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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

November 09, 2003|Jane Engle

Kartchner opens its biggest cave

Kartchner Caverns State Park, a spectacular limestone cave in southeastern Arizona that opened to tours four years ago, will open its biggest room yet on Tuesday.

Measuring about 400 feet by 240 feet, the Big Room is larger than the previously opened Rotunda Room and Throne Room combined, said park spokeswoman Ellen Bilbrey. Its formations include flowstone, which looks like frozen waterfalls; turnip shields, which look like the vegetable; and brushite moonmilk, a flowing form created by a reaction between limestone and bat droppings.

Bat droppings? We're afraid so. In summer, the Big Room is a maternity roosting area for bats, so it will be open daily for tours only from Oct. 15 to April 15 each year; the other rooms are open daily year-round.

Big Room tours cost $22.95 for adults and $12.95 for children ages 7 to 13; younger children are not admitted. The combined tour of the Rotunda and Throne rooms costs $18.95 for adults and $9.95 for children. Reservations recommended. The caverns are about an hour's drive southeast of Tucson. For information, call (520) 586-2283, www.azstateparks.com.

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Some tourist sites reopen after

Southland fires

As Southern California wildfires were brought under control last week, hotels and attractions returned to normal operations in San Diego County, but some San Bernardino Mountain resort areas were still closed off. Here was the situation as of Tuesday, the Travel section's deadline:

* In San Diego County, Harrah's Rincon Casino and Resort near Valley Center reopened Tuesday. Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino near Lakeside reopened its casino Oct. 29 and its golf club Nov. 1.

SeaWorld in San Diego and Legoland in Carlsbad have also reopened. The San Diego Wild Animal Park, which had been briefly evacuated, and the San Diego Zoo, which took some primates off exhibit, also returned to normal operations.

* In the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, the resort town of Big Bear was open and accessible from the north by California Highways 18 and 38. At Big Bear Mountain Resorts, also accessible from the north, Bear Mountain was expecting to open for the ski season on Nov. 7, weather permitting. No opening date was announced for Snow Summit. For updates, call (909) 866-5766 or visit www.bigbearmountainresorts.com.

Several mountain towns, including Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and Green Valley Lake, lacked power, water or phone service and were open only to local residents. Cedar Glen was closed.

California 18, the area's main thoroughfare, was closed from 40th Street in San Bernardino to Running Springs; access between Running Springs and Big Bear Dam was limited to local residents. For road updates, contact the California Department of Transportation at (800) 427-7623, www.dot.ca.gov/cgibin/roadupdt.

In the San Gabriel Mountains, Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood opened for the ski season on Monday.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK

Springing into Europe

By traveling just before the summer rush, you can save hundreds of dollars on a European vacation. The "France Spring Fly & Drive," from Go-Today.com, starts at $569 per person, double occupancy, if you travel April 1 to June 15, but it's $919 if you travel June 16 to Aug. 31. The price includes round-trip LAX-Paris airfare, plus seven days' rental of a manual, compact car, including taxes and collision damage waiver. Lodging and airport taxes (about $109 per person) are extra. You must book by Dec. 23. Go-Today.com has similar savings on other European trips. Visit www.go-today.com/bestdeals.asp or call (425) 487-9632. (There is a $20 fee for phone bookings.)

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FREE FOR THE ASKING

Guide to scenic Washington road

Amap-guide to the coastal Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway (State Route 112) describes attractions along the 61-mile National Scenic Byway in Washington state. (800) 942-4042, www.olympicpeninsula.com. (Click under "Travel Planner" and go to the "Your Comments or Questions" section.)

-- Compiled by

Jane Engle

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