While visiting family in West Virginia I had a few hours to take my two older boys caving while our youngest napped. Before we left, I provided my wife Sandy with our location, time we expected to be out, and what to do and who to call should she not hear from us by the prearranged time.

My older son, Dawson, was really anxious to go, my middle son, Dylan, was a bit more timid and wanted to go I think more out of not wanting to miss out on anything (see the cave report about Island Ford Cave). I opted for Haynes cave in Monroe County; it is close to Lewisburg and is a very easy cave to access and to actually cave.

The shortest and easiest way to get to the cave is to cut across a large pasture. The boys were not to keen to walk in the field with the cows. With the cow’s quizative look, standing their ground, and the pure size my boys felt more comfortable walking along the outside of the fence.

Not sure how Dylan would adapt to the dark environment I brought my u/w cave light to brighten things up a bit. The light exposed every dark spot in the cave; as a side note I need to bring this light to some of the caves with larger rooms, as it penetrates into the void with ease. Haynes cave doesn’t have much climbing, and what is does is very simple to climb. Dawson was really into it; Dylan was holding his own very well, so well I stopped using my u/w light and switched to a headlamp.

The cave was a dry as I remember resulting in significant amounts of dust in the air just from walking through. It didn’t help that Dawson and Dylan found the fine dirt on the ground to be very soft and soothing to the touch; much of their idle time was spent picking up handfuls of dirt and playing with it. It wasn’t long before all their close were a light shade of brown; my only hope was it would brush off easily, otherwise I’m sure my wife would have a word or two with me.

Walking through the cave we talked about how water carved the cave passages at one time and talked about how old the cave was. It wasn’t long before the kids thought dinosaurs walked and lived in the cave. There isn’t many formations, but of the few found we talked about how water made them (I think that might have been a difficult thing for them to believe or fully understand). But they were quick to point of the graffiti, or hieroglyphs as my older son called them, in the cave; that they could relate to.

We stopped and signed the registry on the way in; they each signed their names proudly. Dawson and Dylan found the idea of a registry a bit puzzling at first; but quickly warmed to the idea was we spent some time looking through the past entrants to the cave and that the next people to sign the registry would know that we were there.

We found a few brown bats; Dawson was very excited, as he knows a lot about bats. But he had not seen a real bat, and certainly not a bat in its natural habitat. We were lucky to find one bat near eye level; keeping a courteous distance they could see how the bat was hanging from its feet. We also

We walked the upper level all the way back to the end; a few of the pits were interesting to get around. The boys wanted to use the wooden walkways that have been there for many of years; and they probably safely could use them given their lack of weight. However I chose not to chance it and made them walk around or crawl into and out of the shallow pits. As we retreated we checked out one side lead before heading into the lower level (not the level at the bottom of the pit).

We did find the “well” that is used to get to the lowest level of the cave. There is an old hand crank used to pull buckets of Saltpeter from the lower depths of the cave during the civil war days. The boys were fascinated with the concept and wanted to go get a bucket and rope to see it actually work.

Time past too quickly, and with both of the boys enjoying themselves we lost track of time, I really did not expect our tour to last as long as it had. We have to leave the cave as the time I told Sandy to call in a rescue team should she not hear from me was quickly approaching.

And yes the dusty clothes cleaned up very nicely!

A gallant effort by Ken, Hayden, Howard, and Mike to help me take photos of some of the interesting features in Hancock Cave. Thanks again, Diana

(left) Hayden and Howard admire some solution pendants.

(below) Howard in the Octopus Room

(left) Mike in passage near entrance.

(below) Hayden in small passage near vertical maze.

(left) Howard in some booming passage.

(below) Hayden with some solutional pendants.

(left) Mike and Hayden. Cave passage that gives way to some interesting shadows and light.

Photos by Diana G (2006)

Not having been caving for quite some time I polled people for a survey trip the weekend of Sept 16 in the Marion VA area. In the end it was just myself from the greater Raleigh area. I spoke with Tanya regarding caving with only two people since three is the recommended minimum number of cavers. She was OK with two as long as we didn’t try to attempt more than we should. We tentatively agreed to cave at a cave called Rowland’s on Saturday and to head back to Wide Mouth to work on a dig or two on Sunday.

After a hardy breakfast we made way to Rowland’s cave. Rowland’s is not a recent discovery or a deep hidden secret, but it is on private property. We spoke to the owner for a short time, very nice gentleman. We spoke to him again after caving and showed him the rough sketch; he was very happy to see his cave come to life on a piece of paper.

My first impression driving back toward the hill the cave is in was one of questioning the cave size; the hill is actually very small. The owner told us there were two entrances, I couldn’t see how there could be much cave on the hill and have two entrances. At this point Tanya had found only one entrance due to the steep grade of the hillside.

We geared up and walked to the entrance and went inside the cave briefly to get a sense of which way the cave looked to be going. I was going to continue to work on my sketching abilities and needed all the advanced information I could think of for an educated guess as to where to put the first station on the page. Inside the cave there is an obvious southern passage and an obvious northern passage. The northern passage was an immediate climb down into a large, impressive canyon. The southern passage was a continuous downward sloping grade. We opted to focus on the southern passage; it would be easier to survey and sketch (a must for a novice).

As a two-person team we worked very well together; best of all, our numbers were working. The cave had a few areas that required a few splay shots so I could more accurately reflect the cave on paper. We found the cave getting deeper and deeper. This was an interesting observation; we were sure we were below the stream level of an active stream outside the cave. After finishing up what we could on the southern side we exited the cave to enjoy the beautiful late summer day. We left a possible dig or two that could lead to an active stream passage below; in fact there could be more than one tributary as the water appears to be coming from different directions.

While sitting around outside the cave snacking, I opted to climb the hill and try to find the other entrance. While climbing the hill on my hands and knees at times I found a small cave entrance. I was sure this was not the second entrance from the description the owner had provided, but something that could be checked out later. As I continued to look around I did find the other entrance, you cannot miss it; it is larger than the first entrance. The cave here was a large canyon, and was located within a logical path from the northern passage noted earlier. The cave here immediately slopes downward and then appears to go vertical. I say appears because I did not lean over the side due to the angle of the ground and amount of loose dirt and leaves where one would need to stand. I called to Tanya and she made her way up to the second entrance; she was equally impressed with the entrance.

After returning to the first entrance, our reformulated plan was to finish sketching the main room just inside the cave and then to check out the climb down on the northern passage. The climb down was not challenging; soon we were both in the streambed. The streambed source was from the underneath the southern passage we had just surveyed. Heading deeper into the cave we came to what would probably be a chimney climb with a long piece of nylon rope through the middle.

We kept to the plan and didn’t survey anymore, but rather exited the cave and discussed plans to get back in the cave. There is more survey here, some possible rope work, some possible high leads, and possible digs around the streambed. It is interesting to note that the stream is going into the hill and not out.

Due to my planned departure time on Sunday, we opted for a quick restaurant stop for breakfast, then quickly proceeded to Wide Mouth cave with tools in hand. We brought digging and chipping tools. After getting into the cave we chose to try and get through the narrow skeleton key hole first. We brought a mallet and chisel. Once at the restriction, the mallet was all that was needed. We shaved off about a two by five-inch sliver of rock and the restriction was passable. Note: The rock was not a formation and we felt the unnoticeable damage to the cave outweighed the amount of air blowing through.

Both Tanya and myself were able to get through the restriction and continued into the low passage. We trekked probably about 40ft before stopping. The passage continues, it is small and perhaps could be dug out a bit to increase the comfort level; but it is going and going. We can only hope it opens back up.

Given the time, we didn’t survey the passage, nor did we go check out the other dig I think I had broke through on a previous rip; but rather opted to check out the hillside a bit. There are a series of sinkholes in the ground and a few small potential cave entrances nearby. Again, it was interesting to realize that the passage we were in was lower than the streambed outside the cave. And that the streambed is currently dry, but a short distance upstream it is flowing.

Tanya nor myself have a date lined up to get back to Rowland’s, but we will be looking for volunteers to assist; the cave has a few more secrets to reveal. In addition there is ongoing work at Wide Mouth too!

The numbers for the survey:
24 Stations
259.2ft distance surveyed
49.1ft in depth

In an effort to avoid Hurricane Ernesto, Matt Jenkins, Anne Kehs, and I left the Triangle Thursday morning. We drove in the rain to OTR but set up camp during a dry spell.

I headed off to Dreen Cave on Friday morning to take my digital SLR camera on its first trip underground. Ericka Hoffmann and I played around with our cameras while the others rigged and dropped the nearby pit. My photos can be seen at http://mattcj.dyndns.org/~tritrogs/gallery/v/dreencave/. They’re not great photos, but I really liked being able to use the remote to take the photo while I posed.

Saturday I spent cheering on TriTrogs and friends at the Speleolympic Events (http://mattcj.dyndns.org/~tritrogs/gallery/v/otr2006/).

Sunday found me back at Cassell Cave. I went with Bob Hoke and Katherine Bertaut down to the Mud Maze. We all got thoroughly slimed surveying in the sticky mud, but our boots were cleaned again in the stream. We got out of the cave around 9:30 PM and went back to OTR for a fast food dinner and campfire singing with Baltimore Grotto.

Destination: Hancock Cave

Date: August 12, 2006

Participants: Anne Kehs, Mark Little, Ken Walsh, and our hosts and friends (Dave, Drew, John, and Craig)

Have you ever visited a cave so many times that you know the moves like the back of your hand? And then you drag others through it at a comfortable pace until you bring tears to their eyes? Neither do I. At least not quite.

The new landowner at Hancock Cave, Dave, had asked that the TriTrogs give his grandson and him a short tour of the cave. We planned it for the weekend when Dave’s thirteen-year-old grandson was in from California, and I warned him that Hancock is truly a caver’s cave, not for sissies in shiny clean Spandex.

To accommodate a Kenny Chesney concert ticketholder, Anne, Mark, and I drove through a rainstorm to the cave Saturday morning, and everyone met up at the appointed time. At the cave entrance, I gave a short lecture about caving safety and conservation. Everyone listened attentively while I spoke and then taught them how to climb a cable ladder.

No problems descending into the cave, and I (in front) heard no problems as they ascended the first 10-foot climb. I spotted folks as they came down the etrier drop, and no one seemed out of sorts yet.

We sped along to the Octopus Room as everyone enjoyed the shape of the trunk passage (until it became a crawlway). Dave pulled out his copy of the draft map and oriented everyone to the map. We took a short detour over to the Whine Cellar and the first of the dry Toilet Bowls. This was a good warmup for everyone to get their caving legs. As we moved down the passage, I kept getting asked what the name of each object in the cave was. When they found out that a lot of the cave is unnamed, they took it upon themselves to name formations and passages. GREAT!

From the Octopus Room, I started a tour of the pendants and led them toward the back entrance. They asked about the passage name where we walk among the pendants, and I just responded “In the Pendants Hall.” That really got them going. The high window above the stream is now called Rapunzel’s Tower, and the flaked flowstone mound just beyond is now known as The Spinnaker. We played around in the crawlways that lead toward the Long Room, we taught a little bit about chimneying and a lot about butt friction, and everyone still had some energy.

I picked a bad place for seven people to sit for lunch, a room that Dave noted has a breakdown piece shaped like Iceland. Therefore, I led them straight up a climb into the Anastamoses Maze.I probably should’ve picked an easier route, especially as I watched Anne’s kneepads slide down to her ankles. Lunch was what everyone needed to be refreshed after the climb.

After that I dragged the beginners down the Corn Cob Crawl, and Craig felt the joy of wearing his skivvies as a thong. Over toward Hickory Dickory Pit the men worked on lowering their voices to echo “Doom” while Anne and Drew tossed mud patties from Anne’s boots into the pit.

Drew is a great natural caver (better than Hayden when he began), but I denied him a trip up to retrieve Dave Duguid’s webbing from our June trip. I trust Melanie’s balance and timing a little bit more than someone I just met that day for a novice trip. It was probably time to start heading out anyway.

I saved the descent down the Breakdown Staircase for last, and I was very impressed by how well they had learned that day. John had been the person who kept saying that he felt lost in every room, but he did a great job coaching Anne down the steps in the Breakdown Staircase. Anne coached the rest, and they trusted her implicitly.

We followed the canyon straight back into Harrington Hall. I told everyone that they had been there a few times already that day, and Drew immediately knew the way back to the Octopus Room. After I slowed people up to photograph the etrier climb, a salamander slowed up the photographers near the entrance. We made a fun five-hour trip out of the adventure and managed to return everyone to the surface.

I was supposed to be checking out Steger this weekend; however due to a family matter I was in West Virginia instead. Having a few hours to spare and trying to shake the road buzz off I decided to take my two older boys to Island Ford cave, even though that involved more driving.

The two older boys had been in several commerial caves but never a “wild” cave. In the commerial caves they are typically more interested in the gravel path and any pool of water they can find. And of course commerial caves are typically lit well. There were many unanswered questions I had in regards to how they would react, what they would think, would they ever trust me again. In any event I was sure this would be an experience.

They were very excited about the whole thing. They were estatic to be putting on helmets with lights. They both loved the daylight zone, as we rounded the first corner I was watching for changes in their manorizisms. As we ventured farther into the cave, my older son was starting to really get into it. Pointing at this and that, wanting to check every little thing out; which including leaning over small ledges at a stream below us. Whereas the middle son was a bit more cautious, ok really cautious. After a few more turns he mentioned he wanted to go back, not wanting to push him into something he was not comfortable doing I stated we would turn around. The look of disappoint on my older sons face was crushing; however I would rather have a disapointed kid than a kid who is fearful of something.

Once back into the daylight zone we checked out the local pigeons, cave crickets, and the array of trash left behind. They enjoyed just crusing around, yelling into cracks hoping to be heard through another crack in the wall.

In summary it was a good experience, two of my boys got out caving and have an idea of what caving is and what to expect. Though I might have made a cave junkie out of my oldest son, but I’ll need to bring a leash to keep him under control and myself sane. The other, perhaps another day; but in the meantime he’ll probably stick to his guppie like abilities in the pool.

Date: 07/21-23/2006
Cavers: 16
Caves: Greensville Saltpeter(Saturday), Rehoboth Church (Sunday)
Camp: Moncove Lake State Park, near Union, WV
Raining Friday night, but weather cooperate well in the next two days. We spend about 5 hours underground the first day. Diana led a photo group. They had a few of nice shots. The other two groups are led by Matt and Ken. They explore various sites such as a few of entrances, the saltpeter maze, the formation factory, the haystack, and the watch tower in this cave.

Saturday dinner is organized by Brian. Hot dogs, corns and marshmallow are hot of the fire and the grill. Unfortunately there is no salad in the menu so a group has to drive to Union for it.

On Sunday, 7 cavers went underground for about 4 hours. It is more rocky than the previous cave. It has smaller passages with less walking opportunities. There are some climbings, but are easy ones. There are more formations than the first cave. The team explores two big rooms including the Main room. Due to hungry stomach, the rest(most) of the cave is left for later.

This is the first survey trip for Melanie (Booker), Mike(Backward) and Yu (Forward), class of 2006. Dave is the sketcher. Ken is the “mentor” or the “explorer”. The team spent about 9 hours underground! The team realized this until they are out of the cave! Teamwork such as in the first picture is practiced to reach a high lead before the TJ’s trap. One on the cave artist is attached too. More photos in this trip is available in the TriTrog Gallery.

Here is a historical email from Ken:

You surveyed 200.5 feet, not enough for a free meal. The total cave length is now 2.07 miles.

The 12-shot Vertical Maze loop that you closed was 159.6 feet long, and the loop was off by 0.66 feet, rated Good by the software I use.

The loop into TJ’s Trap was just nine shots and 124.65 feet, and your error was 1.52 feet, still rated Good. Things do change in the software as interlocking loops get changed, so these stats may change.

I do need to mention that this was after I corrected a few cases where someone apparently read the small compass numbers instead of the big ones.

Thanks for the help yesterday. You knocked six question marks off of my draft map.


We’ll spend a little bit of time getting this ironed out, but I wanted to thank Matt Jenkins for setting us up with a new way to publish and review trip reports. Check it out, and contact us if you need an invitation to post to the site.

Guidelines for trip reports:
1) Remember that for now visitors can be reading this site.
2) Do NOT report cave locations.

Destination: Hancock Cave Trip Date: July 1, 2006 Participants: Matt Jenkins, Tanya McLaughlin, Ken Walsh, and Aaron Gladder I felt a pang of nervousness when we arrived at the parking area for Hancock Cave. A tractor was clearing part of the field, and I was afraid that we might not get a chance to go underground that day. It turns out that the tractor driver was the new owner of the cave. We introduced ourselves in person to him and his wife, great folks building a retirement home on the property. That was enough to make the trip worthwhile. Good thing. Despite the five leads that we knocked off on the June 10 trip, the cave still has many unexplored leads on this side of the Funnel Tunnel. The problem is that some leads are tricky to get to and others require certain skills (e.g., anorexia). Tanya, Matt, and I had explored much of the cave in the 1990’s so we thought we knew what laid ahead. The funny thing was that drafting the map had skewed my memory a bit, and our long absence had made me forget the depth of the pits. We made the two leads beyond You-Don’t-Know-Jack and Not-in-the-Face Pits our first goal. Because the pits are near the entrance with no good riggable walls and one lead was a pit and the other a climb, we elected to try a novel climbing technique, Tanya’s aluminum ladder. The 13-foot extension ladder was lightweight and made the pathway into the Grantham Room trivial to travel. After that, I let Matt drag the ladder along the crawlway back toward Not-in-the-Face Pit. On my draft map I had drawn a ledge beside an unnamed pit along the way. I looked at the ledge and realized that there was no way to get Tanya to walk along the sloped ledge, pushing her hands against the opposite wall without staring down twenty feet, and climb up the other side. We solved this conundrum by extending the ladder across the pit (with 1.5 feet to spare). On belay I started across the ledge using the ladder for handholds. The tough part was that now I had to crook my neck and move across the ledge on my left knee with my right leg extended across the pit. On the other side, I rigged an etrier to the ladder rung and easily climbed out. Before bringing Matt and Tanya across, I crawled over to Not-in-the-Face Pit to scout it out. The ladder wasn’t going to be long enough to get us to the bottom of the 18-foot-deep pit. Matt came up with the unique idea of tying the cable ladder to the aluminum ladder, dropping the extended aluminum ladder into the unnamed pit, and climbing down the cable ladder. The flaw in the logic was that as soon as we released the cable ladder, both ladders would’ve disappeared from our reach. Other variations involved people simultaneously jumping into pits while attached to one another, but Tanya and I couldn’t be convinced. The aluminum ladder was no use at all in attempts to cross YDKJ Pit, so we returned it to the Grantham Room. We took a side trip to scout out the drop into the Whine Cellar, and my confidence in the ability to get the aluminum ladder to the lead down there waned. Matt then led us almost directly back to TJ’s Trap. It’s good to see that his navigational skills have improved since his dowel days. He asked me if he could descend first with the handline, and I pointed out that that meant he’d have to catch me at the bottom. He reconsidered and let me go down first. We went to the lead where Gordon hung in mid-air in much the same way that bricks don’t (we watched H2G2 the night before that trip). Matt refused to rig the webbing to the rock pendant I suggested (quite wisely) and instead tied Tanya’s webbing into a major loop around the rock holding Mike Davidson’s mud sculptures. The only downside to this rigging was that if you grabbed one side of the webbing, someone else had to pull the other way (another one of Matt’s ways to have one person descend while raising another). I clipped an etrier to the bottom, and we descended into the passage below. Dave Duguid had been into this passage through the tight crawlway a few weeks earlier, and he told us that the passage looked as though it definitely continued. I checked out the passage, and instead it ended abruptly at the base of Which Glob Pit. Matt, Tanya, and I all remembered our survey of Which Glob Pit from December 1997. Back then Matt and I were both hanging from the same cable ladder while reading instruments; Tanya was freezing at the top writing down all the notes and I sketched it in afterwards. As a payment for this shoddy survey, the three of us found ourselves at the bottom of Which Glob Pit again last weekend shortly after the area had received seven inches of rain in one day. The dampness is significant because Matt and I were forced to figure out which protrusion he had used as a station nine years earlier. We surveyed from Like Bricks Don’t to the base of Which Glob in order to map this area and netted just 49 feet of survey. However, it knocks off two more leads in Hancock Cave. When it’s drier, it might be worth digging at the base of Which Glob Pit because this is the furthest point downstream in that part of the cave and blows air. To get back up, we knew that Tanya didn’t want to climb up the loopy webbing, so we sent her out along the crawlway where Dave and Gordon both said I’d never fit. She eventually found the tight spot but insisted she couldn’t fit through. When she told us that we were responsible for getting her out in one piece, Matt and I began entertaining thoughts of a Frankens-Tanya who could be reassembled after passing the pieces out of the cave. We did manage to squeeze her pelvis through the tight spot, get ourselves out of the cave with nothing more than a webbing line, and arrive at the Tuscan Italian Grill at 10 PM. It’s great that they’re open until 11 PM on Saturdays. The included survey length of the cave is now up to 2.08 miles.