Cutest Balrog Ever

At the end of January, with the Museum’s Social in the Shire event fast approaching, Ken and I looked around for some inspiration for the grotto’s Mines of Moria display. We settled on Low Moor Mine and Cave. With surveying continuing, Ken and I rustled up the most recent map we could find, a couple of beginners, and Peter.

Our first obstacle: the locked gate leading onto the property, a precaution during hunting season. Those of us in wellies easily forded the second obstacle. Ashwin braved the frigid waters in bare feet and slipped on the rocks only once. April sprinted across in her canvas boots. I led our intrepid group in through the impressive mine entrance, then up the talus slope to the natural cave.

Once we found our way into the cave proper, I paused to point out the lovely cave pearls and the scary spider near the natural entrance. Shortly after we escaped from the spider, I stopped dead in my tracks. A nest the size and shape of a slightly deflated basketball sat on the floor in the middle of the passage. Peter immediately identified it as a packrat nest. And there, between the bits of rubble at our feet, we caught a glimpse of the cutest balrog I ever saw! Okay, Peter identified it as a packrat, but it was much bigger than I expected, and so cute!

After we emerged from the single-file passages, Ken encouraged the beginners to lead. Needless to say, we got lost. That’s right – as the writer of this trip report, I can blame whomever I like. I can’t tell you where we went, but we had fun exploring. We encountered several bats, pretty formations, really big rooms, too much graffiti, stream passage. And we avoided doing anything awful unless you count crossing the Very Sketchy Ladder. After a few hours, we tried to find our way back to the entrance only to find that the passages had rearranged themselves while we weren’t looking. After several perplexing minutes, April announced, “I found rat poop!” and suddenly we knew exactly where we were.

Will someone write songs about our heroic adventures underground? Maybe next time. I kinda hope not.