|A nearly empty New Melones Reservoir and the gray marble of the Calaveras Complex.|
|Oak woodland in the vicinity of the caves|
|Signing the cave register|
Other speleothems are called flowstone features. These are cave decorations that develop as water flows out the walls of a cavern. These might include draperies, shields, or rimstone pools.
|An Ensatina Salamander from a trip to the cave in 2003.|
The wilderness caverns of the Sierra Nevada are a precious and irreplaceable resource. The breaking of any speleothem destroys the result of thousands, even tens of thousands of years of slow development. They can never be replaced in any kind of human lifetime. A major part of our preparation for this trip was instruction in the ways of clean caving, conducting ourselves in such a way as to protect the cave to the greatest extent possible (the simple act of exploring has effects).
We climbed out of the cave and headed back up the long hill. It had been a great day in the Sierra Underground. You have no doubt noted that I have not provided the names of the caves we explored. If you want to get involved in cave exploration, you should contact your local grotto of the National Speleological Society. They provide instruction and training, as well as chances to clean and rehabilitate caves that have been damaged by vandals and overuse. They are great people. And don't forget, the tourist caves in the Mother Lode are wonderful. They are safe and easy to explore. Check them out!