Saturday, December 1, 2012
What To Do on a Rainy Day? Explore the Mother Lode Underground!
California is not exactly known for her cavern systems, but the state does in fact have around a thousand known caves, and some are world class; one has nearly thirty miles of passageways. Seven or eight of them are operated as tourist attractions (Black Chasm, California, Mercer, Moaning, Boyden, Crystal, and Shasta are the ones that come to mind). Many are on public land and plenty more are on private land (how cool would it be to have your own cave?) but their locations are not widely publicized, because a well-known unprotected cave is quickly dismantled by vandals, and the damage to caverns is permanent. You can't grow stalactites in a human lifetime.
We explore a couple of wild caves in the hills around Columbia. They occur in pods of marble that originated as carbonate reefs and shelf deposits in the Pacific Ocean in late Paleozoic time which were accreted to the edge of the North American plate by the process of subduction. The suite of exotic rocks are called the Calaveras Complex.
On this particular day we saw half a dozen 5-inch-long millipedes. I'm told they are mainly scavengers and don't bite, but I didn't experiment with the possibility today.