Go prepared! - Caving Checklist
Caving Hat Trick
Along the shoreline of ancient Lake Lahonton, Nevada lie many caves. Many of these caves have been linked to Indian culture thru artifacts. One of the best examples of relatively intact historical significance in this area is Hidden Cave. It was rediscovered by modern man in 1925 after a stage coach robbery in the area. The robbers claimed they had put the loot in a nearby cave. Children from a nearby ranch discovered the cave but kept it secret. About ten years later a guano miner discovered the cave while working several others in the area. One day while shipping a sample of guano, the miner mentioned that he would have more but there was so much Indian junk in the way, it was slowing him down. The mail clerk alerted a local anthropologist and he along with his assistant went out to find the cave. Without success, the anthropologist mentioned to his assistant, this cave must be hidden, thus the name. Luckily the cave was hidden, protecting its secrets from the ever present looters. The cave and its contents were kept secret with only brief excavation in the 1930's. It was sealed up and opened for further excavation in the 1950's. The 1980's saw further excavation and the BLM took over the site. The cave has been further protected since that time and the small entrance has a steel door. The ongoing work by anthropologists has shown that the cave was not used as a living quarters but as a storage shelter. The ancients who used this shelter were nomadic and had to travel with the seasons for food. Perhaps the first snowbirds, they stored their tools, and hunting equipment specific to this area in the cave along with an ample supply of emergency rations for lean years. The excavation of the cave is only partial and ongoing, expected to last for generations.
The BLM provides guided tours of this cave twice a month. On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Participants must meet at the Churchill County Museum in Fallon, Nevada and attend an orientation do's and don'ts. The group then caravans to the cave site. The hike starts from a modern BLM trailhead with a restroom but no water. This loop was run in a counterclockwise direction. Soon after leaving the trailhead petroglyphs similar to those at Grimes Point are seen. At this point we become aware that we are going to see three caves. The first and last having been looted and are unprotected with Hidden Cave being in the middle of the loop. The trail meanders thru the Basaltic boulder field on a steady climb. The first cave is called Picnic Cave and appears from around an alcove. It has quite an unusual roof of tufa, the interpretation being the cave was underwater at some time in history. We continue on the trail admiring the unusual rock formations. A short time later we arrive at the entrance to Hidden Cave. The BLM has a generator shack outside with lighting in the cave. Once entry is gained you must crawl on hands and knees about 20 feet to where the cave opens up. It is about 250 feet long and 110 feet wide in some sections. Wooden walkways direct you and protect the still ongoing archeological dig. In the lower parts of the cave many of the artifacts lie within at least ten feet of layers of mud and debris thought to have been deposited by monsoon rains washing it in off the mountain over thousands of years. The artifacts include caches of food, darts, arrowheads, and baskets. The cross section of dirt gives archeologists a timeline and based on current carbon dating, the oldest piece is believed to be 9,200 years old.
After getting your fill of Hidden Cave we continue along the trail to the north and around the mountain to Burnt Cave. This cave was no secret and has a gaping entrance which can be spotted and would invite the curious. A second chamber with an entrance requiring a belly crawl also exists. The first chamber has several examples of pictographs, many of which have been vandalized. Continuing a little further on the trail, more tufa formations and multiple small cave ledges exist for exploration. When you have your fill, return on the trail you arrived and you will see the more direct trail back to your vehicle. If your timing is not right for the guided tour you can still stop by, take the hike from either direction and see the caves with the exception of Hidden Cave.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.