Sunday, August 23, 2015

Crystal Ball Cave with Kids

 In early August we met up with some friends who were planning on moving out of the area soon. They hadn't ever been in Crystal Ball Cave, a cave I really enjoy (and have blogged about). So we set up a tour for a Saturday afternoon and headed to Gandy, Utah to meet Jerald Bates. Jerald is one of the site stewards for the cave, helping the Fillmore office of the BLM manage the cave. He agreed to lead us on a tour, and we hiked up to the cave entrance. Even our dog Henry hiked up, but he had to wait outside.

Just inside we were awestruck by the amount of spar covering the ceiling and walls and even floor in places. It is partially translucent, and Desert Boy was awed by it. Walking into Crystal Ball Cave feels like walking into a geode. It is so crystal-filled and beautiful.

I was trying out a new cave light, a Manley20. I was really happy with the neutral light and broad, even lighting it provided.

I wasn't the only one taking photos! Deanna has been really supportive as I've delved into selling some of my photos over the past year and a half. She's also been encouraging me to try more manual settings and experimenting with some cave photography.

At one time Crystal Ball Cave was wired with electrical lights, but those have since been taken out. All visitors now have to bring their own lights and good footwear for the rough trail.

An iconic stop on the tour is the old ladder, which they put up to explore a dome. The dome didn't go far, but the ladder stayed and makes a great talking piece. The cave isn't super large, but large enough to be quite interesting.

Superimposed on the spar are some other speleothems such as stalactites and stalagmites.

Did I mention I had fun taking photos in the cave? Oh my goodness, I think I took over 300. Fortunately I won't post that many!

I think Jerald had a good time sharing his expertise--and his jokes--with the kids.

He allowed the kids to crawl a bit and they liked it so much they decided to keep crawling, even when the passage was plenty high.

More kid exploring while parents enjoyed the beautiful cave from a more sedentary position.

The cave has a number of domes, so in the middle of the cave you have to walk stooped over, but then you reach a dome and can suddenly stand up and look up and can't always see the top of the dome.

The spar continues throughout the cave, although it's character changes quite a bit. The colors vary, as well as the amount of erosion.

Near the end, we paused to learn more about the amazing paleontology in the cave. (If you'd like to learn more, check out Timothy Heaton's in-depth paper.) Bones in the cave have included those from Smilodon cat, a new species of skunk (now extinct), two species of horses (much smaller than the kind that came from the Old World), and camelops. It sure was a different world around Crystal Ball Cave at one time.

Here's a closeup of a horse hoof, along with some other assorted bones.

Then it was time for a goofy photo of all the kid cavers. Hopefully we can all go caving again at the July 2016 NSS Convention in Ely.

Leaving the cave didn't mean the fun ended, though. We had great views of the westernmost arm of Lake Bonneville. It's hard to imagine a lake filling most of the valley when today it is so dry.

We were ready for some more water, so we headed to the southern part of Spring Mountain to Gandy Warm Springs (the Utah Geological Survey has a nice write-up about it).

The water was running quick and clear and at about 81 degrees. In the late afternoon light it was gorgeous.

The wetness allows ferns to grow. It is such a special spot!

And of course every trip that involves water is a great one!
p.s. If you ever go here, sit with your back in this little waterfall and you'll get a free back massage!
p.p.s. For more about the cave and warm springs, check out my book!

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