TIMPANOGOS CAVE NATIONAL MONUMENT — The Natural History Museum of Utah’s Explorer Corps program is winding down for the summer, but Beth Mitchell from the museum couldn’t be happier with its success.
“We kicked off right before Memorial Day,” she says “And now we are in the final two weeks of the Explorer Corps program...We've had an overwhelming amount of participation, in fact we have about a dozen people who have made it to all 29, which is just really inspiring.”
The final spot Fox 13 traveled to this summer to cover the Explorer Corps was Utah County, and the Timpanogos Cave National Monument. This site boasts a new visitor center, amazing hiking trails and a series of caves that are just a wonder of natural history.
This cave system has deep roots in county and so dose Cami McKinney, the Program Manager for Resorces Stewardship at Timpanogos.
“My mother was a cave tour guide when I was a kid,” she says. “I started working here... I've been here over 20 years, and I love the cave and I love the history of this place.”
Timpanogos Cave National Monument has been in Utah since 1922. Next year they are celebrating their 100th birthday. The reason it was created as a national monument was for the unique geology and the scientific interest here.
Every year this location sees roughly 60,000 cave visitors and planning ahead is recommended. Though tickets are put on sale thirty days in advance, for this popular spot, they go very fast. And if you want to go underground to see the caves, be ready to go up the mountain. Literally.
“Sometimes for visitors the hike is the most memorable part of being here,” says McKinney. “It's a mile and a half up over 1000 feet of elevation gain. And so you've got to hike that mountain before you even go underground. Once you make that hike, you get up to the top and the Ranger meets you at the cave entrance, and immediately you go underground into that total darkness of the cave environment. It's 45 degrees year-round, so if you're coming in July, It feels amazing. In October, it's not that different than the outside some days.”
A cool environment in more ways than one. And an environment that is perfect for exploration and perfect for marking another marker off your list in the Race to 29.
So, the big question is, will the Explore Corps be around next year?
“Yes,” says Mitchell. “Explorer Corps is definitely coming back. The monuments that we have placed in the ground originally for our 50th anniversary, have made it through a year's inaugural summer made it through COVID made it through all of the weathering process. And these aren't going anywhere. I mean they are affixed in the ground so the program will continue on for whoever wants to use a passport or the app, and then during next summer we'll have some additional programming which we're really excited about.”
Sounds like the adventure is just getting started.
For more information on the Explore Corps and on the Utah County Marker at Timpanogos Cave National Monument, log onto nhmu.utah.edu/explorer-corps/marker/utah.