Seven members of the Triangle Troglodytes Grotto (Michelle Cavalieri, Michael McBride, Elena Morgan, Elise Sanderson, Emily Graham, Tanya McLaughlin, and Ken Walsh) visited West Virginia Cave Conservancy’s Hancock Cave Preserve on October 3, 2020. They performed several surface tasks to establish a relatively safe trail from the road to the cave entrance up along the steep mountainside. The TriTrogs cleared bottles and cans dropped near the roadside, labeled a walking path with flagging tape to the stream, removed an unsightly manmade object from the property (a mailbox), and used found rocks to construct dozens of steps that now form a safer pathway to and from the cave entrance. The natural look to the pathway camouflages it from the road, but future improvements may be necessary as the elements erode the trail where it crosses some water courses.

Photos by Emily Graham

Trip Report for GSS 602, Biscuits and Gravy Cave

    On Saturday, March 7th 2020, while at the Florida Cave Crawl hosted by the Flint River Grotto, I had the privilege of accompanying 8 other cavers into GSS number 602, also known as Biscuits and Gravy Cave.

    Upon arriving at the Cave Crawl campground, my companion, John Graham and I immediately sought out the sign-up sheets for the weekend’s trips, as they tend to fill up quickly. John, at a youthful age of 73, requested I pick a moderate cave for us to enjoy. John was a member of a now defunct Capital Area grotto and had not been underground in 20 or more years. After some discussion with some locals, we decided on Biscuits and Gravy, as the map showed it to be longer than the typical Florida dry cave, but not so lengthy that energy levels would be spent entirely on the one cave.

    On Saturday morning, we rose to a brisk 36 degree Florida morning and joined up with a group of cavers who varied from long time cavers from Indiana to a few new cavers from Tallahassee, 2 of which had never been in a cave before. Our guide was Nathan Dunfee, a caver local to the area and familiar with the cave. As sometimes happens, the quest to get to the cave was just as much as an adventure as being in the cave! The caravan to the cave was set to leave at 10:00 AM (CST), but at 10:05 it was quite apparent that our time frame may have been in need of adjustment. The group of new comers were no where to be found. After some searching, they turned up, and we set out. However, some head lamps needed fresh batteries, and one of the vehicles needed refueling, so the request was made to stop at a gas station that would take both needs into account. The stop was a bit of a mess. Gas was easily obtained, but it seemed the price of batteries was a bit steep, and those who needed the batteries quickly began to work with the local gas attendant on a map to the closest Dollar General, or better yet, Dollar Tree, in order to find batteries that were cheaper than the $7 asking price at the current stop. Just a reminder, we were currently at a Gas Station name “Blondies” in the middle of “nowhere” near the junction of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. There was absolutely 0 enthusiasm on our guide’s face at this point! Luckily, intelligence prevailed and $7 was sacrificed to the attendant at “Blondies” gas station, and we were on our way once more. (I was able to snag a pair of Cow Tales to share, as John had never had one before).

    After about an hour of driving, and countless tiny, trailer filled towns cruised through, we found our way down an ungated dirt road to a limestone quarry in the southwest corner of Georgia. The quarry had seen years of disuse but was currently mining small amounts of “medical grade” lime, so there were a few piles of white gravel and powder near our parking area, as well as some modern equipment scattered amongst the dilapidated piles of mining equipment. Among the piles or rubble were large amounts of shell fossils, which made for an interesting exploration of the parking area. After a quick look around, we geared up. I had recently purchased a new caving suit, a new helmet and a new pair of head lamps (AV 2 piece, Mammut El Cap and 2 Zebralights) and was excited to try them out. The new 2 piece caving suit immediately struck me as an improvement, as I always have trouble getting my shoulders into the one piece suit I have. The jacket portion of the suit was a breeze to get on, and the pants were similar to what I have previously used, except with the addition of a built in belt.

    The quarry proper had not been worked in long enough that trees that were likely 20 years old or more were growing along the floor, and the view was much like the quarry at Santos in Central Florida. Large boulders that resembled fossilized coral lined the narrow path to the Cave’s two entrances. Nathan was kind enough to take us to the larger of the 2 entrances, which was still a pretty tight squeeze. The entrance rock was jagged and sharped, and 4 tight turns downward needed to be wiggled through to enter the first “room”. The choice of “Feet first or headfirst” was mentioned, and in true to myself fashion, I dove in head first. At the second narrow bend, approximately 10 feet into the cave, while head down at an about 70-degree angle, my Banana Pack (around my waist), seemed to get snagged on a jagged rock. There was very little room to turn, and as both hands were stretched out in front of me, I was momentarily trapped hanging upside down. I was eventually able to work an arm back through the hole I was passing through, and immediately worked my hand to a spot to unclasp the belt on the Banana Pack. I’d previously been in similar situations and was unconcerned. However, in previous cases, I’d had on my trusty one-piece cave suit, and no where in my mind did I have the thought that I now had 2 belts and 2 clasps around my waist. Once the clasp that my hand found was unclipped, I found that there was no change to the situation. I gave a little bounce by shifting my body weight, and I was mobile again. However, as fell forward, my pants, now with an unbuckled belt, snagged on another rock and pulled down to my knees. The crotch of the pants bound on another rock, locking me in place yet again. The caver behind me, on seeing that I had moved, stepped down, wisely feet first, and in a position where he could not see his feet, promptly came to rest on the bound up pants between my knees. I was once again stuck, but this time hanging upside down, my upper half dangling in the first room of the cave, pants around my knees and stuck on a rock with a caver holding them in place. Had I been in a tighter place, I may have died from the laughter. Eventually, through tears of laughter, I was able to communicate to the caver above that he’d need to lift his feet so I could free myself, and with some acrobatics, I was able to flip myself around. I flopped onto the soft sand pile at the bottom of the entrance, pants around my ankles, and was successfully inside Biscuits and Gravy Cave.

    After clearing the entrance to the first room, and replacing my pants, I moved off through the room to explore as the rest of the group entered. The area of the cave we entered was obviously a stream passage, with a smooth floor that had rippled sand from the last rain. The area around the sand area on the floor was dried mud but would obviously make for a sticky mess when wet. The powdery lime of the ceiling trailed down to the mud, and the name of the cave became obvious. Fragments of a box turtle shell were along one wall, with a few scutes lying nearby. The ceiling was the typical white chalk limestone filled with small shells that I’ve seen in most Florida caves. 2 bats were noted in the first room, and a quick jaunt into a side room found a 3rd. I shimmied up a mud crawl to enter another large room. This room was the highlight of the trip. Through out the room were fossils that resembled Sea Urchins. Some were fossilized in a way to see their toothed mouths open, and others had numerous shed spines around them. Spiraled shells, shells with protrusions and tube-like creatures were imbedded all around. A large claw, similar to a crab’s, was found on a ledge.

    After about an our and a half of exploring, the majority of the group moved off along a crawl way to see another area of the cave, but 3 of us decided to exit the cave. I made my way topside, and while John chose to head back to the cars, the other 2 of us decided to check out a small cave perched about 35 feet up along the quarry wall. The climb was slightly exposed, and the rock very fragile, so I alone ended up in this unnamed cave. I explored the twilight area and after about 200 feet of passage came to an obvious dig. The dig looked to proceed about 50 feet through the sand with a ceiling height of about 2 feet, so I made my way back to the sun light and the sketch down climb.

   We met up with the other cavers soon thereafter, got changed into our day clothes, and made the trip back to the campground for the evening festivities. Flint River Grotto is filled with kind, knowledgeable cavers, and they put on a fantastic Crawl. I’d definitely suggest a trip to visit them, but with the foreknowledge that Florida Caves are different than most of the caves we may be used to.

TriTrogs and BCCS cavers got frosty before digging in
Butler Cave on 1-18-20 for Butler Project Weekend #205
Exploring Low Moor Cave on 1-19-20

By Elise Sanderson

Party Members:
Walsh, Lisa Lorenzin, Megan Junod, Axel Ribeille, Elise Sanderson.

Chris Flannagan joined on 1-19 for Low Moor Cave.

The first Tritrog trip of the year almost began bust with plans changing, cavers having to cancel, and injuries aloof. As Mike, Lisa, and myself were going to be at BCCS doing project weekend, and Mike was out with an injury, we melded 2 trips into one successful excursion with 5-6 cavers.

We stayed at The Roost Friday, and with a VERY cold humid start to the Saturday morning, we made our way to the homestead to plan out trips. With ice covering most surfaces, we had to be careful. Changing clothes outside with ice on the ground in open air was quite a blast, and the SOFA entrance to Butler Cave was very reassuring warmth. Looking back, this was my first cold weather caving, and it was a totally new experience. This cold reminded me of the miserable desert mornings before the 130 degree sun came up in Afghanistan, only with ice everywhere, and little sun to warm.

Around 15 people had stayed at the homestead, and a few BCCS members (Max, Mark, Nathan, others) joined us on the tour before the digging commenced. We started into Butler Cave to do the see the Bean Room Overlook with a gnarly 100+ft drop then through to 90 Ugh to Sand Canyon. We went to the natural Bridge upstream, which is where the dry cave portion ended. Before this trip I’d freshly bought and then promptly forgot my Wellies in my car, in a different state (NC). To boot, Max and I had non-waterproof vented combat boots, so on the way to the air dig things got interesting.

Getting to the air dig requires going down an underground stream, which everyone loved Max and I rock hopping along. But, full admittance, at the end with no dry rock in sight.. Lisa wanted to carry me, but I wouldn’t let her since she weighs 30 pounds less than me, so Axel carried me downstream. Then Max got carried by Ken, and we were at the air digsite shortly after. Ken made the comment that the Marine and Naval Academy Midshipman (Student) had to be carried over water, which was a great look back at the traversal.

The digsite is exceptionally well thought out, designed, well abused, and the most fun ive had working underground yet. Phil Lucas’ system is smart and fun to use for sure. The system takes at least 8-10 people to operate, uses a sled on PVC tracks in one section, and an overhead hoist line and pulley system on the other half. We worked the dig with more BCCS members Mark Hodge, Amos Mincin, Sarah Xenophon, Eric Pelkey, Daniel Tucker, Nathan Roser. Amos and Sarah had just popped a big rock, and after clearing that debris we made a few feet of progress on the face. When we collectively stopped digging for the day, the tunnel had visibly changed direction twice, chicaning to the right, then left and continuing straight. This is big news in a tunnel that has been going almost totally straight for 15 years of digging!

Fun fact, trash bag waders don’t work for very long on rocks, as I found out the hard way on the way out. We egressed with some fun crawling on the Blue Ribbon Loop, and upon exiting every grass blade was frozen and the cars were almost fully iced shut. This made stripping wet clothes off exceptionally fun, as everything you could lean against while mostly naked was frozen and ice cold. After we all got back to the roost, Lisa, Megan and myself went back over to the Homestead to hang out with everyone before heading to Low Moor in the Morning.

—Low Moor Mine and Cave—

The five of us met Chris Flannagan, who drove up from Durham, at Penny’s Diner which made our party six. The drive to the mine was short, and driving into a mine to park before caving is pretty wild. Low Moor mine and cave consists of vast hollowed open area 30+ vertical feet of open mine topside, then below ground a miniature “Mines of Moria” with vast open areas 100+ft tall, with even bigger pillars holding it steady. Sadly Durin’s Bridge must have been skipped in this mine, or Gandalf already remodeled here. No signs of a Balrog either thankfully, just some crappy graffiti vandals.

The cave has wide passages with lots of eccentric hurdles to navigate, and small passages linking other similar passages. Occasional calcite features scatter the area, all semi to fully covered in soot from heavy equipment diesel making them black. There is gypsum flowers and other crystalline features in both Low Moor and Butler Caves. After Lisa, Megan, and myself called it good for the day, Ken, Axel, and Chris proceeded to let us know there was plenty more caving to be had, as they learned after we stopped. I’m excited to go back to discover the plank and other features, maybe when I wasn’t exhausted from digging.

This was great first trip of the year, with getting to meet many people and getting away for a bit. HUGE thanks to all involved in making it happen! Sorry about the delay in the report, information and names were being collated!

Elise Sanderson

11/16/19 | Trip Report | Marion, VA | Big Sink Cave

Party Members: Ken Walsh, Michael McBride, Carlin Kartchner, Taylor Tibbs, & Rodney Uriarte

The survey group prepared to enter Big Sink Cave on a pleasantly dry and not-too-cold Saturday morning. They entered the gates of the cow pasture and descended down the side of a hill to the small tunneled entrance. Once everyone had slipped inside, they were greeted with the iconic scene that gives Big Sink its delightful moniker – Big Stink. The local residents had generously left more odorous presents than they had in the previous surveys. Fortunately, the group’s nostrils weren’t offended for too long as they quickly split into two teams. Carlin and Rodney set out to profile the previous D and E surveys. Meanwhile, Ken, Michael, and Taylor began down the short semi-dry crawl to the stream passage to answer the always puzzling question: where does water end? A small cave salamander gave salutations as they passed. As they began the F survey, Ken sketched while Michael and Taylor shouted mostly agreeable numbers. While on their journey, the group met some surprisingly large and friendly crawfish. Good eatin’ Michael claimed. One even so trusting crustacean curled up under Taylor’s shoe while she was reading a station. The stream passage narrowed to a tight 2 feet and the sociable crawfish made the roughly 40 feet of splashing and floundering through the narrow space more enjoyable. The stream continued on, opening up briefly to wrap around a mostly dry room approximately 10×10 foot wide with an overhead message of “1997 S.” Beyond this room, Michael dug out some mud so that Taylor could crawl through a short, but tight squeeze that revealed that the stream made a roughly 25 foot bend before dissipating into a murky, bubbling sump, – much to Ken’s dismay, as the water did not travel back Northwards. The two groups reunited and finished a few more survey stations upstream. On the outward ascent Rodney diligently recovered most of a long line of string that had trailed through the cave. The group’s final trek towards the entrance was temporarily impeded by a rather large and confused raccoon wondering why the sun was rising inside of the cave rather than out.

[Ed: more than 1500 feet of cave to visit, most of which is now string-free]

Sunday, the day you wake up questioning if you really made the best choices the day before. What would your parents think of your decisions? Are you too old for these shenanigans?

These are common thoughts during caving weekend. You go into the weekend stoked about getting in multiple days, but then after you make a hard push on Saturday, you consider scaling back your ambitions. Disney+ just came out, maybe we should go home and try that instead.

But no. We’ve got caves to ‘splore.

This weekend, the trip the day before wasn’t actually too bad, but I’ll leave the details and color for that trip to someone else. Helpfully, we also made a fairly leisurely start to the day, not getting to the vicinity of the cave until after 11am.

The cave of the day was Stones #2. In past years the Tri-trogs surveyed the nearby Stones #1 and Cassell caves, but ended up saving this one for later. During the survey of those caves, Dave and I located the entrance to this cave and did some quick exploring to get an idea for what to expect. One thing we learned from that trip was that our access path was less than ideal. We basically climbed down and up a cliff to get there. Was there a better way?

At a later date, Ken had made a trip to checkout the possibility of non-cliff access, and thought he’d found something very convenient just across the river. When we drove there this time, “what, No Tresspassing”?! So we drove around to find another way. What did the top of the cliff look like? Oh, a brand new fence, thats nice, and annoying. We also didn’t have permission to park where we had been parking previously. Talking to strangers is hard. We did, however, find a way.

There was a nice parking pull out where we could walk along the river to our destination. Before suiting up, we made the short trek through the woods to determine the feasibility of access, and determined this new path would work out great even if we did step over a deer carcass to get there.

So, back to the car, then back to the cave. Cross the river. Don’t slip and fall. Oh, the water went over the top of your boots, too bad. It was cool that day, but not too bad. The sun was shining with almost no clouds in the sky. Once we got inside out of the breeze, the cave was rather pleasant. A little animal scat, but compared to Big Sink it was unremarkable.

As for the survey, it was rippin’ speedy. I was setting stations, Ken was on book, Taylor and Rodney were on instruments. After a bit of struggles with the first shot, we were off to the races. On a couple occasions I got ahead of the team with my station setting, and was able to do a little solo surveying, leaving my red LED at the opposite station, getting foresights and backsights of course, and recording the numbers in my book separately to hand off to Ken.

The cave itself has two entrances, very close to each other that lead into the main room. There is a side passage that seems to parallel the cliff/river, but eventually got too tight for my hips. Through a steep uphill crawl too tight for hands and knees, there is an upper room about 15 feet high. Weirdly enough, in that room there were roots embedded in the climb to the top part of that room, and there was also a slug on the ceiling, something I’ve never witnessed in cave before. The cave also had four bats scattered on the ceiling throughout the cave. Neat, better than Hancock.

The best part of the whole trip was that although I was rushing the pace a bit so I could get back in time for my ultimate Frisbee games, we got the whole thing surveyed. Yeah, all of it! The whole thing. 334 feet in the book! Woo-hoo. It felt super good. We left the cave feeling accomplished and made a quick change back at the car.

On the way home, the real world started to creep back in. Things like grad school, unemployment, and ultimate were the topics of the drive. The highs and lows of the weekend started to fade into the background as we made sure Ken didn’t fall asleep to the freeway lullaby. It was great to get outside, but we couldn’t stay there forever. It was nice to get away for a moment though, however brief it felt. We should go caving more often.

I’m thankful that Smyth County had little rain in September and early October.

I’m thankful I had an umbrella on Sunday morning,

Thankful that Mark Little and Michael McBride agreed to help me survey Big Sink Cave on Saturday,

Thankful that I still had one clean (but wet) glove when exiting Big Sink Cave,

Thankful that Michael prepared a full breakfast buffet for the TriTrogs,

Thankful that Mark and Michael snipped up the old barbed wire fence that has always been a tripping hazard,

Thankful that Michael has experience building trails and was willing to start drawing up plans for a new approach trail to Hancock Cave’s entrance,

Thankful that Tanya McLaughlin let us stay at her house and shared so many naturalist suggestions for the trail,

Thankful that the snoring from downstairs only mildly penetrated the upstairs floor I was sleeping on,

Thankful that Tanya came out to Hancock Cave on Sunday to share stories about Hancock Cave with the van drivers for the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium,

Thankful that Mr. Harrington allowed us to visit the back entrances to the cave,

Thankful that Drunk Dave led Michael and Emily Graham off so that more Sunday lunch food was available for me,

Thankful that Kim Parks prepared an incredible lunch for us on Sunday,

And incredibly indebted to Kim, Emily, Michael, Pete Hertl, Rodney Uriarte, and Elise Sanderson helped lead four good Hancock Cave trips for the Symposium field trip participants.

Thanks to all the people who made this weekend’s trips such a success.

The Annual Grotto Trip began with twelve of us headed from a wonderful campground over to Cave Ridge. I grabbed some flagging tape to mark the cave entrances for the different groups and headed across the field. I hadn’t counted on the hillside being covered in quite so much plant growth and ran out of flagging tape before I found the last entrance. Path finding got more interesting after that.

I returned to the cars to suit up and join my group. I was the tallest and oldest, and Carlin’s second son was the shortest and youngest at eighteen months. We climbed the hill to Boxwork Crystal Cave, and Carlin entered the slot first and invited Son #2 to slide in. He wanted nothing to do with going into that crack, even with the encouragement of his older brother and Carlin. I think he knew that Carlin was planning to put him onto his back again and that he wouldn’t have free movement.

The four of us managed to cross all three pits, and the the four-year-old did a masterful job of negotiating the significant breakdown piles (significant to someone of his stature). When the passage got low, Son #1 directed us to turn back for the entrance. He was anxious to see another cave.

We took a very short walk to the horizontal entrance to Dead Air Cave. Cold air conditioning welcomed us all, but neither of Carlin’s children wanted to go inside until Mike Broome showed up with extra layers of clothes for Son #1. Mike and I led Son #1 into the cave, passed the pools and white formations in the big room, descended the slope, and stopped for shadow puppetry. We “figured out” how to climb the hill and exited the cave for an exciting trip.

Next day Emily Graham, Mike Broome, Lisa Lorenzin, Diana Gietl, and I headed to survey Big Sink Cave. Mike, Lisa, and Diana surveyed down the stream passage, and we could hear them calling to one another far better than they could hear one another. We should’ve been writing down their numbers for them.

Emily and I tied the stream passage entrance to the previous survey in two places and then headed over to a stream lead Emily found. After crawling around or the first ten survey shots, it was a delight to stand up and clock a shot at 48.6 feet with a wonderfully flat floor. The lead continued around a corner and across a low cobble crawl back into walking passage again. That’s a great lead to pursue on the next trip. More than four hundred feet of Sunday survey and still good leads to survey.

When the request came from James River Grotto for people who were willing to lead trips in Smyth County, I (eventually) stepped up to lead a trip to Hancock Cave. Why Hancock? First, I know my route through the cave. Second, with the help of some other TriTrogs, I’m leading a group of Girl Scouts there in a couple weeks and didn’t mind an opportunity to check on the condition of the entrance.

Due to a communication breakdown, Hancock wasn’t among the signup sheets that were put out at 10pm Friday night. I was kind of bummed, but I knew there were enough TriTrogs interested to make a full trip happen anyway. The apologetic VAR staff made a signup sheet in case anyone rolled in early Saturday looking for a trip. Saturday morning six of us stopped at registration to discover that a big bunch of people had signed up – wheee! We rearranged ourselves into two groups – a group of six (including and) led by Kim and Lisa and a group of eight (including and) led by me and Diana.

Kim’s group arrived first, and they rigged the entrance with both a handline and a cable ladder. The ladder was useful on the way in and necessary on the way out. Water poured into the entrance room through several cracks in the ceiling and along the left wall. A guy in my group declined to use either the webbing or the ladder and slid about 30 feet coming in. Wheee! He wasn’t hurt but busted his pack open and spilled its contents in the process. We spotted two salamanders, one Eurycea lucifuga, one only an inch and a half long, dark (Green? Black?), with a pale stripe down the back and some number of toes. No bats.

We were still in the Grantham Room when we heard the first group above us at the Overlook. Our group was moving slowly and two of them would likely have trouble navigating the Toilet Bowls. When we got from the Overlook back to the Octopus Room it was clear that those two would be challenged by anything deeper in the cave. Diana agreed to escort them out so that the rest of us could continue.

After the Breakdown Staircase, we caught up with Kim and Lisa et al at the Comic Book Hole. They had all gone through! Wheee! I was the only one in my group who made it through despite others’ efforts; I clearly should work on my cheerleading skills! That said, it was good that we didn’t waste too much energy there since we all wanted to make it out of the cave, and preferably in time for dinner.

Back at the entrance, everyone made use of the cable ladder. There was a little trouble once it got tangled up with the handline, and it kept sliding into a crevice on the right. We remedied that by having one person wedge himself in on the left in order to hold the ladder in place. When we all met back at the cars, I learned that Diana had assisted her cavers with some photography on their way out, which (based on the smiles on their faces) helped make their trip worthwhile.

My thanks to the considerable efforts of Diana, Kim, and Lisa for salvaging this into a fun, successful, safe trip! Thank you so much! And, bonus, we made it back in time for showers before dinner!

Once again the TriTrogs represented at Grand Caverns Annual Spring Restoration Camp, with participation from Emily, Elise, Kim, Rachel, Tanya, Zeke, and me. The trip started with an unexpected detour toward Lexington to pick up Tanya after her car broke down.

On Saturday morning I led a small group with buckets of gravel back to the Oyster Shells at the back of the tourist trail. Puddles had been forming on the tourist trail, and the commercial trail was getting slippery. We immediately discovered that instead of gravel, we really needed muscle and tools instead. A thin veneer of flowstone was forming atop last year’s gravel. Using a weird assortment of tools, we sledged, picked, and pulled our way back to the gravel floor. We gradually assembled more tools and workers to create very walkable trails.

Kim and Emily hauled lumber up to Fountain Cave, Rachel and Elise scrubbed algae before joining the floor crew, Tanya worked with the flowers, Emily climbed on the roof, and Zeke spent the day installing the first phone lines ever within the cave.

Good dinner and then a trip to Madison Saltpeter Cave (named for the President’s uncle). Thick calcite rafts floated in one of the pools, and Rachel found a deep hole behind one of the formations. Except for Tanya, the TriTrogs all headed home Saturday evening.

Taylor Tibbs, Emily Graham, Pete Hertl and I squeezed into wet suit pieces to prepare for a winter trip into Big Sink Cave in Smyth County, Virginia. I had viewed the 1965 compass-and-pace map that indicated we’d be climbing down through some stream cascades as the survey progressed toward the back of the cave. Therefore, the wet suits seemed to be a good precaution.

Inside the Entrance Room we found that a pack rat or some other creature had likely visited the cave and walked off with our tie-in point at the back of the room. We shot the survey again and then headed for a short easy climb. Atop the climb Emily discovered an alcove with a hole in the ceiling. Emily pushed up a dirty slope but couldn’t quite find enough footing to ascend. Taylor poked her way up into the virgin Kidney Bean Room, but they told me I’d never be able to fit through the entrance hole.

We returned to the more spacious passage where Pete had started mapping out survey points. We found ourselves in Swiss cheese-style cave with interconnecting holes of different sizes over and under mock breakdown. We discovered that one crawlway had multiple holes leading back down into a larger room, and one led right back into the Entrance Room.

We descended into a big open room with a flowstone octopus up near the ceiling, a massive block shooting up like an orca, and a slab that resembled an alligator from one particular angle (according to Pete). Needless to say, we unofficially dubbed the room Sea World even before we noticed the windows into the stream flowing beneath the room.

Sketching this room turned out to be particularly difficult for me. Because it was so hard to figure out if there were any real walls. Behind every rock there seemed to be more empty space, and maybe a lead or two. We spent the next few hours surveying around this room, in and out some of the seven leads that we identified. Along the way we found pretty rooms that weren’t on the 1965 map at all, but those folks never necessarily crawled either.

I thought that the team was about to quit when I realized that we only needed 16 more feet to accumulate 500 feet of survey that day. Emily found a 31-foot shot but then pulled back to stop it at 16.45 feet, declaring an end to the survey that day.

Taylor kindly washed the survey tape in the flowing stream while I finished the sketch. I never stepped in the stream all day, but I think the crew was thankful for the wet suits in the long run. We all stayed warm despite the chilly February temps outside.