Sacred & Mundane
artifacts of contemporary culture
CSI Oregon Caves
by alison goin
Down into the blackness, they march one
by one: cavers, covered in dirt-scu=ed
hard hats and waterproof suits of olive,
purple, blue, and red. With only the quiet
clank of metal foot traction, they pass a
sleeping bat hanging at one of the
entrances at the Oregon Caves National
Monument. Soon, darkness closes around
them and the rocky walls transform into a
curving clay maze. Headlamps ?ash on.
The image of sunny skies and three-foot
snowbanks outside fades with the light.
The cavers don’t mind spending most of
their weekend underground in the cold,
wet muck, though. They have a mission.
And it’s not for o=-season spelunking, but
an early spring-cleaning.
Every winter, when Oregon Caves closes
to tourists, a group of volunteers and sta=
gather to remove human debris left by its
48,000 annual visitors. They meet at the
monument’s chalet, hidden in the pine-laden hills of the Siskiyou Mountains. But
this is no ordinary cleanup—candy wrappers and stray batteries are not the main
enemies. It’s the minuscule bits of skin,
hair, and lint associated with human tra;c