KELLY TAKES THE SAFE WAY DOWN FROM THE CAVE’S ENTRANCE
A few days ago Kelly had been reading a brochure about attractions & things to do in Bisbee when she came across something about a cave. Well, the mention of caves is just about enough to interest most anybody so this morning we sat down at the computer & tried to figure out where this cave was. Because it was a Bisbee brochure we thought it's probably in Bisbee somewhere. After searching up & down a few blind alleys we finally realized we were looking entirely in the wrong area for the Coronado Cave.
ON OUR WAY TO THE CORONADO CAVE WHICH IS NEAR ONE OF THOSE HIGH HUACHUCA MOUNTAIN PEAKS TO THE LEFT OF THE HIGHWAY
The Coronado Cave is located right in the Coronado National Memorial Park. We had been to the park last March so knew exactly how to get there. For our drive & hike up to Coronado Peak last March 11 ago check out our BLOG and PHOTO ALBUM for that day. A few weeks ago when we had taken ranch dog Gleeson for his rabies shot in the Coronado area we had noticed a breakfast Cafe along the way with a lot of cars outside so that was our first stop this morning after leaving the ranch about 9:30. Had us a big mess of bacon & eggs. A couple of ranchers came in packing guns so that caught our attention pretty quick. Being from Canada we sure aren't used to seeing that sort of thing. Next stop was at a feed store along the way for some dog food & then off to Coronado National Park.
THE CAVE IS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THAT MOUNTAIN ABOUT A QUARTER OF THE WAY UP
The Park is truly a beautiful place with forests, mountains, canyons, birds, & abundant wildlife. As soon as you begin the ascent off the valley floor to-wards the park you immediately notice the greenery & off to the left you can clearly see 50 or 60 miles or more into Mexico. The drive to the vistor center is lined with trees on a gently winding road. Lots of room in the parking lot to-day & we were the only car there. The hike to the cave begins right at the west end of the Visitor Center's parking lot but it didn't take us long to get ourselves off the trail. The Parks people are working on a river bed along there so we ended up walking up the dry creek bed before finding the trail again. It's a steady uphill climb to the cave & about 10 minutes after starting up we could feel our legs burning. We still don't have our hiking legs on!! The path wandered upwards with switchbacks, rock scrambles, stone steps, & easy walking fine gravel for three quarters of a mile. Mesquite trees, agave, yucca, assorted grasses & cacti lined the pathways. Mexican Jays & Norhern Flickers darted among the trees. Breathtaking vistas across the valley to the forested peaks on the other side & a backward glance showed us the Mexican valley floor below with the San Jose mountain range far off on the horizon. It was a picture perfect day with small white puffy clouds in the endless blue Arizona sky. A cooling breeze coming up the canyon kept us from sweating the steady uphill climb.
BEAUTIFUL SCENERY ALONG THE PATH LEADING UP TO THE CAVE
And then, all of a sudden, we were there. I looked up & to my right & there was the cave opening at the far end of a stony set of man made steps. Not a big opening to the cave & we could see there was a good bit of rock scrambling right at the beginning to actually descend into the cave itself. Peering down & into the cave I was aware of how very dark it looked in there. Good thing we had brought 3 small flashlights. And I had a lighter in my pocket just in case.
The cave interior extends 600 feet in length with 20 foot ceilings & several crawl ways & short passages. Stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, & helictites can be found here. Bats, Coatimundis & Ringtails occasionally use the cave for shelter & warmth although we did not see any trace of animals being in there. The hardest part was the rock scramble into the cave right at the entrance. Once over the large rocks & down the steep incline to the cave floor itself we began to quickly lose the light from the small entrance above. With flashlights on we slowly headed deeper into the cave.
WE BEGIN TO QUICKLY LOSE THE LIGHT
It was apparent right away that this was more than just a little hole in the wall cave. We have been to both Kartchner & Carlsbad caverns & this cave reminded us of both those places. The absolute blackness, the deathly quiet, the still air, & the largeness of the cavern walls & ceilings that our flashlights hardly had power enough to illuminate. It was the camera flashes that showed us the much larger overall picture. The floor of the cave was a soft gray kind of stone dust & easy to walk on. Rocks jutted up & out at odd angles. A few Stalagmites & Stalactites were illuminated along the way in the soft beams of our lights. There were dark areas that looked like small passages but we stuck to the larger open spaces & kept moving forward. Down a bit & then up a bit through a narrowing in the rock & we found ourselves in another very large cavernous room. Our lightbeams barely reached the far side. We turned off our lights for a few seconds & stood in the total blackness. Ahead we could see a faint glow high up on the cave wall so we made our way across the large silent room. Kelly waited about middle way while I went ahead, scrambled up some rocks, ducked down & duckwalked under an overhang into a smaller double closet space & looked up for the source of light. And, there it was, a thin ray of sunlight about 15 feet over my head shining through the darkness onto a rock. Looked like a tough bit of a climb to get up there & while I was briefly thinking about that I heard a sound I didn't like.
Killer bees are a very real problem in Arizona & it was a constant buzzing sound I was hearing. Peering closer to-wards the sunlight I could make out the tiny shapes of bees buzzing about. Without further adieu I turned around, squatted down, & duck walked myself right back under that low hanging rock outcrop & out into the bigger blackened room. I could see Kelly's flashlight below like a starpoint in the vastness of a night sky. And behind her somewhere further back in the darkness were two other small pin points of light. Almost like eyes piercing through the night. The pin points moved & I began to hear the murmur of voices. Aw yes, another two people have ventured into the this black abyss.
THIS IS ONE VERY BIG PLACE AS KELLY WAITS FOR ME TO CHECK OUT THE LIGHT SOURCE. REMEMBER, THIS IS ABSOLUTE & TOTAL BLACKKNESS WITHOUT A FLASHLIGHT ON
We kept our lights on & made our way back to where the other lights had stopped when we noticed something glowing red was moving on the cave floor. Oh dear!! The other lights weren't moving now as we approached, & they weren't talking either. I ventured a greeting to our unknown & unseen alien visitors & was relieved to hear a pleasant greeting returned out of the darkness. But wait, the red circle object on the cave floor moved to-wards us with it's.........4 feet!! Well, the 4 feet belonged to a cute little pooch with an illuminated red color on his neck & the two pin-points of light were clip on hat lights that belonged to a couple from Tucson. Nice folks & we had ourselves a little 5 minute chat right there in an underground cave in south eastern Arizona on a fine bright sunny day somewhere over our heads & totally out of sight.
MET THIS COUPLE & THEIR POOCH FROM TUCSON IN THE CAVE
Made our way back until we could see the light of the cave entrance again & began our ascent up the steep slope to the large boulders at the entranceway. Clambered up & out into the sunshine...... & two young guys standing there eating submarine sandwiches. How nice I thought for somebody to bring us lunch.
I’M HOPING KELLY CAN KEEP THEIR ATTENTION LONG ENOUGH SO I CAN SLIP AROUND & SNITCH THEIR SANDWICHES:))
The two fellows & a third fellow were just finishing up some eats before heading down into the cave. Warned them about the bees at the far end, wished them well, & away we went off down the trail heading the three quarters of a mile back to the visitor's center.
A STOP ALONG THE TRAIL FOR A WATER BREAK
All & all it was one of my favorite kinds of days. We got to go somewhere we had never been & saw things we had never seen. Now, why can't we do that everyday!! Nice to get back to the parking lot & plunk ourselves into the soft seats of the car. Headed off in the direction of Bisbee making a stop at the Safeway store in old San Jose for a few groceries. We were back at the ranch by 3 o'clock & the rest of the day was spent relaxing & grabbing some zzzzzzzz's. Sure had another pile of photos to work on again too.
HEADING BACK DOWN THE TRAIL
And, we handed out 4 more Bayfield Bunch cards to-day as well. Left one in the Morning Star Cafe, & gave the cave couple a card as well as the fellows outside the cave entrance plus the Park management lady in the Visitor's Center. I think we've still got about 950 cards left so don't think we'll be running short any time soon........:))
THAT VALLEY FLOOR & MOUNTAIN RANGE OUT THERE IS MEXICO
To see the rest of to-days photos go here to CORONADO CAVE PHOTO ALBUM
GROANER'S CORNER:(( Waiter....."Would you like your coffee black?" Customer..... "What other colors do you have!!"
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