It had been almost a year since having been to Grand Caverns; this time was to be a new experience. I took my two oldest boys with me; I had promised a caving adventure and some camping since spring. Our family trip to West Virginia during the summer months didn’t produce any caving opportunities and for camping, it’s just been far to hot.
Even though the typical format for the caving weekend is to arrive Friday night, we left Saturday morning; insuring we had avoided a front that produced a significant amount of rain throughout the entire region. We entered the park around 2pm and found no one around; there was only one camp set up. The ranger indicated that Carol had retrieved the key to Fountain cave. The ranger provided some additional detail to the lightening strike on Grand Caverns and the damage done; Carol mentioned in an earlier email that we wouldn’t be in Grand Caverns this weekend.
Concluding someone must be in Fountain, we geared up and hiked the hill. We found no sign of anyone at Fountain; the gate was locked and no key was sitting on the ledge. Not having a clue where anyone was at, we hike the remaining hillside to Jefferson Cave and then continued to the top. We wandered around the hilltop before returning back to Fountain; still no one. We then hiked over to Madison cave on an off chance the group was working a different cave today.
We returned to the park and goofed around until dinnertime. We ate at the Wood Fired Oven, Pizza of course. Returning back to the park no one had arrived; again we goofed around in the baseball field until bedtime. The kids tried their best at ghost stories amongst all the laughing until lights out.
In the morning we met up with the other campers, three. The group ridge walked a piece of property Saturday; the effort yielded no new cave. We ate a good breakfast and got Scott on the phone; he was interested in taking one of his kids into Fountain. A small group entered into Fountain cave. The kids enjoyed fountain and wanted to explore all passages; Dawson was sure he’d found a new part of the cave and wanted to map it. Next time I go into Fountain with the kids I need to bring a stronger light; I think the cave would have been much more interesting if the lighting was better.
Scott mentioned he had the key to Madison and we could go over there quickly. Dawson immediately remembered an earlier discussion revolving around George Washington’s signature. He was overjoyed knowing he would get an opportunity to see the signature. Madison is a much smaller cave; we found Washington’s signature surrounded by a slew of others. The three boys enjoyed reading the various signatures and wanted to leave their own; I don’t think they fully understood why that was no longer the proper cave etiquette.
Thanking Scott, we headed down to Crozet Tunnel. Crozet Tunnel was built in 1858; it was the first tunneling effort in the US where teams dug from both sides and met in the middle. A significant engineering accomplishment considering the year accomplished and that the effort yielded only a few feet of error. The tunnel is no longer used; there is a larger tunnel beside it for today’s larger trains.
Dawson and Dylan enjoy trains; yes we have a large collection of “Thomas” paraphernalia. Due to time constraints we didn’t bring lights; we would just hike to the tunnel and go in just a little bit. The boys thought it was cool; even though they were hoping a train would come through the parallel tunnel. No luck. Not hiking through left the opportunity for a future trip.