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′

I’ll start by thanking Ken Walsh for setting up this trip. It was my first proper photo trip, and I feel like I created some really good content while in the cave. After spending the night at The Bat Ranch, we had a group of seven total that went in Tawney’s Cave on Saturday, July 28. After sorting through gear and deciding which lights to take, Ken and I entered the cave through the Formation Room entrance. We started setting up a shot, and the others followed shortly.

Ken modeled in this first one, and I liked the outcome of it alright, although I cropped it quite a bit from the original frame. The original was actually a landscape photo extending much more to the right, but the formation you see in the foreground was dead center in the frame. After this photo, we moved to a lower section of the Formation Room.

Mark DeWitt climbed up high for this one, and I really like the scale that having him up there demonstrates. We then moved to the back of the Formation Room, where the stream can be accessed.

Dan LaPasha stood in the stream for me this time. In this photo, we are looking back uphill towards the entrance. I wish I had lit this one a bit differently in the foreground, because I would’ve liked more texture in the surface of the water. That said, I like how deep you can see into the room from this angle. From here, we carried all the gear into the Moon Room, which doesn’t have much in the way of formations, though there still are things of interest.


I took two photos showcasing the ceiling here, the first featuring Matthew Lubin and the second with Dan. I experimented with the water some more here, and though I like both photos, the first one is my favorite of the two. We moved a little further into the cave and took a few more photos, but I admit I don’t remember any room names after the Moon Room.

This photo, with Matthew modeling, was just an idea I had when we came upon this little spot. There wasn’t actually much crawling required on this trip, but I thought it would be a cool idea to illustrate it nevertheless. Above this hole is one of two paths to the sinkhole entrance at the rear of the cave. I grabbed one more photo before heading that way, though.

Mark and Ken stood in for this one. The hole in the crawling photo is just below and to the right of what you see in this image. By this point, I had started to get pretty worn out from all the camera gear I dragged along – even with the help of others carrying strobes for me. We continued on to the sinkhole, although we went there via the other route which requires climbing over the decaying cow carcass. I left my gear behind as I was fairly tired at this point. After spending a few minutes in the sinkhole, we returned using the originally planned route that avoids the cow. I grabbed my gear and we began the journey back. There was a fair bit of walking that had to be done in the stream through some passages in the cave, and I had one last idea while doing so.

Dan was carrying one of my strobes, so I had him turn it on and aim it ahead of himself. This shot was quick and dirty, with me not even bothering to use the tripod. I just crouched where I stood in the stream to get as close as I could to the water without falling over and in, and got a shot I wasn’t ashamed of in only a minute or two. With that, I packed up and we continued back to the Formation Room. We had considered checking out the Sump Room on our way out, but I was really feeling the weight of my gear by this point. We exited, locked the gate, and got back to the cars. As I removed outer layers, I realized how much my new boots, suggested by Ken, worked in this cave. I had planned on bringing my usual caving boots which are just “waterproof” hiking boots, but I forgot them when Dan and Ken picked me up. We ended up stopping at Walmart to pick up some new ones, and after trekking through the stream with all my camera gear, I was very glad to have the wellies that I purchased. I considered this trip to be a success, both in that I learned a lot about cave photography and in that I am proud of what I was able to capture through my lens.

Not pictured are Matthew Weiss and Michael Caslin, who were also on our trip. I want to thank everyone for being patient, carrying gear, and modeling for me on this trip.

Emily Graham took me along on a graffiti cleanup trip to the gated Gilley Cave on July 7; I’ve wanted to visit this ACC cave for many years. The Flittermouse Grotto had organized this effort because the spray paint had been so prolific near the entrance. The ten of us managed to extract a significant amount of graffiti in the entrance passage, but more remains. Two photos show how we managed to clean a large stalagmite in the entrance area.

Photos by Steve Bailey


Then we turned it from graffiti cleaning to a sport trip. I was amazed at the gypsum needles and flowers covering the walls of the passage, the numerous dome pits, the interwoven parallel passages, and the way that Dan Henry and Emily understood the ways through the breakdown piles. They led us down to the passage upstream of Echo Lake. While the women explored the crawlway to the lake, I focused on learning the way back toward the entrance.

We followed Dan past the waterfall up to a large collection of Gilley Cave hoops, a cave formation I’ve never seen before. The hoops were in random spots on the floor and walls, extending up to four feet in diameter and six inches thick. I’m not sure why Emily had carried a tape measure into the cave, but it did come in handy when she wanted to check the sizes. Another remarkable sight was the fairy graveyard; the grave stones looked like ice formations and not limestone at all. Definitely a cave with some unique sights.

As the great adventurer, Bilbo Baggins, once said, “the key to exploration is to get lost before Elevensies, and find your way by second dinner”.  Or something like that; but he’s also the one who said it’s okay to put your good non-stick ware in the dishwasher, so what does he really know?  You know what a fancy magic ring of power doesn’t do? Make that baked on tomato sauce come off your pan any easier…  So, ha!


A long, long time ago there was a little girl who was very indecisive.  Her name was Lilea.  Every Summer she was forced to spend a week with her Daddy, who is very mean, and this Summer he was determined to make her go caving.  Initially, the little girl was very excited to go caving, but as the Week of Despair got closer (like, the day before), she asked her Mom to inform her Dad that she no longer wanted to go caving; she wanted to go to the beach for a week instead.  Her Daddy, who again is very mean, said, “too bad, people already took off work for this trip, and if we don’t go there won’t be enough people for anyone else to go.” What was uttered next made her Daddy reconsider his rule that he’d rather his daughter “use bad language and be a good person, than be a bad person and use good language”.

Irregardless (it’s a work of fiction, made-up words are allowed), that’s how, mere hours later, our intrepid little adventurer, Lilea, found herself in the town of Blacksburg, at a Mediterranean restaurant, with people she’d not yet met but once before at the Spring of VAR (Alexa and Ava).  After asserting her dominance over her new companions, by having her stuffed animal stuffed defecate into every water glass, a traditional sea-side meal of cheese burger and chicken tenders was shared by the two girls.  The adults meanwhile were reduced to eating scraps of grilled fish over a bed of rice and a Greek salad.  After consuming their wretched fare, the adults were then commanded to transport their overlords across the street to Kroger for S’more’s ingredients and additional supplies before driving the remaining way to the Bat Ranch.

After introductions, the adults set up camp while the children ran about the front field running from small bugs intent on falling in love under the pale light of quick moving headlamps.  After camp was set the party was given a quick tour of the Bat Ranch; including a healthy collection of both Play-Dough and exotic animals before settling down for the night.  Of particular ‘coolness’ was that the fireflies gravitated towards the tops of the trees that line the edge of the field—so even though the sky was somewhat cloudy and not many stars were visible, there was a halo of twinkling lights around the tents.  After nostrils and throats were cleared of all offending six legged passengers the children were tucked in, and after making a plan for the morrow the adults soon followed.

After a breakfast of oatmeal, cereal, and sadness (because Lilea had to eat oatmeal, like I said, her Daddy is mean) the crew packed up and got ready to hit Tawney’s Cave.  After signing in, leaving something of value (i.e. a small, feral kitten) to ensure good behavior while in the cave; Alexa, Ava, Eric, and Lilea headed across the street and up a small hill to the gated entrance of the cave.  It should be noted that by design the locks are particularly difficult to access for people with hands.  It should also be noted, that this fact will not register, despite repeated explanations, to children under 10 who will constantly spew ridicule at how long it’s taking an adult to do something as simple as turning a key in a lock. After far too much of a struggle, the gate was opened; the adventurers passed through, and locked themselves into the darkness.

The entrance opens up into a large formation room; with flowstone, draperies, columns, and other various formations present across most of the floor and walls.  The floor tiers down towards a stream, which cuts across the room on a diagonal, and the steps back up on the other side.  We initially headed down towards the stream, helping the girls down across some of the larger, slippery steps along the way.  Once we got down there we couldn’t find a way to ford the stream without getting wet, so we went back up and headed towards the left where we found a side passage that led to a few rooms.  In one, there is a bulge coming out from the wall that is covered with mud sculptures created by travellers in the ‘before times’.

The girls made a cat (Lilea) and a snake (Ava) and left them on the altar in order to procure us safe passage from the heavens.  After a short crawl to explore a small mud room, we headed back into the formation room and proceeded to walk along the left side in search of a way to cross without getting wet.  We found a sloped area of hard packed mud that could have potentially been used, but as it ended in a short cliff, which had a small ledge before becoming another cliff that led directly into the stream we decided against taking the kids that route.  I didn’t particularly want to go that route either, because my foots couldn’t find good purchase when I was testing it out and I am not sure I would have made it across safely myself.

We decided to go back to the lower tiers on the right side and ford the stream.  This was not a particularly appealing option for me because I have pancake feet. They’re short and wide and that makes finding boots that fit rather difficult; so while everyone else was in Wellies I was in my hiking boots.  Nevertheless, he persisted.  Alexa went in first, and carried Ava across before pushing her up a steep mud slope on the other side.  I hopped in next, caught Lilea as she jumped on me before I was ready, crossed over and pushed her butt up the mud before attempting the climb myself.  It is also worth nothing, that mud that already slick, becomes slicker when the weight of your foot squeezes all of the water out of your boots.

After passing through several wide passages, with the stream off to our side, we ended up in the Moon Room.  It’s worth noting, that up to this point I had a lot of difficulty with the map because the information wasn’t matching up to what we were encountering.  Alexa, who was using the map more as a pocket warmer, did much better in determining where we were.  The Moon Room is a dome shaped room, most of which is a mud flat with an occasional pool, and ringed by the stream.  We stopped here for a snack.  I ate princess fruit snacks, granola bars, and a Clif bar.  Lilea convinced Alexa and Ava that she was a poor, abused little creature and managed to score some rice crispy treats and a pepperoni roll in addition to the ‘inadequate gruel’ I attempted to feed her.

Our short break over, we proceeded to scale the large breakdown area behind us.  Ava Pope mentioned that to get through the breakdown we would need to go up and over it, before proceeding down the other side.  According to our map, which was at least 50 years old, if we went up and over in the middle we would encounter a “T” junction, and we could take it to the left towards fossil pools and the “Emerald Room”, and if we went to the right we would walk the stream passage towards the sink hole at the ‘end’ of the cave. We were unable to find the left hand route (a newer copy of the map shows that we needed to find a secondhand left turn that was misplaced on our map), so we continued on to the right through the ‘canyon’ at the back of the breakdown pile until we came to a tunnel with a mud and pool filled floor.

(Exhibit A. Old Map)

(Exhibit B. Slightly Less Old Map)

Ava and Lilea walked in on the right hand side, through the mud, but because of the low ceiling I walked straight through the water. This is right after I previously fussed at kiddo for stomping through water because the cloudy water makes it harder for animals that might be living in it to breathe.  I don’t know if that’s technically true; I mostly said it because I want her to take her footing seriously when she’s caving and not get hurt goofing off.  However, while I was destroying Kevin Spacey Land (he’s apparently not the star of “Water World” per IMDB), I saw three small salamander larvae swimming in a shallow pool, and we saw an adult (orange with black spots) off to the side in a different pool under a low overhang.

Thanks to a recent presentation by another Grotto member, Kim, we knew that all salamanders have a Cloaca, which when threatened, they can use like an “Angry Bird’s” type cannon to ward off predators or knock down towers of pigs (I’ve never actually played “Angry Birds”, but it sounds about right?).  Unfortunately, despite a lot of name calling, in multiple languages, and numerous attempts at verbal agitation we were not able to get any response from any of the salamanders.  It’s 2018, and salamanders apparently no longer care if their father was a hamster, or their mother smelt of elderberry.  In a way, I get that.  We passed on into a room that sloped down to the right, full of slippery, sticky mud. At the bottom was a deep pool where the stream went under the rocks, and moving forward was tall, wide, stream passage.

The stream passage was pretty easily traversed.  Alexa and I walked through the water, and supported the kids as they walked on the muddy side slopes, occasionally carrying them as necessary.  The first branch to the right that we took, near a well pipe that extends down through the ceiling to the floor, was a dead end and not the lead to the sinkhole like we expected.  We backtracked and took the next right, near the saltpeter mounds, and walked to the end to what appeared to be a dead-end with the exception a tight crawl.  The crawl itself was through small shards of breakdown, and was labeled the “Crawl of Despair” about three feet in, and the name continued as I went in about 20 or so feet, struggled to turn around in the small end room, and crawled back out.  This delicate flower was bruised, but unbowed.

While I was making the long, arduous trip back from my decent into the Abyss of Hopelessness, Alexa found the actual passage located about 15 feet to our right.  We went in towards the sinkhole, which I should mention, had been smelling gradually riper as we moved further in and away from the stream passage.  We moved over a patch of breakdown that was covered with something of a very bright white nature, and looking over, we saw a pair of ribs.  It turns out, we were traversing over the moldy, rotten, remnants of a cow that had fallen in the sinkhole and had to be put down inside the cave.  Turns out, moldy dead cow adheres to your clothes rather well, and also makes small children feel rather nauseous.  With that in mind, we moved forward into the sinkhole, and some fresher air, with all due haste.

We walked around the sinkhole a little bit, found another salamander, and then returned to the cave via the other side of the sinkhole. The route back to the stream passage was relatively easy, with a few areas where the kids needed help down a ledge or embankment.  After that, the return trip was mostly a matter of retracing our steps back the way we came.  We again, made a short snack stop in the Moon Room, but it was a short one as the girls were anxious to get above ground again and into the sunlight.  We didn’t really spend any time taking pictures during the actual trip; so Alexa and I took a few pictures near the entrance of the girls.  Again, it took a while to unlock the gate and Lilea and Ava were extra judgmental and impatient because they both had to use the restroom.  I made my best calming stream noises to try to placate them, but to no avail.

(Photo credit: Alexa Simmons, also, apparently, not Tawney’s Cave.  Oops.)

All in all, a good trip underground.  When we went back to the Bat Ranch we discovered a map that was about 25 years newer, and much more accurate and detailed.  Unfortunately, we only discovered that after I’d given our spare, unused, old map to a different group the following day.  And they were never seen again… (we can only assume?)  Big thanks to Ava and Mike for letting us crash at the Bat Ranch, and for tolerating two small terrors and two adults that might not have been as prepared for everything as they should have been.


**Certain events ‘may’ be slightly exaggerated, falsified, or patently untrue.  The editor quit after the second paragraph, so professional polish may be lacking in the final product.

Dawson Duguid, Dave Duguid, and Carlin Kartchner were willing to help me get back to the Rail Valley Cave survey again in Smyth County, Virginia. It had been three years since Emily and Joel surveyed with me there and left five leads (three promising and two not-so-much). The difficulty had been that I needed a high clearance vehicle and a rain-free, snowmelt-free forecast in order to access the inside of the cave, but the wait was worth it.

Saturday morning we found that the property gate was locked, so we drove to the owner’s home in search of a key. We found no owner. Via GPS Carlin devised an alternate plan that involved crossing the Middle Fork of the Holston River, so we went in search of a good parking spot. Along the way, Carlin began hopping up and down in his seat when he saw resurgences pouring from the downstream side of the river’s oxbow. We had to pull over while he forded the river and checked out seven resurgences and the nearby rocks, but the wait was worth it.

Lacking a good parking area and unsure of how wet we wanted to get in the river before cave entry, we chose to go back to the original gate. It was still locked. So we hiked in. Odds are the trees that had grown up in various places would’ve prevented Dawson’s truck from getting us back there anyway. Long hike in the summer heat but worth the wait.

We found the entrance easily enough and went straight toward the leads in the back of the cave. The upper lead crossed over some small rimstone pools where we observed many segmented grains of rice crawling underwater. We’d appreciate any help with identification. That passage kept going up, eventually into a sideways crawl around formations. Then it ended.

The lower lead took us quickly down to a terminal sump. While I sketched the sump area, I sent the remainder of the team back to Emily’s lead near the Hanging Buddha. Three years earlier Emily had relayed that the passage looked to continue as a belly crawl at the floor level but needed to be dug open; same notation on the original cave sketches from Wil Orndorff.

When I arrived at the lead, my team had disappeared from sight. I could hear whooping and hollering behind the wall. They found an easy bypass to Emily’s lead and had climbed into the Liquor Cabinet, a thirty-foot high room marked by flowstone pagodas climbing to the ceiling. Two horizontal leads lead out of the Liquor Cabinet, and a thirty-foot pit had intrigued Dave and Carlin. We looked across the pit to what might be a significantly larger room in this cave that previously held no rooms at all. We surveyed the Liquor Cabinet and then decided that we were all too wet and cold to continue much further. Dave and Dawson made a voice connection via Emily’s belly crawl to the Liquor Cabinet, but no visual connection. 371 feet of survey.

Sunday morning found Carlin outside again identifying the plants in Tanya’s neighborhood. We opted to take Tanya that day out to Staley’s Cave for a survey trip. We netted 211 survey feet mostly in a straight line, a dead calf, a hornet’s nest, white caterpillars crawling on Carlin, and one angry mother bird.

Dawson took some great photos (see below), but I couldn’t figure out how to get them all turned right side up in WordPress.

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid

Photo by Dawson S. Duguid


Just a few pictures from the May 12 Girl Scout trip. They did an impressive job of removing graffiti and picking up trash and were rewarded with some fun, muddy caving and eye-catching formations. Pictures taken in the “outer” mine area might show people without helmets or gloves.

After the painfully frigid dampness of Dutton’s, Dave Duguid, Ken Walsh, Jason Lachniet, and I strolled along the sunlit field over to Radon Cave. It didn’t take long to find out that Ken wouldn’t fit through the entrance crawl. We traded him a shovel for a cable ladder and left him behind.

When we reached the junction where the old traverse was, we were shortly joined by the grunting and hissing of a groundhog. He retreated down a side passage, but his stench lingered while Dave ascended 25 feet and rigged the cable ladder. After yet more belly crawling, we reached the pinch and the reason we’d brought along the hammer. Without Ken, extra tools were unnecessary, and we slid out into the Big Room effortlessly.

At first, it just looks like a big room, and I was so grateful to be standing up that I soaked it in. Then Dave told me to climb the small breakdown pile, and from there, it’s clearly a Big Room. Jason set stations, bouncing from one wall to the other until we reached the far end of the room, occasionally noting the faded carbide station markers from a previous survey. We surveyed a total of 300 feet. The ceiling height maxed out at 75 feet. We eyeballed a ledge about 15 feet above the pinch and agreed that someone could free climb most of the way and reach it with a few bolts. The only remaining leads would be high ones that are only visible and accessible from up there.

In the big room, we saw one live bat, one isopod, and the decayed remains of one groundhog-sized critter.

While we were surveying Ken enlarged the entrance crawl, and getting out was a breeze. At least, it was less miserable than it would have been.

Emily Graham, Dave Duguid, and Jason Lachniet seemed intent on exploring Radon Cave, but Dutton Cave would waylay them first because I was driving this weekend. I had estimated that fifteen survey shots would be all that were required to fully characterize this Cave Ridge cave, based on a scouting trip once before.

We entered the upper level, easily surveyed that single room with three different pits, and then dropped a cable ladder to the lower level. Jason and Dave took a westward turn and surveyed speedily down a decorated passage that twisted its way back to some small rimstone dams. Then it got tough.

Emily stood in the coldest spot between the three pits above while Dave and Jason surveyed over, under, and around numerous fins and random tubes. The water level in the pool was at least four feet lower than during my previous trip to the cave, so there was even more to explore (where I didn’t quite fit). The Cowl and The Sombrero were the more interesting blackened formations decorating this area. However, the strangest thing we noticed was a stone platform beside the pool. Someone had used flat rocks to build a four-foot high platform long ago at the water’s edge more than forty feet below the entrance.

It was nice to total 434 feet of survey (32 survey stations) by the halfway point in our cave trip that day and finish the survey of another Smyth County, Virginia cave.

I had a blast on my first real caving adventure. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was just what I was looking to do. I have been in caves before, but this was the first time I had the freedom to go where I wanted and had the potential to go into uncharted territory. The small cave entrances were a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t really mind, but I was glad to get past them. Once we got into the cave, I couldn’t wait to continue exploring. Our original goal was to take some climbing gear and a scaling pole somewhat far into the cave to get up onto a ledge. We had no idea what was beyond the ledge, but that is the nature of exploring new territory! It’s possible it would dead end right away, or it could have been a whole new cave to discover. We decided to use the pole at another location near the cave’s entrance to climb up a wall. The pole ended up failing when Mark climbed up it about 15 feet. We had to abandon our original plan so David, Brian, and myself just explored the more accessible parts of the cave. Many of the rock formations were absolutely beautiful. Since this cave has only been explored by only a handful of people, the rock formations were in great shape. We also got some amazing pictures that I did not expect to get due to lighting. I decided not to bring a camera so I could just focus on the experience. Brian luckily had a great low light camera and experience with using head lamps and flashlights to get some great shots. One of my favorite parts was going down into the drain at the bottom of a huge room. It wasn’t an extremely tight fit, but it was nothing like I’ve ever done before. Several vertical climbs surrounded by rock that appeared to dead end just a few feet ahead. This eventually lead to a hallway that brought you to a huge room with a big vertical drop known as the pit. This is where we had to turn back because we didn’t have gear. I would definitely consider returning to this cave to go beyond this point.

On day two we went to Radon cave. I thought Snocone had some tight squeezes, but the entrance to this cave was about as tight as could be. It was about four feet wide, and the height was such that you had to crawl on your belly and couldn’t even take a deep breath at one point. What made this cave fun for me was that none of us had been very far into the cave so we didn’t know what to expect. I also got to learn a little bit about how to survey a cave. This cave clearly had been explored by “many” cavers over the years. I got to explore the cave a little bit by myself while the others were preparing to survey. I climbed down a wall and found a hole that we would eventually explore. The hole was about an eight foot drop so I had to wait for Dave to setup something for us to climb up and down. The anticipation to see where this would lead was very exciting. It didn’t go as far as I had hoped, but it was a good amount of space to survey in one day. I’m really lucky that Dave, Mark, and Carlin were willing to take a chance by bringing me on this trip without knowing my caving ability. Another caving trip is definitely in my future. This trip was just what I was looking for!

-Mike Hammock-