Sunday, November 7, 2021

Timpanogos Cave Resto Camp (Behind the Scenes)

I finally had the opportunity to attend Timpanogos Cave's Restoration Camp. This is held annually, usually in October. Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located in American Fork Canyon, near Salt Lake City, Utah. 

They had held a grand opening of their new visitor center the week before, and I was eager to check it out.

They have fun exhibits outside.

Informative signs direct folks on what to do.

Inside there's an information desk. 

A small Western National Parks Association bookstore and some exhibits make up the rest of the visitor space.

I thought the Speleopoetry area was a fun way to let people be creative.

They had a nice exhibit that shows what happens when people touch cave formations.

The trash in the caves exhibit turned out nicely. (Some of the lint is from Lehman Caves, as it is "nicer" than the Timpanogos lint! ha,ha! That's because Lehman Caves is drier so the lint doesn't get so matted down.)

There's a small fake cave to explore.

This packrat was a fun part of the cave.

I liked how they highlighted different kinds of speleothems. They also have a video screen that lets visitors check out the virtual tour of the cave.

Timpanogos Cave is over a mile away and about 1200 feet above the visitor center.

They have a couple bottle filling stations.

Participants met in the courtyard for a briefing before we started our hike to the cave.

They have lovely bilingual trail signs.

They also have some nice Fitness Checkpoint signs. Daily walkers/joggers travel the trail to get some exercise.

This geologic sign really came to life with samples of the rock layers on it.

A couple tunnels are located along the trail.

This one has a gate and is closed at night.

Many of the participants were interpreters. They had finished giving tours on Sunday but were staying through the week to help clean the cave and visitor center.

I was happy to catch my breath at each of the many signs along the trail.

The maintenance folks drove the "pumpkin" up the mountain, which carried quite a bit of gear.

This sign pointed out how much the land outside the valley has been developed.

This is probably one of the most scenic outhouses in the country!

Near the cave entrance we had another opportunity to touch.

Timpanogos Cave tour actually goes through three caves that are connected by tunnels.

We gathered supplies and then headed in.

I was curious about their emergency gear located near the entrance.

My first task was to go with another caver to the entrance of Middle Cave, located high above the path, to retrieve a couple dataloggers. We had fun on the rebelays.

Not many people see this gate.

The passage here isn't particularly remarkable, a long slit in the rock.

Back on the trail, we met up with the physical science tech and she downloaded the temperature and humidity datalogger and showed us the results.

Then it was back up to a ledge to clean that off. We saw where some of the main electrical cables came into the passage.

The helictites were amazing.

I admit, I may have gotten a little distracted!

Back down on the trail, volunteers were diligently picking lint off walls. The lint comes off visitors' clothing (along with hair and skin cells), and then sticks to the cave. Without regular cleaning, it builds up and gets quite ugly, provides an unnatural food source, and can even alter the pH of the cave walls and formations, altering natural processes.

Different tools are used for different surfaces. Toothbrushes, paintbrushes, and tweezers are favorites.

At lunch I found the secret alcove where the park rangers go. (Note that the sky is sunny in the background.)

Masks are required in the cave, and this cute sign helped to inform people about that.

Peek into the ranger break room. They have electricity up there, so they can use a microwave and fridge for their lunches.

After lunch we went to a different part of the cave. Because I'm working on a big cave relighting project, I was very interested in what Timpanogos is doing. They are also planning on a big relighting project, partly because they've had to get creative to keep the current system working.

Switchboxes are a particular problem area for them.

They are conducting a lot of science in the cave, including a dye trace study. A charcoal packet is at the base of the stairs on the left. It will collect trace amounts of dye that can then be seen in a lab. There are several more in other areas of the cave, and help cave managers understand how water flows from the surface into the cave.

You can see a little more of the cave and trail in the photo below.

I liked the marking on the pavement about the low ceiling ahead.

It was quite low!

Near the final wood door we also found a bat gate. There are several entrances on this end of the tour.

They allow for animals like packrats to come in. Sometimes the packrats bring in shiny human trash, and our mission was to remove it.

We found some and then we found historic soda pop bottles, made in American Fork.

A look at their communication system in the cave.

Then it was time for us to pick lint. Black lights really help to show the lint, as it shows up in all different colors.

It was fun chatting with the other volunteers, from admin, interpretation, and resource management. I was really impressed how cleaning the cave was a whole-park effort.

I didn't see much cave biota, but I did see this fly. And now that I'm looking at the photo, I see lots of lint and hair on the wall behind it!

On the way out we took a quick detour to admire more helictites.

Some parts of the cave are really well decorated. Helictites are definitely a highlight. They are speleothems that seem to defy gravity and grow at all sorts of angles due to capillary pressure.

When we exited the cave at the end of the day, it looked a lot different. It was raining a slushy mixture.

Not everyone had raincoats, so there was some improvisation.

We had to watch our footing on the steep trail. We also had to step around numerous rocks that had fallen.

Some of the waterfalls were quite impressive.

The path had become a stream in places.

When we got lower, the colorful leaves covered the wet path.

And then we were back to the warm visitor center. I was only able to participate for one day, which ended up being the length of the restoration camp because that rain turned into deep snow and they had to close the path for several days. I'm sure glad I got to participate and hope to go back again before too long. For more on Timpanogos Cave, check out their website: Timpanogos Cave National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) (

1 comment:

Andrea said...

We had a great visit there several years ago.

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