Across from the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitors center and gray whale skull at Point Reyes National Seashore is a concrete dome that appears to be some type of military bunker:
In reality, it has nothing to do with the military and everything to do with being able to survive. The dome is actually part of a water collection system since fresh water was a continuing problem for those that lived out on Point Reyes. As explained on an information placard by the concrete dome:
Although surrounded by seawater, the Point never had adequate wells or springs to supply fresh water. The lightkeepers were forced to devise this elaborate system for catching and storing rainwater. They piped the cistern water to the residences and down to the fog signal for making steam.
The dome in front of you covers the cylindrical concrete cistern. The catchment area around the cistern extends far up the hillside and captures runoff from natural rock formations.
The information sign can easily be missed because those arriving tend to focus on the visitors center and the sign is around a slight bend on the way out.
While the cave formations in Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA) are undoubtedly wonderful, there is also a man made part of Crystal Cave that is bound to attract your attention. Before you enter Crystal Cave, you will pass through a spiderweb gate. With the cave formations all around, the spiderweb gate, which contains several hundred pounds of steel, gives the cave the feel of entering a haunted house:
In the center of the spiderweb gate is a spider that weighs in at 19 pounds and has the appearance that it is almost as popular to touch as Touching Rock:
After passing the wind swept trees on your way to Point Reyes Lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore, you will reach the Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitors Center. Just outside the visitors center to the left is a gray whale skull:
Along with some other gray whale bones:
The skull and bones are well weathered as they are outside and not protected from the elements, but you have the chance to see the skull up close and touch the bones if you wish. Definitely worth stopping to investigate before or after you hit the Point Reyes lighthouse.
When you get information about what is allowed and not allowed when exploring Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA), one point that will be repeated is that you’re not allowed to touch the cave formations within Crystal Cave. Touching the cave formation damages them. When you touch any formation, oils from your hands are transferred to the formations which could inhibit their continued growth. Crystal Cave is a living cave and is still actively growing.
Since there’s certainly a desire by many people to touch the cave formations, there is a Touching Rock at the cave entrance which you can see and touch. This hopefully gets the touching urge out of your system (or at least allows you to resist while in the cave). Millions of people who have entered Crystal Cave have done so by first putting their hands on the Touching Rock:
Once you begin walking up the road toward Point Reyes Lighthouse, you have about a half mile hike before you reach the lighthouse. There are several benches along the side of the road where you can rest and get a slightly different perspective on the view of Point Reyes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore. About half way through the hike you will come to about 5 trees that have been shaped and twisted by the wind:
I think most people walk briskly by these trees because they are so excited to get to the Point Reyes lighthouse, but I think that the trees provide a great photographic opportunity for those that spend a bit of time there, especially with Point Reyes beach in the background:
Even after passing the trees, they still provide some interesting photo shots.
About three-fourths of the way down the trail to get to the entrance of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA) you will come to the Cascade River and Cascade Falls. The Cascade River runs just outside Crystal Cave (not through it — Yucca Creek runs through Crystal Cave and empties into the Cascade River) and has a number of short falls that can be seen as you descend down the path which offer wonderful photo opportunities.
The hike down the Crystal Cave trail to the cave entrance takes about 10 – 15 minutes, but you may want to add more time in so that you can spend some time taking photos along the way without being rushed.
Once you see the dramatic view at the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot view looking over Point Reyes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore you’ll be tempted to take a short path (about 1/4 mile) you can see right in front of you to a point a little farther out. The hike is fairly easy, but the view isn’t much different than the one you see at the top:
You are able to see a bit more of the sand dunes of Point Reyes Beach, but there isn’t a big difference in the view (compare here) so passing on it shouldn’t be a huge issue.
In order to enter Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park (CA), you will need to purchase a ticket ($13 for adults, $7 for children ages 5 – 12. The America the Beautiful annual national parks pass does not cover the cost of the tickets). These tickets are not available at the cave entrance. Tickets to Crystal Cave must be purchased at either Lodgepole visitors center or Foothills visitor center. At the parking lot at crystal caves, there is a ranger station where you will need to present your ticket before making a half mile walk to the Crystal Cave entrance. You are not allowed to go into Crystal Cave except within a tour group and the tour lasts approximately 45 minutes.
When you reach the bottom of the half mile Crystal Cave trail, you will be at the entrance of Crystal Cave and you’ll immediately see that you are in for an exciting tour. The Crystal Cave entrance is rather large with plenty of cave formations already visible and the sounds of Yucca Creek as it runs out the cave. You will meet your tour group at the entrance, and the ranger will go over vital information about the cave tour as well as what is allowed and what is not. Day packs are fine, but larger backpacks will need to be left at the cave entrance.