The Rail Valley Cave survey is finished…
…except for the bowling ball sized hole blowing air into your face like a fan.
Just about anyone who reads this trip report will have seen one of the emails I sent out the day before our planned trip. We needed a third surveyor, or the trip wasn’t going to happen. When we planned this trip, we knew it was going to be a hard sell for the local cavers, but we were determined, and tried to get the word out early. Then we crossed our fingers. I thought we had a third until it was almost time to leave. In a mild panic I re-emailed everyone I could think of. I got a number of responses from friends wishing me luck in my search, but for many, alternative plans were already made. Thankfully we had a taker from the Walker Mountain grotto.
I’d never met Zac Lynn before the trip, but I was glad to have him along. After he emailed me his interest, we chatted on the phone for a while and he seemed up to the task. Hiking, crawling, climbing, rappelling, surveying, bushwhacking, eating spiders, water, mud, risk of the cave flooding, whatever. Yee-Haw!
We stayed at Tanya’s Friday night, and Zac met us there at 9am Saturday. Of course I was still packing when he arrived. Fortunately the drive was short. On the hike to the cave I don’t think anyone actually ate any spiders, but Dave kindly offered to take the lead after I wrapped a few large webs around my head. With vertical to be had, we carried about 150’ of rope knowing it was serious overkill, but we didn’t have any shorter pieces available. At this point of the trip I expressed my concerns about the rain for the day. Although Marion was only forecast to have a small amount of rain, reading the scientific discussion informed me of the possibility of up to 2” with storms potentially parking in front of the mountains. We discussed the risks and decided that we should at minimum rig the drop. Worst case we’d get bored trapped in the liquor cabinet for a few hours.
In the entrance crawls, the the dirt and mud had shifted around notably since our previous trip a couple of months ago. Getting wet was unavoidable and I started my time underground by filling one of my shoes with water. Other than that, having a short trip to the start of our leads was really enjoyable.
Upon arriving at the leads we quickly realized something about that area we weren’t prepared to notice on the previous trip. That room is cursed. Okay, maybe not, but that room felt significantly colder than the rest of the cave. Entering the room felt notably colder, and when we left later in the day, the main passage felt much warmer. To add to the chilly feeling, there was air moving in that room, yet despite some frenetic searching, we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.
On to the survey. We started by rigging the pit. There is a thin stream at the bottom, but too tight to be entered up or down stream. Across the pit, the passage was well decorated, but not new to humans as there were some old boot prints. It also didn’t extend very far. Bummer. It looked really super exciting. We wrapped up that room, then surveyed a couple other passages from the liquor cabinet before moving on. One notable aspect of the pit stream was that we believe it could be heard upstream in a small room we called scholar’s cove. This means that we could have three independent streams of water in this small cave. The entrance stream, this one, and the one we were about to go survey.
Near the entrance of the cave, we left a side passage with what was advertised to us a great blowing lead that needed only a little hammering to pass through. Knowing this, we skipped it thinking we’d attack the known stuff first to save the exciting things for later. On the previous trip I explored that passage briefly to determine what sort of tools we might need, and concluded the blowing lead was going to be a lot more work than was advertised. With low expectations, we wrapped up our survey for the day in this passage. However since we were being more thorough on this trip, we realized I’d been looking at the wrong hole. My expectations came from an old sketch that placed the blowing lead in a different location from where I would have drawn it. Yes, a hole does blow there, but there is a much better hole a hidden nearby. It’s about 6’ off the floor and will require some creativity to safely expand, but the air and location make it worth a return trip at some point.
So, until we decide to break out the digging tools, the survey is done. That is the only lead left. We’ll stay off the property for hunting season, and until next summer only the bold will be bothered to return crawling through the fresh snow melt of spring. With Rail Valley off the list… for now, It’s time to find another project.
Survey total for the day: 333.4′