Learning about caves--for kids
|What do you think of when someone mentions caves? Do bats come to mind? Huge, shadowy clouds of flapping bats diving for your head; tangling their little claws in your hair? Do you think of gigantic stone icicles hanging from the ceiling, dripping mineral water? Or maybe you think of dark spaces with a little flashlight beam leading you along an unknown path?
Not every cave is alike. That's the fun of visiting them; they all have something different for you to discover. A fantastic website that will give you lots of information on various types of caves is called The Virtual Cave at http://www.goodearthgraphics.com/virtcave/
My first experience with caves was looking into the Ape Caves near Mt. St. Helens, WA with my dad. I don't remember actually going in--maybe he didn't let me. The idea of caves has always been attractive to me though; kind of mysterious and spooky. And why is it called Ape Cave? Maybe it's the home of a local Sasquatch?
Anyway, the Ape Caves, as I learned later, are lava tubes. That means that long ago when the mountain was erupting lava instead of ash, this cave was like a pipe that the lava flowed through. It's about three times as high as I am, and you can see the wavy lines on the walls where the lava flowed at different heights during different eruptions. It makes me feel as if I'm in the burrow of one of those imaginary giant worms that some fantasy stories describe. It goes on for about half a mile or so--take a light if you go!!
Later I had a chance to visit other caves. Near Bellingham, WA, there are some caves on Chuckanut Mountain that are tallus block caves. This means that large chunks of the mountain fell down in a heap, and the spaces between them have become caves. I've been into those with a group of people who had already explored them, and found that there was kind of a tunnel where you could squeeze into one end on your stomach, crawl along for awhile until you came to a larger space to sit up in, and then wiggle out another space at the other end. It was fun until the lights went out, and then I was afraid I'd never get out! But I did.
The next cave I visited was also in Washington State, near Mt. St. Helens.
Another very different cave is in Arizona. In fact, there are a number of great caves in the Southwest. The site I visited was called Kartchner Caves.
This cave is much bigger that the Lava Tubes, and it has formations that are more like what you read about in books on caves--stalagmites and stalactites, and so on. Here a guide takes you into the cave on a lighted path through large rooms with many different things to see.
Depot Bay; the Spouting Horn (sea cave)
Mt. Rainier Ice Caves
Check out these interesting websites for lots of cave info.
Lava Tubes: www.oregongrotto.com/mtsthelens
National Speleological Society http://www.caves.org/
Virtual Cave http://www.goodearthgraphics.com/virtcave/
(include links to various websites)