30 Years in 52 Weeks – Week 16 – Year 2

Groaning Cave, Colorado

Groaning Cave

Formations

Before I got married, the only reason I visited Colorado was for the snow skiing. Now I know there’s much more to this mountainous state, and for me it’s for the underground. Picture this, the most beautiful hiking country… that also leads to an impressive wild cave named Groaning Cave.

Don and I were there for a caving regional and excited to see Groaning, the longest cave in Colorado. The cave at that time was surveyed at six and one-half miles and protected by the U.S. Forest Service.  To enter the cave we had to get a permit and sign a waiver of liability.

Groaning is a phreatic cave meaning it was made by solutioned water under the static water table.  In speleogenesis, phreatic action forms cave passages by dissolving the limestone or marble via the cracks or joints in the rock in all directions.  So in other words the cave passages were carved underwater.  The action left behind passages resembling a grid that makes it easy to get turned around.   It’s a high altitude maze that is confusing and easy to get lost in.

The cave was discovered in 1968 and was officially surveyed in 1975.  By 1995 it had 8.8 miles of surveyed passages.  On the 2010 World’s Longest Cave List, Groaning Cave came in at number 242 with a total surveyed length of 11.15 miles/17951 meters and a depth of 149 feet/45.4 meters.  The cave sits at an elevation of  9800 feet and has a temperature of 38 to 42 degrees.

The flowers on our hike to the cave were incredible with my favorites, Columbines in purples and yellows, all growing wild on the mountains. I was in Heaven before we even ventured into the cave, our reason for the trip.  Of course living at sea level and hiking in the high country makes for a more difficult climb while trying to catch my breath.  But there is something to breathing all that fresh mountain air that can rejuvenate the body and spirit.

A Colorado caver who knew the cave well led the trip for us.  We got to see the highly decorated rooms that are filled with gypsum and dripstone passages. The names of these rooms are descriptive:  Serenity Hall, White Forest, the Black Cathedral, Snowball Hall and the Land of the Inverted Mushrooms located in the farthest reaches of the cave.  Groaning then was mostly a horizontal cave with the largest room the Shattered Hall requiring a 28-foot rope drop to get to the farthest reaches.  The cave has since been pushed many more miles as evident by the longest caves list.

Let’s go!

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