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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Timpanogos Cave and Antelope Island

US TRAVELS: THE WEST
DAY 14-15: SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH TO RICHLAND, WASHINGTON


I finished the last 2 hours to Salt Lake City, waited for check-in at Motel 6 until 2pm, ate way too much and planned my adventures for the following day.

On day 14, I woke up early to go on a 3 hour round-trip hike and guided cave tour at Timpanogos Cave in Wasatch Mountains, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. This is a really fun and cheap activity to do while in Salt Lake City! There is a $6 American Fork Canyon Fee to get into the park (can be used for up to 3 days) and a $7 (adult) fee for the guided cave tour.

There are no dogs permitted on the trail or in the caves due to steep cliffs and bats (and their guano!) in the caves. Luckily, the park has free dog kennels in a covered shaded area by the check-in building as well as dog bowls and water. I swear these kennels were built for Great Danes and Sebastian (my 4lb Yorkie) looked pretty ridiculous in the kennel.

The trail is paved the entire way up, has "danger/do not stop zones" marked with red lines indicating rock slide areas, plenty of benches conveniently set up at beautiful scenic points placed along the trail, restrooms near the top, and emergency stations.

Credit: Melissa Lehuta


Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta

I read mixed reviews on whether the hike itself is easy or severe and my personal opinion is that it definitely isn't easy but doable. I saw many families and small children making the hike to the top, many were out of breath and looking a bit strained but the rest stops and benches set up along the way gave everyone a chance to take a break when needed.

I arrived 10 minutes early for my guided cave tour. A very enthusiastic, quirky and bubbly young woman in her park ranger uniform materialized at the entrance of the cave and quickly got her 10:10am group together. Since there were only about 5 people in the group she added me along with some others from the 10:20am group into her tour. She introduced herself as a park ranger/theatre major who was trying to find a balance between her love of theatre and caves. She reminded me a lot of my sister, or at least a future sister. As we stepped into the caves the temperature dropped from around 100 degrees on the trail to a cool, refreshing and much needed 45 degrees.

The entire cave tour is about 1 1/2 miles and takes you to a depth of 500ft below the surface. The path through the cave itself is paved with handrails the entire way but be aware that there is some dodging ceilings and overhangs needed occasionally throughout the tour.

Credit: National Park Service/Timpanogos Cave
Our tour guides enthusiasm for everything in the caves was contagious. She was very informative and knowledgeable about everything from the history of the caves to the different types of formations within the cave and how long it takes for them to grow. Some highlights along the way included "cave bacon" (picture to right) and The Great Heart of Timpanogos (that comes along with a beautiful story of a Native American woman who sacrificed herself to save her tribe).

"Timpanogos Cave is known for its high concentration of helictites - a spiraling cave formation that seems to defy gravity.  Helictites are formed when calcite crystals and dissolved impurities are forced out of a tiny central canal in the helictite by hydrostatic pressure."

I definitely recommend doing this early in the morning during the summer due to the heat. Be sure to make your reservations early! It is a good possibility that they could be booked through until the next day. You will also need to bring water, comfortable shoes, a sweater or light jacket (it's cold in the caves), snacks, sunscreen, a flashlight and a camera if you want to take pictures . You are not permitted to touch anything in the caves or drink anything but water.

After the caves, I decided to stop and check out Antelope Island since it was on the way to my parents house in Richland, WA. This island is located about 41 miles north of Salt Lake City and is the largest of 9 island in the Great Salt Lake. There is an entry fee of $9 per vehicle (day pass). The island itself was much larger than I expected at 28,022 acres and took a couple of hours to cover most of the area. The island holds many animals such as antelope, buffalo (a free-roaming herd of 500+ that was introduced to the island in 1893), deer, bobcats, coyotes and a variety of birds. There are picnic areas, restrooms (that include showers), a visitors center and a couple of concession stands and a restaurant. Activities on the island include boating (rentals available), camping, hiking, sightseeing, sunbathing and swimming.

Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta

Sebastian and I hiked around for awhile until we couldn't take the heat anymore and decided to hit the beach. Locals and visitors were piling out of cars in their swimsuits and heading toward the water. I was looking forward to cooling off but once I got near the water there were so many bugs swarming around the water and attacking Sebastian that I decided to head back to the car and continue the journey around the island. We drove around and came upon a buffalo roaming through the tall grass just feet away from the car. He was very gentle and calm and seemed oblivious to the cars slowly multiplying round him.

Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta
Credit: Melissa Lehuta

We saw quite a few more buffalo along the way and stopped by the visitors center filled with a ton of information and beautiful nature photography. I felt like I could easily be exploring the island for another couple of hours but I had a 8+ hour drive back to Richland, WA and I didn't want to have to spend the night in the car if I didn't have to.

Credit: Melissa Lehuta

The drive was long and boring, but I made it to Richland around 12:30am and was ready to head to bed!

1 comment:

  1. I've really been enjoying your blog and the pics are great! M

    ReplyDelete