Oregon Caves National Monument
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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Where I stayed
I checked out of my hotel and drove to Oregon Caves National Monument. I'm used to just going where my GPS tells me to go. That normally works but this time my GPS had me take progressively small roads until I found myself on dirt roads on my way there. To make matters even worse, some of the valleys were so narrow and the trees so thick that it was having trouble seeing the satellites. With limited satellite coverage it had limited location information and it started getting confused about which road I was on and every time it changed its mind about which road it thought I was on it would re-compute the best route. And sometimes it thought the best route was to go back toward where I had come from. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the park but eventually it routed me back onto a paved road and soon after I was at the Oregon Caves National Monument.
Although you'd think there were multiple caves from the name, there is only one main cave. It was discovered in 1874. By the 1890s it had become a tourist attraction. At that time, leaving some graffiti in the cave and removing a piece of a stalactite or a stalagmite as a souvenir were standard parts of the visitor experience. It was declared a national monument in 1909 although that didn't stop the damage to the cave. At some point, asphalt walkways were put in. Oils from the asphalt were soon found to be leaking into the rock. The asphalt was eventually removed and replaced with concrete and stone walkways. The cave, at a total length of around 3 1/2 miles isn't particularly large. The main distinguishing characteristic of the cave is that it's a marble cave instead of the usual limestone.
I signed up for a tour. Being by myself, I was able to get on one very quickly. I enjoyed seeing the cave but it's not for everyone. The tours last around 90 minutes and are a bit strenuous. There are 526 stairs, the lighting on the stairs isn't particularly good, the passageways are frequently narrow and the headroom is frequently quite low. The cave has some decorations but it's not nearly as spectacular as Carlsbad Caverns National Park or Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park.
I drove from the cave to Redding, CA and found a room.