Caving the Flatirons

Poking around in holes in the ground. (Mike I. photo)

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and since Scout Troop 78 hasn’t been able to do our usual spring and summer weekend-long outings, we’ve had to invented some shorter, small-group hikes on weekends. For the inaugural trip, I joined a fellow scoutmaster and seven boys on a tough bit of off-trail exploration as we discovered caves in the Flatirons.

First up was Harmon Cave on the slopes of Bear Peak. Harmon Cave is a bat hibernaculum and entry is blocked by a huge iron gate (the bats can get in and out, but Scouts can’t). Instead, Scouts explored the Harmon Flatironette and got a great view from up top.

Harmon Cave with its massive bat gate (Ben T. photo)

Next we crossed Bear Creek at the impressive “Stonehenge” formation and scrambled up between the Flatirons of Dinosaur Mountain to investigate Bear Cave. Bear is everything Harmon isn’t: small, open to exploration, and choked with poison ivy and ferns. There is a smaller cave (Bear Cub Cave?) right next to Bear and all seven Scouts managed to fit in the smaller Bear Cub cave. It was reportedly a tight squeeze.

Finally, we finished the off-trail scrambling (more poison ivy) up to the famous Mallory Cave. Mallory is a bat maternity colony and is also blocked off, so we headed down the trail to NCAR taking time to investigate a few small crevices and cracks along the way.

Boulder’s caving options aren’t anything like the giant limestone caverns of the East, or even other places in Colorado, but they certainly have a charm of their own.  This may not have been the Spring 2020 we’d planned at our troop planning meeting last year, but some parts of it have turned out pretty well.

Note: I’m not putting up my Strava track on this one because, even though everything was legal and by-the-books, part of the fun is in not knowing exactly where you’re going.

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