Tag: california

Exploring the Mourning Caverns

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Calaveras, CA, the Mourning Caverns is a historical site that lead many people to it . My idea of a cave which was very much structured by fictional movies and cartoons was a horizontal hole in the ground with plenty of footing to walk on and a huge hole on one side where you could walk in – this was quickly dispelled when I visited this cave.

Narrow vertical staircase at the entrance of the cave

The Mourning Caverns turned out to be a vertical cave with a horizontal drop so deep that the entire statue of liberty could fit in it! And imagine stumbling upon a cave like this before the 1800’s – the terror of walking into a dark hole and not knowing where you are stepping led a few innocents plummeting to their deaths… and that’s what makes the Mourning Caverns an important archaeological site as well.

The 2nd flight of stairs

Getting to the part about why it’s called the “Mourning” caverns – people reported hearing these distinct moaning sounds emanating from the cavern well before the 1800’s. These haunting noises kept many away in fear of what lived in the dark below.

Damp walls with formations of limestone, calcite

However, after WW1 when the spiral staircase was constructed, the moaning sounds got very faint as the metal from the staircase absorbed most of the sound. They then drew the moaning mystery to a close. It turned out that due to it’s original shape and constitution, the dripping glacial water echoed against the large cave causing the moans.

A funny looking bulbous cave formation


As archaeology advanced, the skeletal remains were dated to be over 12,000 years old and it was concluded that the cavern might have even been used as a burial ground by Native Americans!

More frilly cave formations

The cave is humid and is around 60 degrees throughout the year. Being a Solutional cave, the Mourning Caverns offers a lot of interesting formations to see some of which I captured in the images below. One of them is a gorgeous calcite precipitation pool with a lovely hint of turquoise green.

Water in the cave accumulated in a small calcite pool
This particular calcite formation is so thin and fragile that it absolutely looks like cloth
This one is known as an igloo. Don’t let your eyes fool you. It’s over 25 feet tall!

For the most daring of visitors there is also the option of rappelling down and while you are there you can also take a really cool zip line nearby. All in all, the unique experience of walking down a 165 feet long metal staircase made from a sunken WW1 ship is the most exciting!

Flimsy looking yet strong metal rails. Try not to look down!

The echoes from the clanking metal combined with the fact that you are over 165 feet up high can leave an unsettled taste in your mouth at-least for the first few minutes if you are afraid of heights. You can feel the vibration as people above and below you step through the staircase.

And finally, the famous spiral staircase that was built out of metal from a WW1 ship!

A tranquil escape to Lake Tahoe

I was fortunate enough to make my way to Lake Tahoe last weekend. It was such a spontaneous trip that we didn’t even reserve any lodging until later in the afternoon on the day that we arrived 😀 ! Being my first trip to Tahoe, I wasn’t even sure what to expect. All I knew was that pretty much everyone I had talked to who had been there had something amazing to say about how beautiful Tahoe was.

The drive to Tahoe was a little puzzling at first with snowy mountains on one side and dry parched hills on the other. I think this was mainly because of the time of the year when half of the place is defrosting. Soon the view shifts to clear open roads with nothing buy snow covered alpine meadows in view. You’ll find yourself glued to the windows looking at the trees and the sky and the white snow and just trying to peak ahead of every turn in anticipation of what’s next. If there is one thing I learnt during this part of the trip it was that it’s really hard to take pictures from a moving vehicle. Luckily, there were a lot of stop friendly places along the way with stunning views of the lake.

It felt so surreal and I found solace basking in the same view that inspired some of the greatest minds to come up with fine poetic works. Among many other poets and writers, Mark Twain described the beauty of Tahoe in one of his travel autobiographies Roughing it. And I used to think most of it was exaggerated poetry and such but Tahoe is one of those places that in no time will have you sitting on a rock pondering the meaning of life lost in the beauty of what is in front of you!

“Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator.” – Mark Twain

“To obtain the air that angels breathe, you must go to Tahoe” – Mark Twain.

Further north we stopped at Sand Harbor which quite frankly was the highlight of my trip! There are a lot of water activities here. I saw people in canoes as well as a group of snorkelers.

I knew that there was going to be snow but there was a LOT more than just snow here – with clear turquoise water, sunshine and melting snow all at once – Tahoe really is a magical dream come true in Spring!

Sand Harbor  looked more like a beach with snow except that it was surrounded by these angelic alpine mountains all around! This portion of the lake was so clear it looked like glass. You could see right through the water. This was all so much more than I expected to see at Tahoe.

On our way back we decided to stop near Eagle falls. This is a MUST SEE stop and offers a stunning view of Emerald bay and Fannette island. By this time of the day, things were getting a lot darker.

I did my best with the camera but this picture doesn’t do much justice to the tranquil scenery.

Just behind me, the other side of this view had a small waterfall – I’m sure it wasn’t actually the “Eagle Falls” but was a small creek formed from all of the snow melt.

In all, Lake Tahoe is a magical dream come true in March. It really is nothing short of paradise  – just perfectly paired shades of turquoise, cyan and green paired by nature. It’s a huge place with a whole lot more to do than just sight seeing. I only had about a day and a half to look around but I hope to make my way back here again to see more. My recommendation – Don’t miss out on Tahoe in the spring. I will vouch for this time of the year over any other time!