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Rangers gave the year's last tours of the Timpanogos Cave National Monument on Sunday, closing the cave a lot earlier than usual.

The rangers typically close the popular site the second weekend of October, depending on weather. But because of sequestration, they had to choose between a smaller staff or fewer weeks this year.

"We cut the season by three weeks so we could keep our staff during the peak season [of summer]," said Jim Ireland, Timanogos Cave superintendent.

There were a ton of hikers at the site on Sunday, since the weather was so nice, but Ireland considers the turnout a rarity. Visitation drops off quite a bit after Labor Day, and cutting down on the cave's availability ensured the park could maximize staffing during its most popular dates in July and August.

Ireland is hopeful the park will operate for the normal amount of weeks next year.

"We've already been through the sequestration exercise. We're already making plans to operate at or below this budget level," he said.

Three weeks free from visitors also allows the park extra time to clean up and maintain the site. This week they plan to inspect the "rock trap," which Ireland described as a giant curtain made of steel mesh that hangs from a cable, which catches boulders in an area prone to rock slides. An engineer will assess whatever damage the trap sustained so the park can make repairs throughout the fall, especially given the big slides brought on by storms this summer.

The park opens the curtain during winter to let avalanches pass through, Ireland added.

Volunteers are also expected to arrive from around the country this week and spend several days restoring the cave formations with toothbrushes, tweezers and bleach, Ireland said.

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