The caves were among the earliest to be discovered, in 1849 or 1850, and under the name Mammoth Cave became the first commercial cave in the state. John Muir visited in the 1890s, and found the experience inspiring:
"It was delightful to witness here the infinite deliberation of Nature, and the simplicity of her methods in the production of such mighty results, such perfect repose combined with restless enthusiastic energy. Though cold and bloodless as a landscape of polar ice, building was going on in the dark with incessant activity. The archways and ceilings were everywhere hung with down-growing crystals, like inverted groves of leafless saplings, some of them large, others delicately attenuated, each tipped with a single drop of water, like the terminal bud of a pine-tree. The only appreciable sounds were the dripping and tinkling of water falling into pools or faintly plashing on the crystal floors."
We hiked to the shed at the cave exit where we donned hardhats (for good reason it turned out), and turning around I saw a number of turkeys wandering by. I snapped a quick shot, and later on found what camouflage is. How many turkeys can you see in the picture? I count two...
I was beginning to be disturbed by something. The cave seemed to be lacking decorations, the stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone features that one expects to be lining the walls and ceilings of the cave.
completely understood; it may form when the cave is still immersed in water.
We had reached the back of the cave, at least as far into the cave as the miners and early tourists ever explored. Something special that was about to happen...which we will talk about in the next post!
California Cavern is operated by the Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation. Information about tours can be found here.