For the 4th of July weekend we ended with a trip to Colorado’s popular Fulford Cave, which would be Hunter’s first “wild” caving experience. He’s been to commercial caves such as Glenwood Caverns (formerly Fairy Cave) and also to Cave of the Winds and Carlsbad Caverns when he was younger. I wanted to see if Hunter would be interested and/or ready for other caving trips and this is an awesome cave with no technical experience required.
Fulford Campground was $8 per site, first come first serve.
Being it was 4th of July weekend, we set out on Sunday morning planning to find a spot to stay on Sunday night (Fulford Cave Campground was option #1 with the backup being a sweet spot we found near the ghost town of Fulford). We got up there and the Fulford Cave Campground was nearly empty as we had hoped. We picked the best camp site available which had been significantly upgraded since the last time we stayed in that site, probably over 20 years ago. They added a fence which I’m sure has saved a life or two from someone backing up a little too far and falling down the near cliff…
Fulford Campground campsite #4, one of the best in my opinion.
The sun was beating down on us but luckily the convective clouds were on their way, which the eventual shade was more than welcome! We ate dinner and then started to pack up for our trip to the cave. The trailhead is at the campground and the hike is a good uphill venture. Along the way you go through an old aspen forest that is very lush full of flowers and plants (and of course mosquitos). The trail (Forest Trail #1875) is about 3/4 mile and you rise 500 feet in elevation to the cave entrance. Note that if you follow the trail past the entrance less than 5 minutes you will come upon the upper cave entrances, with no access into the cave, but a beautiful view and a grand cave entrance!
The higher you climbed on the trail the more columbines.
These are abundant throughout the aspen forest on the hike to the cave.
One thing I remembered about the trail to the cave is the lush forest.
You enter the cave through a culvert with ladder affixed and that has seen many better days. Many rungs were missing and many were broken with sharp metal edges so it was a bit dicey. The culvert is uncomfortable to begin with so the broken parts make it a bit more adventuresome which is par for the course I guess! Once you get into the cave there is a rope (and a broken rope, sure would have sucked being that person) which you will need to use to get to the bottom of the entrance area as it is VERY slick with icy mud.
Erin, Hunter and I made it up the steep hike and are ready for the coolness coming out of the cave entrance!
Hunter coming out of the culvert entrance. The ladder in the culvert has many rungs missing and many more broken so be careful!
In the middle level of the cave there are some cool features–some huge ice stalagmites, flowstone and a bat guano room. We decided to skip the bat guano room and was going to hit the higher flowstone areas on the way out if we still had enough energy.
This is the big stalagmite ice crystal I remember from previous trips. The texture was beautiful! I remember a couple of times when this wasn’t there, so it does melt!
Big ice crystal near the entrance, about 5-6 feet long and 1 foot in diameter
We ventured to the end of the middle level of the cave and found the 3-level pit where you can go up or down. As you approach this pit you hear the reverb and echoes of a underground stream which is awesome! Just because it sounded so cool, we chose to see the underground stream which we could hear echoes of it cascading in the depths of the cave. The 3-level pit leaves you at the bottom of the stream passage. The hike is pretty quick to the waterfall. This trip was the lowest I’ve seen the stream; usually there is a lot more flow (perhaps that was just the time of the year I’ve been before?). Given that we were just commencing our journey into the cave, we didn’t climb the waterfall as we would have gotten too wet for the remainder of our trek in the very cold cave! I have climbed the waterfall several times before and you end up in a small passable tunnel where eventually the water comes out of the wall.
In the lower level, the underground stream comes out of a wall, down a cascading waterfall, and then disappears into another wall. From what I’ve heard/read, using dye, no one has ever found where this exits the mountain!
Leaving the stream passage behind, we climbed to the top of the 3-level pit into the upper level’s Breakdown room. This is a larger section of the cave where the ceiling has collapsed in large chunks making an underground skree area covered in mud. It isn’t overly difficult but the rocks are pretty slick and the ceiling was tight so I had to take the backpack off several times to avoid scraping the ceiling. We walked through the Breakdown room until near the Moonmilk corridor to my favorite part of the cave!
This isn’t named on the map, but there is a *very* tight and small loop that you can do to test your claustrophobia. This was my goal of the day and we all took turns with the super small and tight tunnel. At the midpoint of the tunnel there is a small pool that seems much larger than life due to the fact of you being in such a small/tight tunnel. A great illusion!
Getting ready to enter my favorite tight spot in the Breakdown Room.
Coming out of the “tight spot”…even though I’ve done this many times before, right at this spot I always get a spark of panic…I think that must be an involuntary reaction of the body! You simply mentally extinguish the fear and continue on…Yoda would be proud!
The Breakdown room turns into the Moonmilk corridor and that is as far as we ventured on this trip. I’d say we saw about 2/3 of the cave; but hands were getting cold and its no fun caving while freezing; so we decided to head out.
Moonmilk speleothem near the end of the Breakdown Room.
Hunter and Erin in the Breakdown room. Note the “fog” probably from our breath.
Hunter exiting the culvert entrance to the cave!
Upon exiting the cave we were treated with a gorgeous sunset for the downhill hike!
Sunset through the aspen, the picture doesn’t do it justice the way the pink light was hitting the trees!
Some of these trees are of significant age!
Sunset at Fulford Cave Campground.
Drying out the clothes. Everything went home in a trash bag and was washed down good with bleach as per protocol because of the white nose fungus.
Caves in Colorado have been closed for several years because of the White Nose Fungus epidemic and have just opened up this year with restrictions/precautions. The first important change is you must register with the Forest Service to get permission to enter Colorado Caves. One person “the trip leader” must register and then everyone on the trip must have a signed form on them. Basically they want to know who is going in/out of the caves (and that everyone understand the rules for decontamination) for protection of our bats…up to 90-100% of bats in some caves have been killed throughout Eastern and Central United States which is devastating (who eats the bugs if the bats are gone)! For decontamination we ensured that all gear is thoroughly cleaned (we used bleach) between uses. We’re ready for next time!