My First Survey Trip in 2021

Carlin, Andrew, Emily, Zeke, Elise, and Mark D. joined me in the drive up from North Carolina to help with the resurvey of Perkins Cave. We met Jason Lachniet, the cartographer, at the cave entrance, and he introduced us to their field house while Mark D. was trying to figure out if we’d have enough gasoline to return to the highway.

The eight of us travelled toward the Second Discovery section of the cave, where Jason is willing to let me survey for several trips (because I actually fit there). It was mostly straightforward in route-finding all the way out to the Pole Room. Then we started climbing a steep scree-like slope, only one person moving at a time. I was nearly at the top when I placed my cave pack on a ledge, and it rolled off the back. Boom, boom, boom all the way down to Andrew. Fortunately the back of the group took pity on me and carried the pack back up to me.

As we descended to the Second Discovery with a good drop to a ledge, we were delighted to see some amazing calcite rafts decorating the room. Jason’s team charged itself with surveying back to the Pole Room, and Emily, Elise, Andrew and I got to survey the big room with several formation-filled side leads. Emily did a great job of carefully navigating and surveying down the dead ends with the laser disto.

We eventually left the Second Discovery Room toward the U-Section. Emily ignored the main passage and led us beneath the Ballstoda Wall through a sandy crawlway that pushed my back against the ceiling. We dropped into a long passage marked by gypsum-flaked walls. But the flakes were four inches thick. Very pretty place to finish a short survey trip (about 400 feet in 17 new stations).

Perched atop the scree slope, we waited a long time for Carlin’s group to finish their connection survey. Then I cautiously and mostly correctly led the cavers out of Perkins while it was still daylight.

On Sunday Mark D. and I went to Big Sink Cave to finish the survey. Instead of knocking off the leads, we seemed to create more in the upstream end. Instead of closing out, the cave seems to keep going past an upstream breakdown pile (eight shots at 100 feet). We left the cave and met the landowner’s son as we changed back to our street clothes.

I still feel rusty, but it’s nice to be surveying again. Also nice to see Tanya McLaughlin again.