The Marble Halls of Oregon Underground

Serendipity is a wondrous thing – the discovery of something when one is not looking to discover it. Oregon Caves, in the southwestern part of the state, is a case in point.

Elijah Davidson was out one day in 1874 deer hunting with his dog. After he brought down a deer, his dog caught the scent of a bear. The bear fled down a hole in the ground. To the hunter’s consternation, his dog went down the hole after the bear. Now, what was he supposed to do? Let his dog get himself out of the jam or go in and try to rescue him. Not quite sure what he was going to do find, he went in after him with only matches for light and wound up discovering the most wondrous cave in Oregon.

You can discover Oregon Caves for yourself by going on a tour at the 480-acre (194 hectare) Oregon Caves National Monument. Perhaps the first thing your tour guide will tell you about is how Elijah Davidson discovered these caves. The finish to the story of his initial discovery is that he ran out of matches while still in the cave. Fortunately, he followed an underground stream out and luckily his dog soon followed. A close call for both.

The entrance to the 44-degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees C.) cave is a locked door for which your tour guide has the key. One thing to remember about this cave is that it is still actively growing, so you shouldn’t touch any of the features. The oils on your skin stop growth of the cave decorations by preventing calcium carbonate from combining with the existing feature.

After passing the aptly named Grand Column, you enter Joaquin Miller’s Chapel, one of the prettiest rooms in the system with its well-spaced columns. They are formed when a stalactite growing down from the ceiling joins a stalagmite growing up from the floor to form a single structure. These features grow at the rate of 1 millimeter (approximately 1/25 of an inch) per hundred years. Try figuring out how long it might have taken for the 12-inch (30 cm) diameter Grand Column to form – about 30,000 years!

But the largest room is still ahead. It’s quite a sight to see and the guide turns off the lights, leaving only a candle lantern’s light, which was as the early explorers of the cave saw it. No offense to modern electrical lighting, but a cave looks bigger and more mysterious by candlelight. No wonder this is called the Ghost Room. Then again, it is nice to have the option of seeing it both ways.

A room this large has a few surprises up its walls. Up a set of stairs, which are almost steep enough to qualify as a ladder, is a secret room that was one of the last significant rooms to be discovered. And your first impression of this small circular room is one of being overwhelmed. One of the first tour guides at these caves was Walter Burch, who discovered this room. It looks like dozens of marble parachutes are about to descend upon you. He thought the sight of all these shelves and columns was a most wondrous sight and it’s location tucked up and away from the main room led him to name it Paradise Lost. Walter Burch also discovered the Ghost Room five years earlier.

The terms geologists use for cave features help you determine what it is you’re looking at during the tour. The original rock of the cave when it formed is called speleogen, as in what was generated when the cave came into existence. Features that build up over time on the original rock are called speleothems. This includes stalactites, which build from dripping mineral-laden water downward from the ceiling; stalagmites, which grow upward from mineral-laden water dropping onto the ground, and columns, which form when these two features meet and continue growing. To help remember which is which, remember that “c” for “ceiling” is in the word “stalactite” and “g” for the “ground” is in stalagmite.

There can also be a line of water dripping down along a wall and the minerals build outward from the wall forming what is called cave draperies and angel wings.

An added attraction, if you want to call it that, is one the National Park Service found while reconstructing the trail. Because of it, they decided to reroute the trail to highlight the find. And what is this new feature? Fossils of ice-age black bear bones. In another part of the cave are the oldest Grizzly fossils in North America, and they were discovered at the end of 1997. There’s a mystery for you. How did bears get this far into the cave?

While you’re thinking that one over, you might also want to think about how a Jaguar got into the Ghost Room and became fossilized. Its remains have also been found here. Well, geologists know that the cave had other openings in the past that have since been plugged up, so these unfortunate critters may have fallen down a now-hidden shaft into the cave.

You should encounter nothing quite so earth-shattering upon your return to the above-ground world. The monument does have three surface trails for your exploration, including a nature trail introducing you to the old-growth forests of the area. The Big Tree Trail leads you to the largest Douglas fir in Oregon.

Oregon Caves National Monument is amust-visit place for any nature enthusiast passing through southern Oregon.

If You Go

The cave tours are run by private concessionaire: Discovery Cave You’ll need to be reasonably fit to go on a tour of the cave. Young children must be at least 42 inches (107 cm) tall and be able to pass a simple stair climbing test to go. Children can not be carried. The cave has more than 500 stairs, and only the first room of the cave is wheelchair accessible.

Cave tours fill up quickly, especially during the summer, so try to get there early. Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the monument is open all year, with cave tours offered starting March 24th. Because of the threat of spreading white-nose syndrome, you should not be wearing anything that was previously worn in another cave. The hours when the tours start and end vary with the season, check the Oregon Caves website for the most current information.

The concessionaire also offers off-trail tours where you will get muddy, but get to see places the regular tour doesn’t. There’s also a candlelight cave tourso that visitors can see the cave the way the original explorers would’ve seen it. Both of these types of tours are offered only during the summer.

While you’re waiting for your tour, you might want to stroll across the road to see the historic Oregon Caves Chateau, a 24-room 6-story hotel that was constructed from local materials in 1934. It’s tucked into a waterfall glen with a trout pond.

Oregon Caves is 20 miles east of Cave Junction which is on U.S. 199 between Grants Pass, Oregon and Crescent City, California, at the end of Oregon Highway 46. U.S. 199 may be a bit challenging for longer rigs but it’s a beautiful byway and a lovely respite from Interstate 5. Also known as the “Caves Highway,” Highway 46 gets narrow and winding its last 8 Miles. You’ll have to get to the monument either in your tow vehicle, if you’re in a trailer, or in your towed vehicleif you’re in a motorhome.

There is no camping in the monument. The Siskiyou National Forest has nearby campgrounds. There are several private RV parks in nearby Cave Junction and Selma.

Photography Specialties

There are quite a few Americans who believe photography is all just about taking photos; however, there are so many specialties one can get into if they go to school for photography. First, numerous schools exist for those who want to focus on just one type of photography. For example, a photographer can specialize in taking just senior pictures. Below you will find a brief list of some of the different types of photography and what kinds of jobs you can have in each field:

1. Wedding/special event photography can be a very rewarding career. Many professionals in the field revel in having the ability to capture their clients’ happy memories on camera. Most photographers in this specialty start off at a small studio, then move on and open their own studio. Owning your own studio can be a lot of work, so some people prefer to go into a partnership with one other colleague to share the costs and responsibilities of owning a studio.

2. Graduation photographs, which may or may not be separate from wedding and special events. Some photography studios are just dedicated to taking graduation photos all year-long. Taking pictures of high school seniors has become more and more popular. Many studios offer personalized service for their clients. For example, they will shoot a variety of images whether it is indoors or outdoors for each outfit the client brings to the studio. A high school student can wear jeans and a top for an outdoor picture and wear a dressy outfit for an indoor shoot.

3. Photographing nature can also be a very rewarding career. The first career choice that comes to mind is shooting photos for National Geographic, which would be a really fun thing to do all the time. A lot of travel is involved in shooting nature photos for any kind of magazine or periodical. Nature can include living animals in their natural habitat and non-living things in their natural habitat. With this track, you would usually be working for a magazine and you would travel with a journalist to whatever site is chosen for the article.

4. Finally, another popular direction for photographers is to shoot models for magazines and/or fashion shows. This is a very difficult field to get into because it is seen as the most glamorous. Many people would love to be involved in photo shoots with models and celebrities for one of the more popular magazines, but there are a limited number of jobs in that type of industry.

Contrary to popular belief, there are so many directions one can take their photography careers in once they are finished with all the schooling. Which you decide will depend on how you want to spend the rest of your career. If you want to settle down, stay in one place and have a family then maybe starting your own studio would be best for you and doing special events might be good for you. If you want to travel a lot and maybe not settle down anywhere in particular, then maybe the nature photography track would be best, since photography for any type of nature magazine usually requires a lot of travel.

5 Cool Facts to Know About Garner State Park

Would your ideal vacation spot be a perfect natural haven filled with hiking, canoeing, tubing, geocaching, and even dancing? For many the answer is yes, and each year many outdoor enthusiasts choose Garner State Park as their ideal summer destination. Chock full of numerous nature-based activities, loaded with Mother Nature’s wonders, and highlighting the beauty of The Frio River, this state park could be your prime location for summer outdoor adventures as well. Are you unfamiliar with this amazing state park in Uvalde County? Here are 5 cool facts to know about Garner State Park.

1. Location

This beautiful state park is located in Concan, Texas on the southwestern edge of what is known to be the Edwards Plateau in the Balcones Canyonlands. It was created during the Cretaceous age due to fault line activity. Deep cliffs and mesas define this picturesque canyon land and surround clear rivers and streams perfect for fishing, canoeing, and tubing. The location, although visited by many year after year, remains mostly unchanged by human activity. The natural changes that occur due to weathering, flooding, or plant growth are allowed to constantly redefine the landscape without human intervention.

2. Wildlife

Being that the naturalness of this park is preserved as much as possible, much wildlife live and thrive there. Visitors to the park will frequently spot this wild life around them. Squirrels, raccoons, and white-tailed deer are the most common, but more exotic animals exist there too. Look for Rio Grande turkeys and mourning doves amongst a whole selection of various birds. If you are a bird watcher then you are in for a treat. The golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, both endangered species, nest in the park from spring until summer.

3. The Frio River

Rising from springs as the West Frio River, it promptly joins 2 other tributaries and flows southeast for 200 miles before draining into the Nueces River. The name Frio means cold in Spanish and this name perfectly describes the fresh cool waters that lure swimmers and campers up and down the length of its banks. This river is given a shout-out in the song, “All my Ex’s live in Texas,” by George Strait who grew up in Frio County.

4. Geocaching

Merge the joys of hiking and exploring with a scavenger hunt and you have geocaching. Hundreds of geocaches are hidden throughout the park and can be found using a GPS device or an app on a smart phone with GPS capabilities. The GPS device tells you how far away a geocache is and you must go off searching for it. They can be hidden in trees, under rocks, or even placed behind signs and landmarks. Often times a geocache will house a log book so you can write in your name and claim victory over that treasure forever.

5. Dancing

Back in the 1940’s during summer evenings, people would gather at the park’s concessions building and host a dance. This tradition has survived to this day and the park hosts dances each evening. They are very popular and require early arrival as they fill up quickly.

As you can see, this national park is a wonderful vacation destination filled with wildlife and natural beauty.

A Retired, Single RV’er Travels

For some 30 years I practiced law in Mesa, Arizona. (Please don’t hold that against me. I really wasn’t a very good lawyer.) When I was about to turn 62 years old and collect social security I decided to quit my practice and go camping. I already owned a Coleman tent-camper and a small pick-up. My marriage had gone to hell and I had a bad case of the woe-is-mes. I decided that a few days or months on the road would be a treat.

I loved it immediately. I spent weeks and months in campgrounds around the Southwest. I fished in dozens of lakes and met dozens of people, most of whom were far finer persons than

those I had associated with in my practice. I enjoyed them all but found that most were either married or seriously mated. I was still in a couples society. I was not really a part of any social group. I missed sitting around the fire and telling lies to people with my own lifestyle. I loved the RVing lifestyle but missed a closer social life. Then I discovered Loners on Wheels, Inc.

I don’t know where I first heard about the Loners on Wheels (LoWs) but somehow I was invited to a camp-out sponsored by the Tucson chapter. I loved it! Here were a bunch of campers, just

like me, having the time of their lives. Card games every night. Happy hour each evening. Coffee together each morning. Hikes and fishing and doing nothing. It was great! I joined

immediately.

A few words about the LoWs. This is a club composed of thousands of single campers. It has chapters in every state and most of the provinces of Canada. To be a LoW, one must be legally single and have a desire to socialize and camp with other singles. It is not a dating service. If your sole purpose is to find a mate, you can do much better with Parents Without Partners or any one of a number of like organizations. The 3,000 or so members of this club plan camp-outs at least once a month. We band together simply because we are not comfortable with the couples only society from which we all came. In this club we can enjoy wonderful social activities and

yet retain our happy single lifestyle.

Many of us LoWs are retired. The RVing lifestyle was made for us. Most of my family are working their hearts out trying to get to the point where I now am! We still have loving family and friends “back home” but they simply don’t have the time to give us the love and affection we find in this club.

Come join me!!

Half Moon Lake Trail – Alpine, AZ

The Half Moon Lake Trail is located in the Williams Valley Winter Recreation Area of the Apache National Forest and falls under the jurisdiction of the Alpine Ranger District. The Half Moon Lake Trail is the longest in the trail system, approximately 10 miles and offers year around recreation for hiking and biking during the summer and x-country/back-country skiing in the winter.

Directions: Approximately 4.5 hours from Phoenix, Tucson or El Paso. From the intersection of US191 & US 180 in Alpine, Arizona. Travel north on US 191 approximately 2 miles to the Forest Road 249 turnoff. During the summer the sign reads “Big Lake” with an arrow pointing west and in the winter the sign is flipped down and reads “Williams Valley Winter Recreation Area”. Turn west and travel 3.4 miles to a wide spot in the road with a Forest Service kiosk just below the road berm (south side). This locates you in the middle of the Williams Valley Winter Recreation Area. The area is closed to motorized travel. N3351.760′ & W10913.205′ – Elevation 8675′.

Head due south across the meadow, climb a slight incline and head for the tree line. You will pick up a trail known as the Valley Loop. Head west on this easy to follow trail as it meanders through the forest, veers south, passes a gate and opens up into Lookout Meadow. N3351.615′ & W10913.775′ – Elevation 8800′. The Lookout Meadow Loop is a great short outing in itself, perhaps 1 1/2 hours and back to your vehicle. However, if you have a few extra hours, veer to the right (SW) and bust a move uphill for a half mile or so. You will come to a fork in the trail with a sign designating the right fork as Up & Over. There is no trickery here, the trail literally goes up and over and is only about 1/3 of a mile long. Once you are “over” – you will be on the Isolation Meadow Trail. N3351.430′ & W10914.155′ – Elevation 8770′. Take this trail to the southeast for a long uphill slog, you will pass a cool little water tank that’s a lot deeper than it looks! Continue uphill and you will arrive at a woodpile in the trail with a gate just beyond. Travel though the gate approximately 200 yards and to the northeast you will see a “blue diamond” as a trail designation attached to a large aspen tree. N3351.050′ & W 10914.055′ – Elevation 8980′.

For the next 3/4 mile you will be heading in an easterly direction and slowly climbing – the trail is established, but look for the blue diamonds in the trees to keep you on route. Eventually you will come to a two-track road. N3350.975′ & W10913.635′ – Elevation 9020′. Follow this two-track uphill to the northeast, the blue diamonds will still guide you along. Once you “top-out” the trail will begin to meander through the forest with the odd undulation and occasional meadow. You will pass a trail named Ya Hoo, this trail will drop you back down to Lookout Meadow if you’re running short on time. However, the next couple of miles is the best part of the day since you are now on the Half Moon Lake Trail! Within a 1/4 mile on your left (east) will be Half Moon Lake itself. N3350.765′ & W10912.840′ – Elevation 9200′. For most of the year the lake is dry and is pretty much a “mud hole”, but after the spring snow melt and during monsoon season the lake does fill up with water. This is a great camping destination and a favorite hang out for massive bull elk.

After leaving Half Moon Lake the trail is pretty easy to follow with blue diamonds in the trees every few hundred feet. You will stay on top of the mountain (part of South Mountain) for a mile and then the trail will drop off back west. You will come to an open area and for lack of a better term an “intersection”. There will be a blue diamond in a ponderosa pine with an arrow pointing west. N3350.560′ & W 10911.935′ – Elevation 9350′. This is now a two-track road again, follow it for 3/4 mile and it will make a gradual descent. To your left (SW) you will notice a meadow forming through the trees, it’s best to cut through the trees and into the meadow. However, if you stay on the two-track it will drop you midway into the meadow. This is the start of three “Hanging Meadows” that drain the north slope of the entire area. This is one of the most beautiful and remote location in Alpine… it is also the locals favorite area for skiing since there are numerous telemark ski hills and great sunny picnic areas.

Continue to travel to the west and follow the meadows edge (either side) downhill. You will come to another water tank, which is also deeper than it looks! N3350.805′ & W10912.535′ – Elevation 9200′. To the south and uphill of this tank is another large meadow which is fun to explore on skis or hiking – it’s also loaded with great camp locations. As you look downhill and to the west, you will see the last of the three Hanging Meadows. Continue downhill and go up and over a Forest Service berm. This trail is quite rocky with loose scree; it’s a great place for mountain bikers that prefer “rock gardens”. Within a half mile you will pass the lower trail head of Ya Hoo, another half mile and you will drop into the eastern edge of Lookout Meadow. N3351.275′ & W10913.425′ – Elevation 8880′. You will pass another gate and continue along the two-track road which is on the northern edge of Lookout Meadow – another half mile and you will recognize your original point of entry into Lookout Meadow a few hours before.

The route described is over 10 miles and will take 3-4 hours hiking or 2 hours to bike or ski. Keep a close watch on the weather, especially during our July-September monsoon season, it rains almost every afternoon with frequent lightening strikes.

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