By Judy J. Pinegar
We were staying in a WorldMark Vacations Complex just west to town. On Monday morning the group (John, myself, my sister and brother-in-law, and my daughter and granddaughter) decided to visit California Caverns.
In 1849 or 1850, Captain Joseph Taylor was target practicing on a rocky outcropping and noticed that his targets were being moved by a breeze which seemed to emanate from the rocks. When he investigated this curious phenomenon, he discovered the entrance to a cave which he named Mammoth Cave.
In 1850, he opened the cave for public tours, making it the first show cave in the state of California. In 1980 the cavern was renamed California Caverns and it is now a State Historic Landmark. There are three tours at the cavern: 1) 70 minute Trail of Lights Walk Tour, 2) 2-3 hr Mammoth Cave Expedition and, 3) the challenging Middle Earth Tour taking 4 hours (crawling through very small spaces). Needless to say, with two senior citizens and a 4 year old we took the walk tour!
Early visitors included Bret Harte, Mark Twain and John Muir who wrote about this visit in “Chapter 15 – In the Sierra Foot-Hills” of his 1894 book “The Mountains of California” when it was called Cave City Cave. For 150 years, visitors have enjoyed the unique delicate beauty of the cavern’s crystalline formations. Some speleothems, such as the beaded helictites found in the Middle Earth area are very rare. Others are so numerous as to be spectacular, such as the “Jungle Room’s” array of stalactites.
That tour goes through passageways into large, highly decorated chambers including newly discovered pristine areas like the Jungle Room. Here you see large displays of milky white stalactites, helictites and flowstones decorate the walls and ceiling.
You may visit the website at California Caverns
Judy J. Pinegar is a writer and her articles have appeared in numerous publications.
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