Posts Tagged With: crickets


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I mentioned previously that I took a drop of water on my lens. The drop of water came early in the cave. Be warned, it is  very wet at the traditional entrance. They have 27 entrances now, I cannot speak for the others.

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A flash photo looking up into a hole from above.

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In some pictures, I was able to crop the smudge.

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From a long distance and no flash, this is a cluster of bats. The ceiling in one place was bristling with those giant crickets but when the guide would shine the flashlight on them so you could see them, they would immediately scurry into a crack.

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This was a very dark area of the cave. Lighting is very subtle.

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This is a closer shot with the flash.  I took three flash pictures. I was amazed at what color came from the light when I unloaded my pictures.

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A hole in the ceiling worked through the heavy limestone cover above and water pours through this hole. You can’t see the water.  It is a thin but forceful steady stream.

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This particular tour is named for this formation called Frozen Niagara Falls. To the left you can see railings where those who can go down 49 steps and back up can look up at the falls.

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This is a view down into the “fall room” from the top of the steps.

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The falls is the end of this tour, then you can photograph what you missed on the way back. I didn’t miss much.

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These last two photos are repeats from a different angle.

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I enjoyed this cave. I don’t fear the dark or unknown or earthquakes or rocks falling  that others on the tour expressed. But there are some people who absolutely love them and can’t wait to get back under. They can easily spend weeks in a cave. I heard people say, all caves are alike, and I can certainly acknowledge their similarity. But, there is something unique about each one, too.

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When I got out of the cave, it was the strangest feeling, like this sunny world is unnatural  and less rich compared to what we had just seen. It only lasted for seconds. I guess the eyes couldn’t make the switch quickly enough. Fleetingly, it occurred to me, the feeling of let down people get when they come up, may be what inspires those to become addicted to caving.

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We lunched at their cafeteria. Great vegetarian choices made it tough to choose. I’m now hungering for the spicy black bean burger I didn’t choose over this spinach wrap humus and veggies with mango and passion fruit dressing.  Yum!

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Mammouth Cave is without a doubt the biggest cave in the world, covering 73,000 acres and 400 miles of underground territory. That figure may grow as cave explorers continue to map and explore to find the end of this massive underground water-formed labyrinth. The cave isn’t the only mammoth thing, the cave cricket above is from two to three inches in length. It doesn’t make sounds like our above ground crickets.

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We arrived at the visitors center one hour before our reservation. That hour was nicely filled by a film and the displays. Because of my difficulty to do stairs, we signed on for a short tour that only has 12 steps and an optional 98. The tours are many and varied; you will have a lot of choices.  Mammouth has tours for every adventurous spirit. I took pictures of one of the films figuring it would have much we will not see on our tour, such as this altar rock.

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When the cave was in private hands, people were invited to get married in the cave along with their guests.

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Through a hole in the limestone roof, water cascades into the cave from a sinkhole above that captures water during heavy rains.

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The cave system was occupied by various indigenous people at least 7,000 years ago. Their rush torches undecayed on a rock; evidence of their fires at the bottom of the cave from the discovery  entrance. While we don’t know much about current cave mappers/explorers, we do know a bit about the old timers.

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Stephen Bishop, a self-educated enslaved person became a legendary guide and explorer. He began guiding visitors at the age of 17 in 1838. He was the first to get by the daunting “deep hole” and opened up many miles of the cave. (Not pictured.)


An amateur explorer, Floyd Collins, died in the cave in 1925, trapped under a boulder in a sand cave. No one was able to rescue him. Sensational news coverage spurred the government to make it a National Park in 1926.

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From an original seven miles of cave, Mammouth has grown, and grown. In 1993, it was a 370 mile cave. The current mappers/explorers continue to push deeper and deeper into unknown areas, often crawling like ants in a tube to discover new “rooms”. The explorer above has an inflated roof to keep water from dropping on him and his stuff while he sleeps and eats.

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The film had photos of several different types of bats in the cave. These are only as big as your thumb.

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Caves are losing millions of their bats to a disease called white nose. It started in the East and is moving west. It has reached Mammouth in a part of the cave where no visitors travel. So, they figure the disease was brought in by the bats. But, as a precaution, you walk across a haz-mat to clean your shoes when leaving the cave, and they ask you to clean before you enter if you’ve visited a cave or a mine within the last five years.  It is a critical disease probably brought from another country on someones feet.

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We know we won’t be going on the underground river tour, but isn’t that an exciting idea?  I swam across an underground river in a cave,  hanging onto a rope,  in Cave City located in Mountain Ranch in  Calaveras County, CA. where I live. It was an amazing experience.

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A plant that grows in the cave. The connection to the outside, bats, birds, insects, fish, salamanders, all play their part in this unique eco-system. Fascinating.

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This colorful fall of eroded limestone is golden and beautiful. I’ll post my own pictures from the cave tomorrow, since we have washday and other chores today. I’m bummed because early in the tour, a drop of liquid fell on my head, and, unbeknownst to me, one drop hit my camera lens. Most of my pictures are smudged. Lighting is such and the ability to learn quickly how to take photos in a dark cave, means my pictures are disappointing.  In this little tour, you don’t find the fans and the bacon and multiple colors I’ve seen in other caves. A woman on the tour complained, “Carlsbad is much prettier. I wasn’t impressed with this cave.”  Considering how little she saw of Mammouth, I feel lucky to be here, at this point in time, in a cave of great significance and renown the world over. Millions of people go through this park every year and find beauty here, as we did.

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Leaving Stone Drum Village, we take a short sweet flight to the Provincial Capital of Kunming, (Koon-ming) a city of eight million people with another six million in the surrounding territory. On the plane I sat next to a young Chinese man who spoke perfect English. Vicki tells us all Chinese learn English in school since Mau. He and his friend were on vacation in Korea. He claimed it was scary. People on the streets avoid eye contact with you, afraid to look at you and very repressed even in a bar or restaurant. Military guards were in evidence everywhere they went.  They felt like they were being followed. You are not allowed to take pictures of buildings.  He was tempted a few times to take a forbidden picture, but didn’t. Then, when he got to the airport, the guards looked at every photo in his digital camera before letting them go. He was glad he obeyed but, it was an unpleasant vacation.

Our city guide takes us by bus to the center of old town Kunming to see the bird market. We pass by a famous curved building called the Sister Building. He walks so fast, I can’t hear half of what he is telling us because I’m trying to fill my eyes.

I managed to grab a quick shot of this guy selling dog and cat pelts. Argh! I know, we all grimaced. I wanted to stop and buy old Chinese coins from a vendor, but I was getting left behind and had to abandon my purchase and run to catch up with the group.

This area of Kunming has modern ads and minority frescoes on the street wall which is what is left of the old part of the city. The government demolished  most of the older part of town in 1953. It looked like the Hutongs of Beijing,  built on a courtyard with a common well and underground water running back to the river. The old people have to use city water and they hate hand carrying their water home  in big plastic jugs.

At this point, my memory disk is full and my camera bag is back in the bus. The bird market is not to our liking very much anyway because bird flu is in all the news and we see people  wearing masks. We saw birds in cages hanging from just about every business doorway, including restaurants. Stacked tight cages of bunnies and kittens, none of which we were excited to see. Most interesting were very large crickets in beautifully made wooden cricket cages, which they race. Rats, too, which they eat. “White meat”  snails with beautiful striped shells for sale. Vicki tells us this is the poor section of town. We move on to the flower market which is much more to our liking. The rest of the city is quite modern after being rebuilt after the Japanese bombed it.  Kunming  also has the base where the Flying Tigers were cosseted during WWII. And, it was once part of the Golden Triangle, a famous opium growing area.

The City Tour takes us to a beautiful Green Lake  Park, mobbed with people. Huge flocks of seagulls winter here but haven’t come in yet in huge numbers.

We love seeing cute kids. And the Chinese, with a limit of one child, dote on their beautiful children and love showing them off.

It is a lovely place to relax, play cards, dominoes, mah jong. Have tea. Most Chinese have small apartments and houses.  They socialize in their public places.

And  exercise together. It seems such a healthy practice, both, being outside and exercising regularly.

Green Lake Park is beautiful and enjoyable. People watch and feed the birds and koi.

I’m tickled by this Chinese woman dressing her child in a blonde wig cap as they feed and watch the koi.


We eat at a restaurant that minimizes the heat of asphalt parking by burying cement blocks and growing grass in them.  I  wanted to build my driveway in Murphys that way but the cost at the time, labor intensive, was too high.  We eat an area specialty called fish skin, which is quite spicy and tasty, along with the usual noodles and vegetables. A surprise was watermelon for desert.

Back at our hotel, we nap and read  before getting ready for a very famous evening show called the Peacock Extravaganza that features 200 ethnic peoples. The Peacock Dance is a tradition in this area  from the time of Kublai Khan. Fabulous costuming throughout, but especially this woman peacock dancer with an enormous drum moving in very strenuous  body positions. The dancers have painted bodies, the background is stormy suggesting how early peoples feared  thunder and lightening. They made loud noises to scare off evil spirits and wild animals that also fear storms. The stage settings for all of the dances are rich and dramatic.

In this moon dance, human figures float down from the ceiling appearing to fly,  flapping their iridescent wings like huge butterflies.  They dance a ritual child sacrifice  and a sensual babies birth. They danced the Muslim people bringing Buddhism to China. All done with grace and beauty. This show travels all over the world with its 200 performers.  We paid a $20 bill to see it. Stunning.
Tomorrow-the stone forest.



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We walk old town after we get back to Jiliang. The town square is teeming with people from everywhere. There are performers and  a hodge-podge of eating places. We witness a rat being carried out of a candy shop with a tongs.

If only we could speak the language. What tales might this fellow tell?

You have to cross the moat on makeshift boards in some places to visit a shop.

Like this Chinese couple we could have had “fast food”, but instead we chose to dine at crowded tables along the moat for our evening meal.

We choose various sticks of vegetables and meat served with a small wok of  hot oil to cook it in. Safe!  We avoid the snails, pig tails, pigs  feet, crickets, grasshoppers, ants, beetles, lizard  and the ever popular dog meat, even though the Naxi love their pets. Maybe they love them too much.  Vicki buys an unattractive looking bean cake with spices for all of us to taste and it is delicious. Sweets in this part of China have been very good. Our last night in Jiliang, reluctant to let go, we enjoy the street  party until 11 p.m.

In the morning, we take the bus up the mountain again, this time to view Tiger Leaping Gorge. The gorge is on the Yangtze and stretches about 10 miles  along the Chinese and Tibetan border. The Chinese claim it is the  deepest canyon in the world and are planning to obliterate it and build a dam. This gorge is also a UNESCO site.  We are hooked up with a rickshaw driver for the two miles up  the canyon.

We get our first look at what is ahead.

The rickshaw journey ends at the spot where the Emperor went hunting and aimed at a tiger. It escaped by jumping across the gorge at one of its narrowest points. Thus the name of the gorge. The gorge may have been narrower then, but from what we could see, no animal could have jumped the 70-75 feet across the gorge.

On the return, we pay our drivers off and tell them we’d rather walk. The canyon is beautiful but the road is ever more fascinating, chiseled out of solid stone.

At one point I tried to get an idea how the railing was attached to the wall.

Leaning over, I could barely see  the super structure.  For the  most part the posts seem to be sunk into the solid rock and you wonder how they built this marvelous road without huge machinery.

In some places the posts seem perilously close to a disintegrating edge. And, in fact, at one spot in our two-mile stretch, soldiers stood guard to prevent anyone from wandering too close to the edge.

We came to a spot where the road continues down an adjoining canyon, blocked to us.  Vicki says backpackers go everywhere in the canyon.Far below us, the water rushes and sings over the rocks.

In other places it is calm and serene. Always beautiful.

At every turn in the road is another sheer wall tapestry of rock formations. Tomorrow we leave this area for Kumning.

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Thousand Trails Lake Minden RV Resort, Nicolaus, California

Our first night back on the road was spent at Thousand Trails Lake Minden RV Resort in Nicolaus, California. When we arrived it was a sunny 82 degrees. Normally I would complain that it was too hot, but a delightful westerly breeze that went right through the motorhome made it just right.

Here’s the lake as seen by this Google Earth view. The resort does not have any pull-thru spaces and since we were only spending one night I really did not want to have to unhook the Bronco. Since we didn’t need power, water or sewer hookups, instead of parking in a regular space, I elected to park in the tenting area. Being more than 1/4 mile away from the other campers made it delightfully peaceful since there were no tenters in this area.

Being so close to the lake and so peaceful, when I went to bed I enjoyed a wonderful crickets and bullfrogs concert playing natures symphony!

Located about 110 northwest of Mary’s home and about 25 miles north of Sacramento, it’s a convenient stopping place for us. Today we’ll continue heading north. Our planned destination is Redding, California.

All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2011
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