A Good Weekend to Be Underground

February 17-18, 2007
Diana was interested in photography, and Hayden and his buddy Rick were more interested in sport caving. To please them both, I took Ericka Hoffmann up on her invitation to join her on a photo trip during the Sligo Grotto trip to Franklin. I figured that Hayden, Rick, and Howard would cave over at the John Guilday Preserve on Saturday where they could stay dry. I got most everything wrong.
Diana backed out, along with the folks that planned to go to the John Guilday Preserve. Instead Howard, Hayden, and Rick joined Meredith and Alan on a trip to Mystic Cave, the same place the photographers planned to go. Pretty brave of them considering that the temperatures the previous night went down to 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ericka, Steve Rexrode, and I entered Mystic Cave near Seneca Rocks with Howard’s group. Ericka laid down in the stream to photograph some ice-mites, but I wasn’t ready to get that cold that soon. I waited until we got further inside and pulled out my camera in a room where we heard Hayden and Rick chasing crayfish. Unfortunately the last time I’d done cave photography was Labor Day, so I had a tough time figuring out why I couldn’t get the flash to work in bulb mode. I read the manual for a while and then just used the flashes I was carrying in the Pelican case.
Ericka and I took turns setting up my camera and remote on the tripod for room and passage shots, so I didn’t dare change the settings back to snap closeups. After an exhaustive series to get one good shot (see the TriTrog photo gallery), I needed a break from posing. While Ericka did a lot of closeup photography in that room, I wandered off to scope out my next shot in the trunk passage.
I set the camera up on a tripod and practiced how I’d get the shot when Ericka and Steve joined me later. I think I like these practice shots better than the well-lit one because they just show my shadows and a yellow streak from my carbide lamp moving down the passage. I captioned the photo “Tinkerbell chasing Peter Pan’s shadow.”
After another series in the main passage, Ericka posed for a set of shots for me. I had to explain to her that both Steve and I were too tall for the shot. I managed to backlight a waterfall in a strange way, and the flash decay actually makes the water drops look as though they’re dripping up instead of down. Too bad I can’t remember which electronic flash we were using for that shot.
We then sport-caved for a while, and I got wet up to my waist (Ericka and Hayden up to their chests). However, we found one more shot to set up (notice the dampness of my bottom half) and didn’t leave the cave until 6:30 PM to a chilly 17 degrees.
The next day we wandered into the New Trout maze and were duly impressed by the walls covered by brachiopods and other fossils. I chopped ice in an attempt to get us up to the Trout Cave entrance but determined that we could walk to Hamilton Cave faster than I was making progress. We spent just a few minutes in Hamilton before Hayden and Rick led us back out and down the hill. Then the long drive back home.