On our last day, we took a tour of Crystal Cave. We went to the Visitor Center nice and early so we would be sure to snag tickets (you must purchase them in advance on the day of the tour). The Visitor Center was packed with people trying to obtain wilderness permits, and this was before 8 a.m.! Thursday and Friday of the Labor Day weekend did not seem too crowded, but I would definitely not recommend coming on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. The line of cars entering the park while we were leaving was absolutely astounding.
The Crystal Cave is located on a windy road off of Generals Highway, so you must allow plenty of travel time to make your tour departure.
We saw a deer in the parking lot.
There is a decent hike down to the cave. With every step down, I was dreading our hike back up after the tour.
There is a pretty waterfall near the entrance of the cave.
Our tour guide, Wilson, reminded me of Andy Samberg for some reason.
After being debriefed on the rules of the cave, we headed for the entrance.
This formation is named Jabba the Hut.
It felt strange to be in this underground world. There were lights for the tour, but at one point Wilson turned off all of the lights for a couple of minutes. I have never experienced such utter darkness. Can you imagine being the first people to discover this cave? The kids had fun, and it makes me want to visit other caves in the future.
Back into the light. The kids were surprisingly great going back up the mountain. I think there was even less complaining than on the way down, for some reason.
For lunch, we stopped at Sierra Subs and Salads in the gateway town of Three Rivers. It might not be a place to go out of your way for, but it is definitely worth a stop if you are passing through since the choices are limited inside the park.
We also stopped in nearby Strathmore, just off Hwy 68, to pick up some orange ice cream at The Orange Works Cafe. If you are ever in the vicinity, I urge you to STOP! The orange ice cream was so soft and creamy, and tasted like real, fresh oranges! D ordered two larges, so we shared one in the front of the car, while the kids shared on in the back. D and I finished ours a lot quicker than the kids, but we all thoroughly enjoyed it! What a nice way to end our trip.