Staying active outside: 3-6 month old spring babies

If you haven’t already read the last two parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies (Update – check out the next part of this series, 6-9 month olds)

As 3 months came and went, I started to notice that things were getting easier.  Definitely not easy but easier. It’s like when you’ve gone hiking often enough that it becomes second nature to get your bag packed in a minute or two without much thought. Our days and nights were also starting to fall into a rhythm and physically, I was feeling much better. Here are some of the activities we did along with how I made them work.  Some aren’t “technically” outdoor activities but they involve being active and getting out of the house which can be a win some days, whether you have a baby or not :)

Activities

Walking

Walks still made up the majority of my outings during this time period.  There is nothing better to improve the spirits than being outside and moving.  Spring made things a little tricky as it’s still very snowy/icy/wet/muddy in the mountains and on non-paved pathways in the city.  Thankfully there are many parks with paved paths that I frequented.  Walks in the city are pretty straightforward so the only (small) decision I had to make was whether to use a carrier or stroller.  Generally if the weather looked cool or windy I would use a carrier under my jacket as I found it easiest to regulate baby temperature.  If I had any concerns about the path being slippery or icy, I’d bring the Chariot.  Other than those situations, I’d try my best to play baby psychic and guess which would go over best.  This often meant bringing the Chariot with a carrier stuffed in the storage space “just in case”.

Hiking

As spring rolled into summer, trails in the mountains dried up and we went for our first family hikes! The first few outings were a bit of trial and error but here are a few tips that we found helpful:

  • Decide how long you’ll be hiking for. Before you head out, make sure you’ve used your carrier or Chariot and know how long your baby will happily hike in them.  For us it was about 2 hrs in either.
  • Choose a hike close to home.  This isn’t a must but I found it a lot less stressful when our first hikes weren’t all day events.  Save hikes that are further for when you have your system dialled and want to add another variable into the equation (ie. driving time).
  • Don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink.  Or at least don’t worry about it as long as you have a partner to haul said sink around!  You can always extra items/layers in the car at the trailhead.  It does take some trial and error to figure out what your baby (and you!) will be most comfortable in.  The more I hiked the better I got at packing less and bringing the right items.
  • Have the right mindset.  We called these hikes “exploratory missions”.  The goal was to make it out there, test our packing system/departure time/hike suitability and note any adjustments we’d need to make for next time. I think this is also called “setting the bar low” ;)
  • Bring hiking poles.  I can’t stress enough how awesome hiking poles are when you’re carrying a baby.  Not only do they help with stability, but they’re a godsend when you can’t see your feet.

If you’re in Calgary, one area I highly recommend for hiking is the Elbow Falls region of Kananaskis.  It’s actually quite close to the city and there are a ton of short trails with good viewpoints.  It provides a nice alternative to driving out to Kananaskis Lakes or Canmore/Banff.

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Climbing

The appearance of some routine in our evenings made it easier for me to schedule a time to leave the house and go climb.  It wasn’t always easy to get out but I always enjoyed it in the end.  It was a nice mental break to socialize, and get in a little exercise at the same time.  I tried to go once a week and just climbed as hard as I felt like going each time.

Running

I had signed up to run the Rocky Mountain Soap Company 5k Stroller jog when baby was 5 months old so I knew I’d have to do some training if I wanted to run it.  I started with doing a run/walk for 20 min by myself every second or third day.  As I felt better with my runs, I added in pushing the Chariot.  Overall I was very relaxed about running and often missed days if my body felt off.  I also switched to walking anytime things started to hurt.

Right after running our first race!

Right after running our first race!

Mom & Baby classes

I took a Mom & Baby fitness class on a whim, not really expecting to like it.  It turned out to be one of my favourite activities and I’d highly recommend taking one.  I liked being able to bring E with me and the instructor was very knowledgeable about different exercises or stretches that were best for a recovering body.  Walking only provides so much exercise so it was nice to have some variety.

Gear

Carriers

This stage presented a few problems with using carriers.  My stretchy carrier that I loved up until now felt a little too stretchy to use with a heavier baby.  Yet E was still too small to sit in the Boba with her legs out the side (she was never a fan of being in it in the infant position).  It was an awkward month or so of not fitting either very well.  Still, we persevered and I used one or the other with varying degrees of success.  Amelia of Tales of a Mountain Mama has an excellent post about these “gap months” and reviewed some carriers that can help solve the problem.  Once E outgrew this phase, the Boba was my preferred carrier.

Strollers

On days when carriers just weren’t working, I made use of our Chariot which turned into a favourite! It handled spring slush and puddles very well and was an instant snooze machine.  We used it with the infant sling.  It was great to have the Chariot around as E disliked being in her carseat (attached to the BOB stroller) when we went on walks but was too small to sit up in the BOB on her own.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you're in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open.  This is past Elbow Falls but you can also do this at Highwood Pass.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you’re in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open. This is past Elbow Falls but you can also go to Highwood Pass.

Clothes for baby

For Chariot walks, I’d dress baby in a cotton or fleece sleeper and bring along blankets.  I tried using a fleece bunting but Chariots can heat up very quickly in the sun when the shades are closed making it was easier to add/remove blankets than deal with taking off a bunting.

When using a carrier, if it was warm out I’d keep baby in a fleece or cotton sleeper depending on the temperature.  If it was cooler, I’d use my Make My Belly Fit panel. If little feet are long enough to hang out the bottom of the jacket a pair of wool booties do the trick to keep them warm.

A warm hat and sun hat are also key to have around whether you’re using a stroller or carrier.

Clothes for you

I still used my  Make My Belly Fit panel quite a bit during this stage.

Diaper Bag/Extras

The more we got out the more I noticed myself gravitating to using a backpack as a diaper bag.  One less item in my hands when juggling a baby was always welcome.  And of course it was a good excuse to buy another backpack!

In addition to all my regular diaper bag items, I always kept a pair of booties, a warm hat and a fleece blanket in the bag in case it was colder than I expected when on walks.

Logistics

During the 3-6 month age range, E fell into a routine of 3 naps a day. After her first nap, we’d have a little play time and then head out for the day.  Usually she was good about taking a few cat naps wherever we were (car, walking, etc). I’d try to time things so that her third nap of the day happened at home.  For us, this provided a nice balance of having some down time at home as well as an outing.  It also meant I’d have some time in the morning to get ready and in the afternoon to unpack and relax.

This isn’t to say we always followed the above.  Sometimes it was only practical to have one nap at home (or none!).  If we wanted to go to the mountains, which is a full day trip, we’d time the drive out and the drive back with her first and last nap.

Here is a really good post on from Bring the Kids about how naptime isn’t sacred for their family.  The post (and comments!) are worth a read.  I’ve found that dealing with naps is always a challenge as once you find something that works, they enter a new phase and you’re back to square one.

If anyone has any tips on how they handled naps I’d love to hear!

Snowshoeing at Elbow Lake, Hogarth Lakes and Paddy’s Flat

The last three weeks I’ve been on a snowshoeing spree as I try out new locations I haven’t been to yet.  The challenge is that with each passing week, I’m getting a little slower and more reluctant to be too far out into the backcountry as I near the end of the third trimester.  Here are the last three snowshoe trips I’ve done with the best one first :)

Elbow Lake

This was by far my favourite snowshoe that we’ve done … maybe ever?  It’s not a particularly long trail but it could definitely be extended as far as you wanted.  The only caveat is that it’s in the Highwood so it becomes inaccessible after December 1st each year when winter gates are shut on the 40.  The parking lot is really well signed and you walk up an old road for 1.4km until you reach the lake.  Once at the lake there are a few options.  We decided to walk a loop around the lake before heading down, but it seems like when you reach the other end of the lake you could also continue into the obvious valley as far as you wanted.  As we walked around the lake, we noticed there was at least once avalanche runout that crosses the path but there wasn’t enough snow on it to be worried about anything sliding.  Just something to think about if you are doing the loop!  There is no avalanche danger if you only go up to the lake. I loved doing the loop as the views are really outstanding for such a short approach!  As we completed the loop we made note of a few things.  First, there was an adorable decorated tree at the end of the lake which caused me to do a double take.  It’s not often you see something like that in the backcountry and the juxtaposition with the wilderness around it make for some great pics if I say so myself!  Secondly,  if you take the loop in a clockwise direction (which we did) you finish with walking through a backcountry campground.  The campground looks really cute and seems to have compostable toilets which are my favourite to use!  I think this might be a good spot for the baby’s first backcountry trip to due the super easy approach and beautiful location & facilities.  Also, if I came back in the winter with kids, the trail in seems wide enough for a chariot and there are fire pits in the campground we saw others using with their kids.  Last observation was that this seems to be a popular early season backcountry ski location.  It is certainly accessible though based on some of the tracks we saw, it didn’t look like any of the skiing off the lake was very stellar.

Where is it? Start at the Elbow Pass Day Use Lot.  Once you pass the winter gates on the 40, it’s maybe 12km down the road and well signed.
How far? Including the loop around the lake it was 4.6km
Elevation gain? a little under 200m
More info

Trail leading up to Elbow Lake

Trail leading up to Elbow Lake

Views from the lake

Views from the lake

More views from the lake.  How beautiful is this?!

More views from the lake. How beautiful is this?!

The is at the end of the lake, there is a valley that continues on the left hand side.  I believe you can even backpack across to the other side of Kananaskis around Hwy 66.

The is at the end of the lake, there is a valley that continues on the left hand side. I believe you can even backpack across to the other side of Kananaskis around Hwy 66.

The infamous Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere! This really made my day.

The infamous Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere! This really made my day.

Hogarth Lakes

The following weekend we decided to head out to Hogarth Lakes.  The week had been warm with no snow and after a quick call to the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre in Kananaskis, our suspicions were confirmed that the Burstall/Chester area was the only place with any hopes of having deep snow (other than Highwood Pass which we had been to the last weekend).  Since we were heading out with couple friends who were also expecting, we decided on Hogarth Lakes since it’s very mellow.  The route starts from the Burstall Pass parking lot and after passing through the forest, you wind up completing a loop that wraps around Hogarth Lakes.  By the time we went (last week of November) the lakes were mostly frozen and it was pretty obvious where you could safely shortcut the trail and go on the lakes or where you couldn’t.  The trail was also extremely well signed with little orange diamonds.  Unfortunately it started snowing that morning so the views weren’t great but the snow was excellent and the trail was just long for the pregnant ladies to feel like we got our outdoor quotient for the day! On the way out we happened to see a moose in the middle of the highway!  The poor guy definitely freaked out when he saw us coming and hightailed it.  Earlier that week we had just talked with another couple of friends who had seen a moose in the area licking salt off all the cars.  Apparently they needed to turn on their car alarm to scare the moose off!

Where is it? Burstall Pass Parking lot (there is a map on the bulletin board in the lot)
How far? The whole loop is around 4km
Elevation gain? virtually none.
More info

The weather wasn't providing any nice shots on the hike and I was too slow with my camera to get a good moose shot so this is courtesy of my friend Lexy who was driving behind us and quicker with her phone!

The weather wasn’t providing any nice shots on the hike and I was too slow with my camera to get a good moose shot so this is courtesy of my friend Lexy who was driving behind us and quicker with her phone!

Paddy’s Flat

This last snowshoe almost didn’t happen. I had been feeling off all weekend and as it turns out I got sick with a bad cold the following week.  We decided to visit the Elbow area of Kananaskis and picked Paddy’s Flat as we knew it would be, well, flat and had lots of short options.  In particular we wanted to snowshoe the Interpretive Loop that leaves from the campground.  I hadn’t been to the Elbow area since the June floods so it was interesting to see what had changed.  But first, about the snowshoe.  We made it as far as the entrance to the loop when we discovered the beginning of the trail was washed out.  We checked out the rest of the campground and enjoyed first tracks in the fluffiest snow ever while looking for an easier (and alternate entrance).  We didn’t find any and with all the fresh snow, it was very difficult to see where the trail might be.  We weren’t sure how much of the trail (which skirted the river) would be passable due to the flood and I was feeling tired so we aborted.  Not our most successful day out but it was sunny and snowy which was good for my mental health!  I could definitely see coming back here with kids as the campground loops are very short and there is a playground. I also saw a really great sledding hill on the right side of the road just before the gates to Paddy’s Flat campground.  I’m sure I would love kids would love to sled on it and we saw several families.  Looked to be a lot of steep and mellow options too.  A lot of people were also out in the area chopping down Christmas trees.  While I love the tradition of cutting down a tree together as a family, I think I would have a hard time doing it in Kananaskis (even though it’s legal in some areas).  I have a soft spot for the area since I’m there so often in the summer.

Where is it? Paddy’s Flat campground gates
How far? The loop is supposed to be 2.2km but we never attempted it after walking roughly 2km in the campground
Elevation gain? very little if you’re just walking around the campground
More info

Nearby Elbow Falls.  We overshot the Paddy's Flat gates and decided to take a look while we were here.  The usual boardwalk is still closed from flood damage.

Nearby Elbow Falls. We overshot the Paddy’s Flat gates and decided to take a look while we were here. The usual boardwalk is still closed from flood damage.

Hubby trailblazing on fresh powder! I might have had him break trail for me a few times when I got tired.

Hubby trailblazing on fresh powder! I might have had him break trail for me a few times when I got tired.

The washout at the beginning of the trail :(  Wish I could win the lotto and donate it all to Kcountry so they could fix things up.

The washout at the beginning of the trail :( Wish I could win the lotto and donate it all to Kcountry so they could fix things up.

This is a silhouette of a 35 week pregnant lady trying to snowshoe in -15C. I don't think the lighting angle did me any favours!

This is a silhouette of a 35 week pregnant lady trying to snowshoe in -15C. I don’t think the lighting angle did me any favours!  Side note, to keep my bum from getting cold I wrapped a polar fleece scarf around my lower half and secured it in place with my SI support belt.  Not the most glamorous look but at least I as warm!

Second trimester hiking: Ptarmigan Cirque & Tips!

The forecast for this weekend looked less than promising: a system was coming in from the west and snow had already fallen above treeline this week.  So, it (obviously?!) seemed like the perfect weekend to check out Ptarmigan Cirque!   Sounds crazy, I realize, but the hike is really a short 4km loop with around 200m of elevation gain.  It’s located right at the Highwood Pass which at 2200m, is the highest paved road in Canada.  Since the weather was so uncertain, we thought it would be better to do a quick hike we could get on and off of in case the weather turned.  The hike had also been on our hit list but usually when we drive as far as Highwood Pass, we opt to do something a bit longer.

Looking into the Cirque

Looking into the Cirque

Turns out there was a lot more snow than we expected and it felt more like a winter hike than fall hike!  Had I realized how snowy it would be, I would have brought gaiters and spikes.  In some areas, the snow drifts were almost up to my waist!  Needless to say, we did not complete the loop as the trail had only been well trampled to the back of the cirque and we wound have had to have broken trail on the second half of the loop in snow.

Ran into this troupe!

Ran into this troupe!

It was still a fun day out and we even saw a heard of mountain sheep!  The larches weren’t as spectacular as I had hoped they might be.  They were still nice but for a real, bright yellow larch experience I would still head to the Lake Louise/ Moraine Lake area rather than Kananaskis.

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

This is my fourth hike now in my second trimester and here are some things I’ve figured out along the way:

  • Wear an SI support band designed for pregnancy.  This was recommended to me by a girlfriend and it’s been a lifesaver.  It keeps my hips from getting too sore and it also helps keep pressure off your bladder so you’re not peeing as much.
  • Bring LOTS of water that is easily accessible (ie in a bladder with a hose).  On cooler hikes I tend to drink less but I’m still drinking more water than usual so we now overpack on water with the idea that we can dump what we don’t need if it gets too heavy.
  • Bring LOTS of snacky, high protein foods.  I’m hungry most of the time but that changes to all of the time when I’m hiking!  My favourites so far have been trail mix cookies, babybel cheese, boiled eggs, nuts, protein bars and dried fruit.
  • Bring extra snacks & water for the drive to/from the trailhead.  Unless you live closer than I do, 1-2hrs is a lot of time to sit in a car when you’re hungry or thirsty.
  • Pass on the backpack.  I’m a bit slower when I hike now, but I can usually keep up a very reasonable pace without my pack.  I’ll admit it’s a bit of a blow to my ego to let my husband carry everything when I’m used to carrying my own things but it really helps make hiking more enjoyable.  We joke it’s good weight training for him!
  • Think about what hiking clothes will fit you and if you’ll be comfortable in them.  Warm hikes were easier to deal with.  I wore my Lululemon tank tops which are extra long & their shorts which have a panel waist.  Cold hikes were harder as Lululemon fabric tends to attract snow and dirt and my regular technical pants/jackets didn’t fit.  My solution was to borrow from maternity hiking clothes friends and in a pinch, steal my husband’s jackets!
  • Wear lightweight shoes.  For most of my hikes I wore my favourite Columbia trail runners as they’re light and waterproof with great treads.  Only on this last hike did I wear my lightweight Vasque hikers since I thought there might be a bit of snow.
  • Bring poles.  Even on mellow terrain, I find them worthwhile as they seem to take some of the pressure of my hips and knees.
  • If you think there is the possibility of snow, bring spikes.  Worrying about slipping on trails is overrated so I think I’ll be bringing my spikes on the next few hikes.

*Whew*, I think that’s it!  I’m sure YMMV on those tips but that’s what’s worked for me.

Lots of snow!

Lots of snow!

Showshoeing at The Point

I’ve never been into any winter sports other than skiing and ice climbing.  It’s crossed my mind to try something else, you know, add some variety to my winter sport list, but it’s never seemed like the right time.  This week a friend asked me if I wanted to go snowshoeing and for whatever reason, it seemed like the right time.  The fact that the hills hadn’t gotten any snow played no part in my decision :)

My husband & I joined my friend, her husband and her dog on a snowshoe to The Point on Kananaskis Lakes.  In one of those funny coincidences, The Point is also a summer backcountry campsite and was the first place we had ever backcountry camped as well as being the first place my girlfriend & her hubby had backcountry camped.  It’s 4km and 200m of elevation gain to get to the backcountry site.  We ate lunch at one of the sites overlooking the frozen lake and had we thought ahead, we could have used the firepit!  There were a few sites that looked like they were cleared and camped in recently and we saw two guys hike in across the lake to camp overnight.

All in all, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the trip.  I knew I’d have a blast hanging out with our friends but turns out snowshoeing is actually really fun!  I’ve been hiking on well-packed trails in the winter/shoulder season and never understood why you’d bring snowshoes.  Turns out there’s some good reasons!.\  First off, if you want to step off to the side to snag a picture there’s no more sinking up to your thighs in snow.  Secondly, the crampons on the bottom of the snowshoes provide so much security when you walk.  No more slipping or sliding with each step.  In addition, there’s heel risers you can pull up to make going uphill easier.

We bought our snowshoes at MEC and were both really happy with what we chose.  I got the Women’s MSR Lightning Axis 22 snowshoes (which came in purple!) and my husband got the MSR Evo Tour 22 (did you know these were the EXACT same snowshoe used by the main character in The Bourne Legacy? (and did you know the winter scenes were filmed at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis??)).

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Trail map

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Looking back at where we started

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Snow covering an old rockslide.  To the far right is a trad climb called Joy.  Joy refers to, I assume, the feeling you get after climbing 10 pitches of slab :)

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Shadows!

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The problem with always bringing my camera is that I get great shots of *other* people but none of myself.

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Almost at the campsite

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A look back at the mountain range behind where we started. Does this look like Alaska? Seems the makers of Bourne Legacy figured it was close enough :)

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Lake ice

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The moon is still barely in the sky

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My snowshoes. Not that you can really see them.

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The mountain pup. On a side note, she has matching green legwarmers that I sewed out of polar fleece but it was too warm to wear them.

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It was really windy on the lake and the wind was swirling the snow around.  I just happened to catch it when the sun went behind a cloud but was still partially shining on the lake.  I think the effect was pretty neat!

Moose Mountain ice caving

We had our first snow of the year on Tuesday (20 cm!) which is exciting because it means winter’s coming but also makes me a bit wistful that summer’s definitively over.  There are a ton of trips I had intended to write about (backpacking the Skoki Loop, driving down the west coast to San Francisco (and meeting @rockmaven56!), backpacking to Healy Pass & Egypt Lake, climbing at Skaha, multi-pitchin’ on Tunnel Mtn.) but writing took a backseat to actually going outside and doing something.  Now that I’m in the awkward season between summer and winter activities, it seemed like a good time to put the pen to paper (or I guess more accurately, hands to the keyboard).

So in reverse chronological order, the last thing I did was hike out to the ice caves in Moose Mountain (which are also referred to as the Canyon Creek ice caves or more generally, Ing’s Mine).  Here’s the info on the caves:

Location: Drive out of town on Highway 22 past Bragg Creek and continue on the 66 towards Moose Mtn.  Turn off at Canyon Creek Rd and drive ~300m to the locked gates.  Walk for ~7km on a gravel road past various natural gas extraction stations.  Once you can see the cave ahead (there is no way you’ll miss it!), choose your own adventure up the scree hill to the cave.

The Cave:  At the entrance there’s a great flat area for eating lunch and the cave itself goes back maybe 300m.  My girlfriend and I both brought helmets, headlamps and flashlights as daylight doesn’t extend much past the entrance.  The helmet might not be necessary if you’re just walking to the end and back but I’ll be honest, I felt more hardcore wearing it :)  There are two areas where you can branch off and explore further but there is no way you could accidentally take either branch as they’re tight squeezes.  One is at the back of the cave and the other is to the left just past the entrance.  Some of the people who arrived before us took the branch at the entrance and it led up to a ledge ~15m above the cave entrance.  One look at the tiny dark tunnel and there was NO way we were going to check it out ourselves thankyouverymuch.

Random Fact:  A while back, you used to be able to drive all the way down the road and park just below the cave entrance.  The scree slope however is quite steep and, well, covered in scree which means Kananaskis Public Safety was doing more rescues than they wanted to.  As a result, the road was closed thus necessitating the 5km “scenic” road walk which discouraged the less prepared from visiting.

I really wish I had more pictures of the entrance of the cave but I had brought along my DSLR which was safely packed away until I was in the cave.  On the way out, the walk down the scree hill was so irritating that I forgot about taking pictures once I was down.  I definitely recommend checking these caves out as there aren’t any others near Calgary that are as accessible and safe to explore.  As a bonus, while walking on a gravel road is pretty mindless, you can get a great conversation going the whole way there and back, the views are fairly decent without all densely packed trees and it makes for a good shoulder season hike!

Where the daylight ends in the cave. This shot was really hard to take because the daylight was really bright compared to the pitch black. The first tunnel is on the left just past the big boulder.

Not a stunning display of my skills but it shows a bit better what the cave looks like.

The first tunnel. It’s surprisingly hard to balance a camera on a rock-cairn-tripod for 30s exposures. Also the tunnel was very black and very tiny. Looking at it, I wasn’t feeling any urges to check it out.

Another bad picture but it gives perspective on how small the tunnel was!

Cave roof!

 

In case you’re wondering,  there is an ice wall in the back of the cave I just didn’t take any pictures of it.  If you want to see more pictures of the inside of the cave or the entrance, check out the blog ‘Hiking with Barry’.