Took a break from the heat by heading to the coast. Island Packers has a combo trip that goes to Prisoners harbor on Santa Cruz Island and then on around to Painted cave. We had a great trip out as the ocean was particularly calm so we were able to see even more dolphins then I spotted on previous trips.
The cave is big enough (approx. 1225′ long) they can drive the whole boat inside it! Dad spotted some interesting Dudlyea growing near the entrance.
Back at the Harbor, we got a little confused since I was used to landing at Scorpion bay and prisoners harbor is a completely different end of the island! We went for a short walk then ate lunch and watched an island fox sneak around looking for leftovers.
All too soon it was time for the trip home. We had a delicious sea food dinner in Ventura before heading back to the heat.
Last year I managed a visit up to Packsaddle cave but it was mid summer and I headed up a bit late in the day which made for a too warm trip. Well honestly it was hot but I survived. This year I joined a local hiking group and they wisely headed up early in the morning and picked a weekend when the weather was really very pleasant. I managed to pack extra water and even had some ice left in one of the bottles upon returning to the motorcycle for the ride home.
As evidenced in the photos there was more water present then last year which in turn meant more wildflowers and unfortunately more poison oak but I think we managed to avoid it all.
Hiking across the ridge
Hiking up the hill, if you look real careful there’s people up near the top 🙂
It was a surprisingly large group, close to 30 people but everyone seemed to enjoy the hike and no one complained that I took my time coming up the hill as I stopped to take just one or two more pictures.
Finally we reached the cave. Here I was disappointed to find my flashes weren’t triggering from the radio transmitters but I did have optical slave as an option so I took a couple shots with that and found that my dive light made a fairly good substitute as well.
flash using optical slave in the cave
So at least I got a few in cave pics then it was time to hike back down the hill.
There were still plenty of flowers to photograph on the way back
and I got back to the motorcycle early enough to enjoy a pleasant ride through the canyon before heading down to the valley where it was getting pretty warm again.
For many years now It has been a Mother Lode Grotto tradition to Celebrate Doug Bradfords birthday with a trip to one of our favorite caves. He has made this an opportunity to encourage a better sense of style and attire amongst cavers, by making this a formal affair. He certainly makes a dapper figure caving in his tuxedo!
In the cave
This years trip was a great success and while Doug said he doesn’t intend to continue (it is a pretty strenuous hike, usually leaves me feeling tired for a couple of days after), hopefully others will continue this great tradition.
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
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)
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.
Kip admiring stalactites
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.
The Three Dikgosi Monument the three Chiefs monument Khama III of the Bangwato, Sebele I of the Bakwena, and Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse.
Continuing my reminiscing from 2006 here’s part 2…
While I was sad to see most of the group departing I was glad my visit with my Parents in Botswana wasn’t over yet. Rolf was able to stay a few days longer and had expressed an interest in seeing some more animals so we headed out to the nearby Gaborone game preserve. While not as lavish as our trip to Mokolodi with its wonderful restaurant the Gaborone game preserve did allow us some wonderful animal watching especially the vervet Monkeys that made me laugh at their antics. I was especially excited to spot a monitor lizard by the side of the road as I have plenty of childhood memories of looking for these in Malawi. – I still remember my friends little sister screaming when one approached her in the water. We laughed since we had told her not to take our little boat out and she had anyway, but in all fairness it was a big monitor (over six foot) and she could have been seriously injured so we should have been more worried. We also visited the Botanical gardens again and went to see the Three Dikgosi Monument (three Chiefs monument).
This way to the caves
After Rolf finally had to leave we were considering various things to do when I mentioned I had seen an advertisement for a cave near Sterkfontein, in South Africa, was that close enough for a visit. My parents said that wouldn’t be a problem but since it was a bit of a drive and we wanted to avoid driving home late at night we’d just plan on spending the night. As it turned out a visit to Sterkfontein was an awesome idea as it is a world heritage site due to it being the location where some of the earliest hominoid remains have been found. Hence its other name “the cradle of Mankind”.
They had a very nice museum on site so we got a chance to browse the exhibits while we waited to tour the cave.
Now most of the interest here was in the archeology and history the cave itself is not a particularly decorated one though it did have a few stalactites and stalagmites. Luckily though the nearby “wonder cave” has that all covered. My parents had had enough of stairs climbing in and out of Sterkfontein but since wonder cave boasted access via elevator they happily came along. The brochure forgot to mention the two hundred or so steps you have to climb to reach the elevator.
This cave was also well worth a visit for despite previous limestone miners having removed a lot of formations from the cave there were still tons of beautiful formations. It also happens to be at the site of the lion and Rhino preserve a private game reserve so after spending the night at the nearby Big five lodge. We returned to check out the animals.
I think this ostrich wanted me to roll down the window so he could see if we had any food in the car. I wasn’t obliging.
While we did see the rhino’s they managed to keep their distance in the tall grass so I didn’t get any good pictures, the lions and some crested cranes were much more cooperative.
Oh and Zebras lots of zebras!
All to soon it was time to begin the long drive back to Botswana but we had one more treat in store for us a lovely rainbow!