In early July, Ken had suggested another relaxing, recreational cave trip and found enough people (including me), undeterred after the recent ‘Hancock’ trip. We car-pooled up to VA on Friday afternoon and evening to camp for one night, before getting to the cave after a hearty breakfast, Saturday morning.
Once we arrived at the parking lot, we embarked on a gradual uphill hike to the cave entrance. After gearing-up at the entrance, we quickly got out of the humid heat and into the cave; soon arriving at a (the) wooden ladder, which, while sturdy, required some repositioning, before scaling.
Progressing from the ladder, we soon arrived at the “Sand Alley’ and an uncomfortable 6-10 ft overhang, we seemed to have to climb down. While unpacking the webbing and preparing to climb down, we noticed an easier, through tight, crawl to the right, allowing us to bypass this climb (btw this is main route into the cave, which initially escaped our attention).
After further hiking, twisting and crawling, we passed the ‘Nutcracker’ (at that time I wondered by myself what led to the name) and took a (lunch) break before exploring (slightly unintentionally) the ‘Three Parallel Passage’ area. After poking into many off-shoots in this area, we finally made our way towards the ‘Cathedral Passage’.
We were able to hike all the way to the ‘Natural Bridge’, and further to the ‘Laundry Chute’, a 45° angle very muddy uphill clay slope. A few of us scaled the slippery slope with more or less success, while Ken commented on the ‘fun’ of mapping such a thing. After another break, we turned and worked our way back.
Later, while getting stuck, with one leg on one side and the other on the other side of the ‘Nutcracker’, I painfully became aware about the likely origin of the name. Aside from that experience we had to wiggle our way back up another tight tube on the way back, which had been much easier on the way in. Instructions were given to plant your face into the right side of the tube, as no one would be able to contort their body a couple of feet further in the other direction to get out; and put at least one (or two) arms through the exit hole prior to the head and shoulders. Luckily, I made it, lubricated with a clay layer on my cave suit and a few curse words.
Closing a very nice trip off, we had a small excursion into the ‘Historic Section’ of the cave, where we went to the ‘Big Room’ where we set a few minutes with light off to marvel the darkness in the cave. Exiting the cave was finally much easier than Hancock (as a reference point most should know :-).
I think we stayed around 6h underground before we made it back to the cars and dinner on the way home.