the food and friends were fun to hang out with. Mike had gone to the trouble of installing a pulley into a tree, so several people were able to try out ascending to burn off a few extra calories.
Old Man’s Cave is an interesting place to visit near Great Basin National Park. The cave is a maternity colony for bats in the summer. So you can only get in during the winter months. And the logistic’s are a little tough, since you have to get the key from Ely, which is a long way out of the way from the Utah side. Pre-planning and coordination are usually key elements.
This trip someone else had done all the hard work for me to get the key and permission to visit. Steph and I made a weekend out of it, staying at the exclusive Border Inn. (At the time there was not working TV or cell phone reception, that is how remote this part of the world it.) Steph opted to hang out in the room and get some things while I went caving on day 1, the next day we went through Lehman’s Cave for Steph’s first visit to Great Basin National Park.
Our first challenge for the trip to Old Man’s was getting the gate open. After fiddling for a while, Jim and Paul looked up to find one of the kids offering to help from the inside. It turns out the bat friendly gate stops an adult, but if your head is small enough you go right through. Good laugh for everybody, particularly when the gate was opened shortly afterward.
The main part of the cave is big walking passageway, with interesting domes and other solution features. A couple of us pushed almost every corner we could, while the main family friendly group headed up the main passage. We wandered all the way to the back in no particular hurry, and took plenty of pictures along the way. There are some neat big formations in the cave, but most of the little items have been damaged in some way over the years. Makes a great beginner cave in the winter, and I don’t have any problem giving it up to the bats in the summer.
Lehman’s Cave is a must see if you are in the area. Filled with formations, it is fascinating even if only from the allowed tourist trails. One of the unique things about it is the large number of shields throughout the cave.
I have the picture of Larry as the feature picture on this post. Mostly because it is one of my favorite pictures I have of a Utah Caver still using carbide. It had absolutely nothing to do with Larry’s age, he didn’t become an old man until a few years later than this…
This was the second part of jam packed day of caving. Earlier we had gone and seen Stanley’s Cave. Then we kept trucking down the road. It was an amazingly warm day in January, and we weren’t going to waste it.
Tabernacle Hill Lava Tubes are another reasonable beginner cave area. A high clearance vehicle or willingness to hike a bit is a must if you don’t want to bash up your car crossing the lava flow. The largest flow is easy walking through tunnels with occasional skylight holes broken through. There is one side tube that gets to total darkness, but much of the tube is simply in deep shadow. Again, being well known and relatively easy to access leads to a large amount of visitation, junk, and garbage. People occasionally camp inside the tube itself. I’m not sure why, it acts like a wind tunnel and blows absolutely nasty sharp volcanic dust everywhere. I wanted a shower after simply walking through it, can’t imagine how dirty you would be if you spent a night in there.
The thing you have to remember about lava tubes is that they are black. Not just dark, like any cave. But absolutely light sucking black. Every time I visit a lava tube I feel like my headlamp batteries need to be replaced, even if they are brand new. It is important to keep this in mind as you are traveling through the tube–you simply can’t see quite as well as you are used to. And it is hard to tell a rock from a hole if you aren’t paying close attention. I recommend stopping to look around, rather than trying to walk and look around at the same time.
We walked through the main tube from beginning to end with everyone along on the trip. Afterward we rattled our way across the flow to some of the other known tubes and checked them out quickly as well. Getting off the flow and onto the “smooth” desert plain was a welcome relief for everyone.
The information I have heard is that this flow was covered by Lake Bonneville, and it has accumulated a lot of “soil” over the surface of the flow because of this. Nearby younger flows are essentially bare rock, and difficult to walk on.(Impossible to drive on.) We spent the last of our daylight running around one of those younger flows in our t-shirts simply looking for additional tubes in the 60+ degree weather. We watched the full moon come up as we talked around our vehicles back on the paved road. Jeremiah absolutely crashed into sleep on the way back home in the dark, and I have to admit I was very glad I wasn’t the one driving the vehicle I was riding in.
This was the first half of an absolutely jam-packed day of caving. We had a large group and multiple vehicles. I believe it was also the first time I took Jeremiah on a big group trip.
The day started with my first visit to Stanley’s Cave. This is a popular beginner friendly cave because it doesn’t require technical equipment like ropes. It does have on tricky little downclimb that is a bit tough for short people or kids. We had an adult top and bottom since we were dealing with a few kids on this particular trip.
You will notice the cave also has a large amount of graffiti. This is one of the problems that comes up with caves that are known, and don’t have a multiple mile hike to reach them. People bring whatever they can find to enlighten future generations with their name and current crush. I’m a little torn about graffiti. When it is new, it is trashy and an eyesore. But when it starts to get older it suddenly becomes “historic.” Somewhat of a double standard in my mind.