Caves I’ve visited

One of the natural features I often enjoy visiting on my travels are caves. I’m not a caver, but I seem to find myself in many places that have caves and cave tours, and it’s rare for me to pass up an opportunity to explore yet another one. In fact, I’ve been to more than 20 of them—including most of the public caves in the National Park System. In no particular order, here’s the list:

  • Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument (California)
  • Crystal Cave, Sequoia National Park (California)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
  • Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)
  • Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
  • Peppersauce Cave (Arizona)
  • Fort Stanton Cave, Ft Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (New Mexico)
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)
  • Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park (Arizona)
  • Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark (County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland)
  • Sea Lion Caves (Oregon)
  • Grand Canyon Caverns (Arizona)
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
  • Colossal Cave (Arizona)
  • Mitchell Cavern, Providence Mountains State Rec Area (California)
  • Lava tubes, Lava Beds National Monument (California)
  • Oregon Caves National Monument (Oregon)
  • Lava tube near Flagstaff (Arizona)
  • Lava tubes, El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)
  • Lava tubes, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)
  • Lava tube, Mojave National Preserve (California)
  • Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

The links above are to photos I’ve taken at each place—though mind you, it’s not always easy to take good snapshots inside a cave. I have several more albums to post, and I’ll update the links once I get those photos up.

My favorite caves include Carlsbad Caverns (there really isn’t one that can compare to it), Kartchner Caverns (Arizona’s best state park), and the Sea Lion Caves (great childhood memory and my only sea cave). I enjoy the occasional lava river tube, but I’ve seen enough of them now that each new one is less and less exciting. Of all of them, I think I was most disappointed with the world’s longest: Mammoth Cave. I attribute that to high expectations and the fact that we took a 4-mile, 4.5 hour tour where we only saw great formations in the last 200 yards or so. Several of these caves are less than spectacular, but still make for a fun stop if you’re driving by.

I have the distinct pleasure of working with the folks at the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project on the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (an area of the National Conservation Lands) and there’s some great science happening there.

Note that several of  these parks—particularly the ones with lava tube formations—have several separate caves that I’ve wandered through, but I’m only counting them as one for this list.

What’s your favorite cave? Which one should be on my list?

National Parks I visited in 2010

The National Parks I made it to in 2010

2010 was an uncommon year for me in my national park quest. For years and years, Kim and I would have gone on several trips each year, all with the sole purpose of marking dozens of parks off of our list.

This year, things had changed. Even so, I was able to make it to a bunch of new parks—eight to be precise—and also made return visits to 10 other ones.

Most of the return visits occurred during personal time extended onto existing work trips. All but one of the new visits happened during my summer roadtrip. It was great to be able to mark off a bunch of parks — I’m looking at you Manzanar and Devils Postpile — that I had driven past before but was never able to stop and see.

Return visits

First visits

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Manzanar National Historic Site
  • Devils Postpile National Monument
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lava Beds National Monument
  • WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Tule Lake unit)
  • Oregon Caves National Monument

I considered ranking the parks I’ve seen this year, but it’s always difficult to choose amongst such cool places. Each is in their own way special, whether it’s because of the terrain or the memories you create there. However, a few of this year’s experiences stick out.

One of those moments was seeing the bat show at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Another was finally—finally!—visiting the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Or being part of some amazing sunset light at White Sands National Monument. Or collecting wild blackberries by kayak in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Or exploring Fern Canyon in Redwoods State and National Parks. Or spending several days kayaking through Canyonlands National Park.

There were certainly other moments, special moments, and others that are more forgettable, but each unique and special in its own way.

I’ve been particularly bad about posting photos and trip summaries from the trips I’ve taken this year. I’m hoping to start getting those up in the next few months.

So what are my 2011 National Park goals? I’m not sure yet—I suspect that it’ll be a relatively lean year, but I’m definitely hoping to mark off a few more. Do you have any national park trips planned this year?