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AUTUMN VISTA: The Wellsville Mountains take on autumn hues as shorter days and cool nights usher in the end of summer. / Photo by Ted Pease

Today's word on journalism

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

On the hooplah surrounding Katie Couric's ascension to the CBS News anchor chair:

"The difference between newspapers and television is that you couldn't care less what a female newspaper reporter looks like when she tells you about a tsunami in Indonesia, fighting in Sudan or the Kentucky Derby. Many of the bylines only give the initials and no one stops to think, 'I wonder who did her hair?' Or, 'She shouldn't wear a navy blue Oscar de la Renta suit.'"

--Art Buchwald, columnist, 2006

Minnetonka Cave literally a cool way to spend a hot summer day

STONE SENTINELS: Formations took thousands of years to form. / Photo by Jason Givens

By Jason Givens

July 31, 2006 | Just minutes from Bear Lake at the head of St. Charles Canyon in Idaho is Minnetonka Cave, an underground wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites.

Minnetonka Cave is Idaho's largest commercially developed cave. The temperature inside the cave is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which felt really good on a day that was over 100 outside. It's also somewhat damp inside and there is a strange smell in the entrance. According to our tour guide the smell comes from a group of packrats that call the cave home. The cave is also a hibernaculum, place where animals hibernate in winter, for five species of bats.

Bonnie Lewis, a resource assistant at the Montpelier Ranger District, said one of the species of bats that hibernates in the cave is the Townsend's big-eared bat and it is a Forest Service Sensitive Species and a state of Idaho species of concern. Lewis said that is the reason the cave is only open to visitors for about three months out of the year. "The lighting disturbs them," she said. In order not to disturb the bats, the cave is closed before they begin hibernating.

Lewis said she was supervisor for the Forest Service over the operation of the cave until it was turned over to a concessionaire on a special use permit in 1996. She said in the short season the cave is open it averages around 23,000 to 24,000 visitors.

There are 448 stairs within the cave, making for a round trip journey of 896 stairs. It can be a little strenuous. On the longest stretch of stairs, a 71-step giant called the "Stairway to Heaven," the tour guide appeared to be showing off by running up the stairs. When the rest of the group reached the top she was holding the back of her knee and limping around. She said something about pulling a muscle or tendon in her leg.

When the tour reaches one of the more popular stalagmites known as, the bride, the tour guide turns off the lights so you can experience total darkness. If you hold your hand directly in front of your face you cannot see it, you cannot see anything. Above the bride is a stalactite known as the groom, with water dripping from the groom is responsible for forming the bride. Thousands of years from now the bride and groom will join to form a column.

According to a brochure available at the cave, Minnetonka was discovered accidentally by Edward Arnell sometime in the summer of 1906 or 1907 while hunting. He returned the next day with others to explore the cave.

The brochure said Roy Welker, an educator from Bear Lake County, was the first to call the cave Minnetonka. Inside the cave water drips from the ceiling, and "Minnetonka," according to the brochure, is a Native American word meaning falling waters. Prior to being named Minnetonka it was known as Porcupine Cave.

To get to Minnetonka from Logan, drive to Bear Lake, and when you get to the intersection in Garden City, Utah that requires you to go left or right, make a left and drive to St. Charles, Idaho. In St. Charles there is a sign on the left side of the road directing you to Minnetonka Cave. Take the left and about 10 miles up the road there is a parking lot for the cave. The cave is open from June to Labor Day with daily tours that cost $5 and last about 90 minutes. Tours begin at 10 a.m. with the last tour leaving at 5:30 p.m.


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