Good to be underground again

Leigh in the Cave

Leigh in the Cave

Not so windy weekend wandering around wonderful winding passages.

This cave has long been  high on my list of places I wanted to visit but somehow my schedule never coincided with a trip. This year I was happy to see that the trip would take place during summer break when I would be able to go.

I was also excited as I haven’t had an opportunity to go caving as much as I’d like since moving down to Bakersfield. It was a bit of a ride on my motorcycle to the meeting spot in Columbia but I made it easy by spending the night in Ceres so it was just a short ride in the morning. There I was happy to see Kip pull up as I always enjoy going caving with him. right behind him pulled in Ben and Leigh who I had previously caved with at Millerton and our fearless leader Martin.

 

Martin poses beneath some formations

Martin poses beneath some formations

We all climbed into two vehicles for the drive up to the cave. After a short hike we reached the cave. Martin gave us a rundown on the history of the cave. It was interesting to hear it had been re-opened as recently as the 70’s then sealed closed and re-opened again in the late 90’s. Hopefully the current restrictions on visitation will continue to keep the cave in it’s beautiful condition. Speaking of which I had a horrible time deciding where to take pictures as there was enough formations and decorated passageways to keep me busy for a day or two but Martin had said we would be spending 6 or seven hours in the cave and had a couple of projects to complete while there.  Once we had the gate open I rigged the rope while Martin got the supplies ready for these projects. Kip climbed down to open the lower gate and we were ready to go caving.  Right near the bottom of the drop Ben and Kip spotted a newt (probably Taricha torosa sierrae – Sierra Newt

Correction thanks to inaturalist.org I now know it was a Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) both are salmanders but then newts and ensatinas branch from there.

Not a newt- Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

Not a newt- Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

 

I took a couple of pictures then shooed him off to the side of the passage so we would be sure not to step on him upon our return. The next main room we entered had lots of nice stalactites and soda straws so I happily set about taking pictures. Martin had brought along string and flags which we used to mark some of the more sensitive areas of the cave so hopefully future trips will not disturb them.  We continued to the area of the cave where the lions tales formations are located and I was excited to photograph them. Of course my flashes promptly ceased to function. After a few minutes of fiddling with them I discovered that the batteries in one had leaked, possibly due to overheating on the motorcycle trip up. A quick change of batteries and they still weren’t working. I was puzzled till Martin suggested checking the settings and sure enough during the battery change a flash had switched to an auto mode instead of manual. Yeah I was back in business. I finished taking a couple pictures of the lions tails and then carefully proceeded to a sensitive area where we took off our helmets in order to protect the fragile formations. Returning to the main junction we had a break for lunch then I opted to stick around and take pictures of helectites while the others checked out the rest of the cave. On the way out we stopped and Martin had a final project to complete- the lower ladder had become a little shaky as its bottom support had cracked. He successfully drilled a hole in the ladder and support then connected them securely with a bolt.

Lions tail

Lions tail

Kip admiring stalactites

Kip admiring stalactites

helectites

helectites

After exiting the cave, securing the gate and returning to Colombia we realized it was too late too make it to the restaurant for dinner and as both Martin and I had lengthy drives ahead of us we all loaded up in our respective vehicles and headed for home. Another great trip  in the Motherlode.

Arriving at Columbia on my Motorcycle

Arriving at Columbia on my Motorcycle

 

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