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‘Name the Cave’ Contest at Polar Caves

Christine Randall - June 3, 2013





Ever since Polar Caves opened to the public in 1922, the park has been a popular destination for both families and individuals looking for a fun way to spend a day in the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire.

Probably one of the reasons Polar Caves has been able to remain a popular attraction for so long is its ability to continually find new ways to increase the variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, whether by adding a new cave to the popular cave walk or by creating fun, interactive activities for children.

Toward the end of last summer, the park added a new cave to the start of the Cave Walk and, adding to the fun of exploring the new cave this summer, will be the opportunity to participate in a naming contest for the cave.

“We will be taking suggestions until July 1 for names to call the cave,” says General Manager Rob Arey. “We have a ballot at the front desk where people can either fill in their own name suggestion or use one of the names that have already been popular choices. The names that have been popular so far have been ‘The Corkscrew’ and ‘Miner’s Migraine’. On July 6, we will officially announce the name of the new cave.”

The addition of the new cave brings the total number of caves to nine. When Polar Caves first opened to the public in 1922, there were six natural caves for visitors to explore. All the caves are connected by passages of varying degrees of difficulty.

It’s not surprising that new caves are continually being discovered at Polar Caves, as geological history tells us that the natural caves came about as the result of glacial activity during the last ice age. The force of the glacial retreat loosened great slabs of rock from Hawk’s Cliff and deposited them at the base of Mount Haycock between 14,000 and 20,000 years ago, forming numerous caves and tunnels. A group of local teenagers discovered the original caves and tunnels in 1900 and, 22 years later, an entrepreneur named Edwin Collishaw opened the area to the public, naming it Polar Caves due to the cold air currents that originate and rise up from the glacial ice preserved beneath the boulders.

The Cave Walk is a self-guided adventure along a boardwalk that connects the caves and passageways. The caves and passages have colorful names and histories, some being fairly descriptive (“Tut’s Tomb,” “Fat Man’s Misery,” “Orange Crush,” “The Lemon Squeeze,” and “The Ice Cave”), while other names are based on local legends (“Smuggler’s Cave,” “The Indian Council Chamber,’ and “The King’s Wine Cellar”). Except for “The Cave of Cool Off and Rest,” an exceptionally large and easily navigated cave, all caves can be bypassed.

In addition to the caves and passageways, the Cave Walk features some interesting rock formations, including “The Pharaoh’s Profile,” “The Watchdogs of the Caves,” and the “Giant Pyramid,” as well as the world’s largest glacially deposited boulder which is 100 feet long, 50 feet high, and 75 feet thick, and weighs about 50 million pounds. There also is the “Mysterious Hanging Boulder,” an 80-ton rock that rests on three contact points in the back. If you stand under it, about 75 percent of the boulder’s weight is over your head. I’m guessing that it’s not a place that many people linger for very long!

The Cave Walk, which is about a quarter of a mile long, usually takes about 45 minutes to complete — probably a little less if you don’t climb the 87 steps to the Raven’s Roost Platform, but then you’d miss some exceptional views of the surrounding Baker River Valley.

Aside from the Cave Walk, activities at the park include two “mining” operations, an animal park, a Maple Sugar House Museum, and a rock garden.

Children especially enjoy panning for hidden gems, minerals, and fossils at the Polar Sluice Mining Expedition, as well as exploring the nearby Klondike Mines. The Klondike Mines feature three “mineshafts” that youths can explore with hardhats and flashlights, in hopes of discovering hidden minerals, “gemstones,” and crystals. The mineshafts in the Klondike Mines are small, comfortably accommodating only two or three youngsters at a time. Although the hardhats and flashlights have to be returned, the explorers can keep any and all “treasures” that they find.

The small building also features a gift shop with a variety of minerals, geodes, jewelry, T-shirts and other gifts for sale, as well as a museum area with mining displays and décor (including a replica of a mining cart). There is an additional fee per person to go “mining” at both the Klondike Mines and the Polar Sluice.

Located just beyond the mining operations is the animal park, home to European fallow deer, ducks, geese, and colorful pheasants. The geese and ducks are friendly and wander around the pond area freely, and dispensers provide an opportunity to buy handfuls of feed for them.

Adjacent to the animal park is a “Kissing Bridge,” a replica of a traditional New England covered bridge built for the park in 1987.

There are numerous nature paths throughout the park, as well as an interesting glacial rock garden, located just before you reach the Cave Walk. The Rock Garden is an area full of giant, erratic boulders left by the receding glacier, with a connecting boardwalk leading visitors from boulder to boulder in a maze-like pattern. There are many trails, all of which connect eventually, with interesting names such as “Tranquility Way,” “Boulder Way,” “The Winding Way,” “The Outback,” and “Roundabout Way.”

Through the park are numerous informational signs that detail the geological and human history of the region, as well as help to identify birds, plants, trees, and mammals common to New Hampshire.

The Maple Sugar House Museum houses an interesting display of old, maple sugaring equipment and tools, with refreshments available.

In the Admissions Building, where you pick up your park tickets and trail map, you can enjoy a meal or snack at the cafeteria, browse through the gift shop full of rocks, minerals, unusual gifts, and souvenirs, or indulge in some homemade fudge. The building also features an interesting display of old postcards and memorabilia concerning Polar Caves, as well as restroom facilities.

With so many activities available which appeal to all ages, you and your family could spend most of the day at Polar Caves Park. This year, the park will be open daily through Oct. 20, rain or shine. Admission tickets are sold from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with discounted rates for children between the ages of 4 and 10. Children under the age of 4 are admitted for free with a paid adult. Retired and active military personnel are admitted free with any full-price admission and with proof of service. Season passes also are available.

Polar Caves Park is located on Route 25 in Rumney, about five miles west of Plymouth. For more information, call 603-536-1888 or log on to www.polarcaves.com

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