Monday, May 31, 2010

Experiencing Wilderness

So far most of the posts here have been from Michal Lisa, but now that our season is under way, we're going to try mixing things up & including contributions from the staff!  Here's one written on May 20, 2010:

Hey Y’all,

So this is my first season working with Boyden Cavern Adventure and Tours and I cannot even begin to explain how incredible my job is. Not only do I get to meet people from all over the world and share an incredible geological masterpiece with them, I also get to spend the entire summer in Kings Canyon National Park/Sequoia National Monument/Sequoia National Forest. The canyon is vibrant with life and I love every moment that I have to enjoy the peace and serenity of the wilderness. I cannot think of a single dull moment that I have had thus far. Whether I am on the job guiding visitors through our beautiful and awe inspiring cavern or just enjoying the evening on the back porch that is humbled by the towering mountains and cliffs that surround our staff housing, I am always enjoying myself. Something that folks forget about all too often is that the treasures of our world are not found in our society. Today I feel like people are too focused on the materialistic trends and values our mankind has developed. We are always trying to define our existence through social identity or monetary value. We do not always take the time to sit back and live our dreams that have been broken by this false sense of reality that has developed from the social corruption in our world. We have caught a disease that has turned us into beasts that live to satisfy our greed and egocentrism. Our natural world holds the cure to this. Places like the canyon provide the antidote to this infection. I wish everyone could come and experience places like Boyden Cavern; even a simple trip to come and visit the canyon for one day can bring peace and belonging into your life. The treasures of the world are found in the wilderness. Nature yearns to connect with our spirit and embrace us with the compassionate and soothing experience that we need. I encourage everyone to get out of the corrupted world you wake up to everyday and come and explore what the natural world has to offer. I promise you will not be disappointed. I would love to see all of y’all at Boyden Cavern this season. We will provide you with an experience you will never forget and we can provide you with information to help you best enjoy the canyon’s opportunities. Until then I will be living out my dream with Boyden Cavern Adventure and Tours in Sequoia National Forest/National Monument/Kings Canyon National Park.

Peace, Love, and God Bless,
Ethan Gray

Seeking Summer…

With the lovely spring weather the foothills had in February & March, I was totally expecting summer to come right on its heels, but instead we’ve been getting teased! We’ll have a day or two of nice weather in the canyon and then a surprise gray day. Down at the cavern (at about 3,000 ft), this means overcast & chilly, sometimes rain. In the higher elevations (Hume Lake, Grant Grove, etc) this means thick fog and snowfall…

Mother’s Day, May 9, 2010:
I drove from Squaw Valley to Boyden Cavern, and this was early into the drive, around 4,000 ft in elevation on the west side of the mountain.

The next day, May 10, 2010:
Some of the staff went to Grant Grove for dinner & internet. This was on our way in, around 6:30 pm. By the time we left at 9 pm, I had to put cables on my car’s tires.

Two weeks later, May 24, 2010:
Approaching Grant Grove from Squaw Valley:

Looking up from a pullout along 180 as I started down into the Canyon, past the Princess Campground & Hume Lake turnoff:

Now that June is on its way, we'll see what kind of weather we get now!
~Michal Lisa~

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shh, don't tell anyone, but...

...both gates on Hwy 180 are now open for the season!

This early in the season is the perfect time to visit.  Before the tourism season picks up, it's an incredible sense, feeling like you're nearly the only person in the entire canyon.  If you visit Boyden Cavern before Memorial Day, there are discounts available...  look for the coupon on our Facebook page or our monthly newsletter (The May issue isn't out yet, but here's April.)

The irony that made me laugh out loud to myself:  A good-sized rock fell onto the road within 5 feet of the gate on the very same afternoon that it was opened.  The lesson:  Just because CalTrans has done an amazing job cleaning up winter's landslides and patching the holes where chunks of the road were gouged out by falling rocks, it doesn't mean that we don't need to be cautious anymore.  Rock fall is a regular occurrence through the year, and CalTrans is cleaning it up all the time, but visitors driving in the Canyon should still be aware of the possibility that you may come upon rocks in the road, so drive carefully!

Hope to see you soon!
~Michal Lisa~

Orange Blossoms

Mmmm, driving in the foothills & valley edge means driving past lots of fields & orchards, and right now the orange trees are filling the air with a sweet aroma.  If you're coming to Kings Canyon, there's a patch of this beautiful scent along 180 out of Fresno, and there's a whole long section of it along 63 coming from Visalia.

Each deep breath is a moment of bliss.  :-)

~Michal Lisa~

Water, water, everywhere!

We're discovering waterfalls we didn't know existed!  The springtime snow melt is making the river rise & there's water running down rock faces & gullies & all kinds of places that we don't usually see it!

Photos from April 27:

Water level at the bridge by Boyden Cavern.

Our water source for the staff housing.  By the end of the season, we usually run out of water pressure, but right now it's great!!

Early in the summer is the best time to see Kings Canyon's waterfalls.  With the amount of snow we've had recently, I'm excited to see what happens this upcoming week as the 10-day forecast is showing lots of sun!

~Michal Lisa~

April (snow) Showers

Spring has brought some interesting weather; some days are warm & remind you that summer's on it's way, and some days bring clouds & storms. 

April 22:

The western foothills took quite the pounding of wind & rain two weeks ago, with Squaw Valley & Dunlap loosing power & reporting numerous downed trees.  We knew this meant snow in the higher elevations, but pre-season preparation projects at the cave needed attention, so we headed into the canyon anyway.

The trees are so pretty with snow on them!

Driving past Grant Grove Village

Road conditions were ok by the time we came through, but chains & 4-wheel drive are frequently required.

The view of clouds settled down in Kings Canyon was breath-taking!  My frequent & sudden exclamations of "oooooo" & "wow!" were entertaining to others in the truck.  :-)

Below the clouds, we could clearly see a definite snow line.

All the springtime moisture is making things green!

April 30:

This past week we got another storm, but this one was lighter.  In the morning the higher elevations had ice on the road, but once we got past the turn off for Hume Lake, it was clear driving.  By later in the day the entire road was dry, so it melted easily enough, but not before at least one vehicle had gotten stuck, causing delays.

Just a dusting here!

Our van & trailer with things to put in the gift shop, with an amazing backdrop!

There's such a dramatic difference in the scenery as you change elevations, and sometimes it's easy to forget.  If you live nearby in the valley & foothills, you're so close to this!  Next time it rains or looks "icky" outside in your area, it just might mean that the mountains in your backyard are looking like these photos!
~Michal Lisa~

P.S. To get current road conditions & advisories from the National Park Service, call 559-565-3341.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It's March 4th and the foothills have been enjoying signs of spring.  Which means that despite seeing from here that the mountains are clearly still snow-capped, I'd been dying to see what the conditions are like in the Canyon.  Authorized entry beyond the gates to access our business meant I had a shot at seeing if I could get to our property to check on things.  The weather was nice & while the road was snow-covered in the higher elevations, it dried up as I drove down into the Canyon.  There were several rock-falls to maneuver around, and then finally one slide that sufficiently blocked my path. 

This was as far as my truck could go that day, and is just one example of the many clean-up projects CalTrans has each spring.  Boyden Cavern will have to be visited another day...

- Steve

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

When people find out that Boyden Cavern and the portion of Hwy 180 that goes down into Kings Canyon close every fall, the next question is often "So then what do you do in the winter?" There's actually quite a lot of work to do in preparation for the next season, so it's a longer answer than one might think, but one of the highlights is traveling to Tucson, Arizona for the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show.

For two weeks every year the city of Tucson becomes host to thousands of sellers.  Football-field-sized white tents are set up with seemingly endless rows of booths & tables inside, first-floor motel rooms become shops, and large vendors set up in tents of their own.  Someone driving on I-10 through Tucson can see groupings of white tent-tops on both sides of the highway for a good portion of the road, and when driving on city surface streets a single turn can reveal a whole new surprise.

Many tents are open to the public, but many of the tents are only accessible to registered buyers like us, or have several days at the beginning of the show exclusive to buyers before opening to everyone.  Our job is to scour these tables to find the best items for our Gift Shop at the best prices possible.  This takes weeks of preparation beforehand so that we can arrive with a solid plan for what we know we want to buy and then also know how much room we have for trying new discoveries.  Once we arrive it's day after day of walking up & down rows, making notes, comparing & discussing options, and negotiating deals.

Vendors come from all around the world - Asia, Africa, Central & South America, Australia, Europe, and our own North America - and we deal directly with these sellers, sometimes even using a language interpreter as we bargain with international vendors.  Mineral specimens, jewelry, fossils, animal carvings and geodes you can crack open yourself all find their way back to our little gift shop and await your discovery!

We've been working hard getting everything ready for this season, and now it's nearly time to open.  We hope you'll enjoy exploring these treasures when you visit us this summer!

~Michal Lisa~

When our feet get tired and our heads are full with the day's deal-comparisons, and if sensory overload hasn't set in yet, we do make sure to appreciate some of the truly awe-inspiring pieces on display.  Here's Steve next to a single-piece conglomerate of at least seven different minerals.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winter 09-10: What a Season!

We're still a few days away from the official beginning of spring (March 20), but here at the office we've already been opening all the doors during the day, and I'm sitting outside with my computer as often as I can. It's a beautiful time of year, as wildflowers are splashing the roadsides with color and fruit trees of all sorts have blanketed the orchards with pink, purple, and white blossoms. All of this is only possible, though, thanks to the wet winter we've had, so I want to take a moment to remember & share a highlight from it.

In the wintertime we operate from our office in the foothills. We're below snowline, but definitely got our share of rain this year! In between a couple of big January storms, we decided to take Hwy 180 through Grant Grove & on towards Kings Canyon. When we couldn't drive any farther (a gate blocks the un-maintained road during the winter) we pulled out the snowshoes (me) & cross-country skis (Steve) to enjoy an untouched winter version of the road we travel so often in the summer. It was so pristine & peaceful! We didn't get very far in drive-time terms, but for being on foot & going through snow, we were quite happy with our little trek, and the way back up gave us a satisfying workout.

My camera managed to pick up the nature sounds in this video, so turn the volume up if you want to hear them...

If you plan a winter trip, regardless of where you're going, be safe. Be prepared, be smart. Plan ahead, research the area, tell someone where you're going to be & when you should be back, wear appropriate clothing & bring the right gear, and always have more food & water than you think you'll need.

Boyden Cavern is located and permitted in the Sequoia National Forest. For some information about wintertime in our area, please refer to the following news release from the US Forest Service:

We do recognize, though, that many of the people who visit Kings Canyon also spend time in the National Park areas. If you plan to be in the Park, see:

Winter precipitation results in more than serene snowy landscapes...
...more on that later!

~Michal Lisa~