On Saturday, Sept 9 we left at the crack of dawn (5:30am)  to meet Brianne, Brian, Judy and Lisa near Sonora for some cave spelunking and exploring!  Brian and Lisa were planning on doing an adventure tour of the Moaning Cavern and invited Kevin along (which was perfect timing since Kevin’s birthday had just passed so it was his birthday present!) and Judy, Brianne and I settled for the walking tour (which was about as adventurous as we were ready for).

It’s not often we see the sunrise!

Moaning Cavern Park

We had anticipated a 3 hour drive but it only took us 2 hours (I was driving, go figure 😉 ) so we got there before the park even opened.  We entertained ourselves with a furry little critter that became a close friend for a half hour or so…Smokey the cat.

Yawn! It was early for Smokey too.

The gang met up with us not too long after the park opened and we made our way to our respective tours.

Judy took this photo of the group before we went underground: Brianne, me, Brian, Kevin and Lisa

Damn, I forgot to buy my commemorative Moaning Cavern hard hat.

We asked if it’d be possible for our walking tour to start earlier than their adventure tour so that we could meet them at the bottom of the cave after they repelled down and luckily that worked out!  So Judy, Brianne and I followed our tour guide while K, B and L anxiously waited for their tour to start.

The first stop was in a little back room which had the above map posted on the wall.  If you click it to enlarge the image you can see blue arrows and green arrows–the blue ones were where K, B and L went repelling down the 165-foot drop through the earth and the green arrows were where Judy, Brianne and I went walking down the stairs (like sane people) to meet them in the middle of the cavern.  After we met up, K, B and L continued their tour farther down the cave and came back up a couple hours later.

The hole through the ground that K, B and L were going to be dropping down into.  Crazy!!

The narrow and steep staircase that J, B and I went down.


We stopped for a bit after the narrow staircase to talk about the cave and the different formations found there and about all of the people who, over thousands of years, had fallen to their death and whose bones were discovered recently (creepy!)  This is the platform we stood on and the 234-stair spiral staircase you see to the right is the one that Judy and I went down later to meet K, B and L after their repelling adventure.

Can you spot Brianne?

Judy braving the staircase!  It was really creepy, I was gripping the handrails like nobody’s business.

Kevin was the first to volunteer to go down, he made it look so easy!

Kevin, aka “Cliff”

Then I decided to go back up the staircase so that I could take photos of Lisa and Brian as they repelled down.  This photo was taken mid-way up the stairs looking down at Judy and Kevin.

Lisa making her way down, she looked like a pro!

Brianne and I holding down the fort

The view from the very top of the staircase.  You can see my shoes in the bottom part of this photo and the two orange blips are Kevin and Lisa, the white/green blip is Judy.  I’m getting spooked just looking at this photo.

Brian making his way down

Judy took this photo of the three of them finished rappelling.

After the three of them got untied from the rappelling ropes, they continued even farther down below the cave through crawl spaces.  Kevin said that they had funny names of some of the crawl spaces: Godzilla’s Nostril, Pancake Room, Meat Grinder, Black Hole and, my personal favorite, the Birthing Canal.  He said that there was one point where you had to lie on your back and pull yourself through this extremely narrow space, it was so narrow that the tip of his hardhat was hitting the top of the space at times.

While they were crawling through the earth, Judy, Brianne and I made our way back out into the open air to do a little bit of exploring but mostly just chatting and waiting for our adventure trio to return.

The Moaning Cavern Park has quite a few activities including panning for gold and a zip line.

The park even had a cockatoo named Cuddles!  He was super friendly and he entertained Brianne and I for a good half hour or so.

Pretty bird.

One other park visitor encouraged me to pet him (even though the signs said “DON’T PUT YOUR FINGERS IN CAGE”).  It was a little freaky at first but you could tell he was totally in love with being pet on his neck.

Me and Cuddles sharing a moment.

After 1.5 hours or so the adventure trio made their escape and met up with us.

The tired, but happy, adventurers!

They weren’t kidding about wearing old clothes.

We were all starving afterwards and took up the suggestion of one of our tour guides to check out The Pickle Barrel for lunch in Angel’s Camp.  My favorite food in the whole entire world is sandwiches and after going vegetarian I felt like I haven’t been as excited to eat at delis because generally the only veg option is Subway-esque (yuck).  But The Pickle Barrel actually had two delicious options and I was as happy as a clam getting my sandwich fix.  And I don’t think the meat eaters of the group were disappointed either.  🙂

The little downtown area of Angel’s Camp was pretty cute so we spent a little time exploring.

I think Kevin might have a chance to get into the “Independent Order of Odd Fellows”, what do you think?

Creepy statue in one of the antique stores.

Photo of the sidewalk tile commemorating the 1983 frog-hoppin’ winner “Johnny Jumper” (that’s the year me and K were born so I thought it appropriate to take a photo of this one).

After getting cleaned up at the motel we stayed out (thanks for letting us crash with you guys!) we went out to try the “best pizza in Sonora” at Mountain Mike’s.  Not too shabby!  We spent the night playing Phase 10 (an awesome card game) and then before saying our goodbyes the next morning ate at the “best breakfast joint in Sonora” at Woods Creek Cafe (super cute place covered in cow memorabilia and pretty good food to boot!)

It was so great seeing the gang for the weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift for Kevin to land in my lap!  🙂