on November 15, 2012
I turned off in Cave Junction and at first the road is deceiving straight but that is before you get to the climbing up the mountain which is a narrow road and very twisty, which takes a bit of concentration - I wish I had stopped for coffee in Cave Junction before I drove up as I had been driving for a while already.Got up to the car park - here there are rangers to explain that there are regulations for going into the caves - no bags, making sure you take warm clothes and suitable footwear and that you haven't been in any caves recently so you don't spread a bat disease, or bring any food.Its a short walk to the main visitors centre. You have to go and book on a tour. If you are a large group it could be quite a wait, but as I was on my own I was able to get onto the next tour. The path through the caves is 1 mile long and the guide will talk through the caves describing it as a house, with different rooms, from basement to attic, kitchen to den. Like a white substance on some of the rock which was harvested as medicine to speed the healing of wounds - modern science revealed it as a bacteria that had antibacterial properties. She explained the discovery of bear bones and jaguar bones in the caves and the various explanations of their location.Lots of the features of the staglamites and staglatites have been named. I loved the 'attic' which is also known as the aquarium and Paradise Lost. You have to go up steep steps, more like a ladder to get to this part of the caves, it consists of multiple small curtain falls, which look a little like jellyfish, it was quite spectular. These caves as a national monument were first under the control of the forest service and then the National Park Service. But they show some significant alteration in allowing tourists in. First, they blasted tunnels to connect two separate cave systems into one, and an exit tunnel so as to make it a better experience. But this caused a change in airflow through the caves which damaged some features. To rectify they have added doors on these tunnels to reduce airflow. Other graffiti has been added by tourists - one dated to 1885. The Forest service tried to remove the graffiti so to discourage an further additions. But it proved impossible as a thin layer of rock had formed over the graffitti - while it may take 1000 years for an inch of rock to grow, the cave is always developing. The other interesting thing our guide said was that we are now part of the ecosystem, as we provide a foodsource, or rather the dead skin we shed as we walk through the cave does, which several insects have adapted to feed on. There are several species that live in the caves including insects, spiders and bats.The path has quite a few steps and is rough in places, and some low roof sections. There is lighting through out the caves - though the guide will turn out the lights at one point to show how dark the caves are. There is one chance to exit the tour early. I made it the whole way through and you end up exiting higher up the mountain and walk down a path to the visitors centre.At the visitors centre, there is also the chateau which is a hotel. In the basement is a cafe/restaurant and a shop. I didn't buy anything or eat anything as I had food in the car, and wanted to head down that twisty road again.I enjoyed the caves. But being in a group touring round is luck of the draw as I had three annoying kids on mine - two wee lads who mucked about the whole time and their parents said nothing. It was a nice afternoon, the tour takes 90 minutes. You need to be fairly fit and able to bend and climb lots of steps. They aren't my favourite caves, but they were fairly interesting.
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