One of the coolest things we did on our Sequoia trip was visit 2 different caves: Crystal Cave and Boyden’s Cavern. After the cave I visited with Mike in Thailand (no lights and we had to shimmy through some small holes), I’m sure these two would be quite a different experience. We signed up for the Crystal Cave Discovery Tour which is offered once a day at 4:30pm and is a flashlight tour instead of the usual lit tour—it’s also a longer tour. Crystal Cave is a pretty large cave, around 3 miles of underground passage and there are lots of rooms. The caves in this area are mostly marble caves (in Thailand, it was limestone). The calcite crystals that formed “rock cascades” were my favorite since they were glittering all over. Like frozen snow. It got really cold inside and once we were deep into the cave, our guide had us turn out our flashlights so we could experience the total darkness. Besides the bottom of the ocean, caves are the only other place you can experience complete darkness. You can’t see your hand in front of your face, but since your brain knows it’s there, you can experience something called imaging. That’s when you think you can see the shape of your hand, but it’s just your brain projecting the image on your mind since it’s not physically visible. Pretty nuts. Apparently if you’re in total darkness for long enough you will become blind.
Crystal Cave really is covered all over in “crystals” and there are lots of sparkling formations. Simply beautiful. It’s sad to see parts of the cave that have stopped “growing” since back in the day the path was dirt instead of concrete. The dirt would get kicked up on tours and pretty soon it coats the formations with a gray layer and prevents new growth. Apparently they have more in depth tours and that are closer to caving and you get to crawl into more rooms. I will definitely be back for that one day!
Boyden’s Cavern is in Sequoia National Forest—slightly different than the National Park. National Forests are not as protected as National Parks and they are used for commercial purposes as well as conservation and tourist services. We happened to arrive just as a tour was about to start, so we did a regular lit tour. Boyden’s Cavern was slightly different. Not as many crystal-type formations, but you could see more of the river bed that went through the cave. It looked like a smooth marble water slide! Afterwards, since it’s the dry season, we took an alternative exit and walked through the narrow river bed down the bottom of the cave. Some parts were pretty narrow but it was really neat to see it in its more natural state.