Survey Weekend

The survey at Rowland Springs was the focus of an upcoming trip back to Marion. Tanya and I thought one more trip we would be able to complete the survey based on how we figured the cave would run. In addition to Rowland Springs, we thought Wide Mouth would be a good cave to continue surveying as a Sunday cave. Turn out for this trip was solid; Lisa Lorenzin, Joe Fortuna, Melissa Miller, Mary Frazer, Mark Little, Tanya Mclaughin, and myself.

People were slow to get started Saturday morning; it could have been the effects of stopping at Foothills Brewer in Winston-Salem (thanks to Lisa for the suggestion). Eventually we convened at the cave entrance. Based on the presumptions made by Tanya and myself a loosely organized plan came together. One team was to start at the top entrance and figure out how to descend into the cave and to meet the survey team, which was to use the lower entrance.

After a quick tour of the section of cave already surveyed, the groups set to their tasks. I was part of the surveying effort, which also included Mark, Tanya, and Mary. We started the survey at station A3; A3 provided direct access to the canyon Tanya and I avoided survey on last time. We surveyed for an hour or so before we heard voices from the other group of cavers. I figured they would be appearing before us any time; however that never happened, and eventually their voices faded completely.

After about two hours in the lowest portion of the cave and faced with an “interesting vertical challenge, everyone in the survey team opted for a break. We decided to exit and locate the other group. Upon getting to the other entrance Melissa was extremely excited to have located a screech owl in the cave; yes a very odd place of such a creature. Joe and Lisa explained what they have found. They were describing much more cave than Tanya and I ever imagined. The cave probably quadrupled in size and the sketching became much more complex given the massive rooms, multiple levels, and plentiful formations.

We all got a case of cave fever and put the survey effort aside; Lisa, Joe, and Melissa gave the survey team a tour of the cave. Some time was spent trying to determine how to get into a lower level not yet scooped out. It was eventually decided not to push the upper cave entrance any further, but to go back to the other entrance and finish a known side passage. Then continue to push forward toward connecting passage.

I relieved Mary from “the book” so she could join the others trying to figure out how to ascend the wall the survey team stopped at. After surveying the side passage and returning to the previous stopping point the other team had climbed the wall and put the cable ladder into place. From the room above, Joe mentioned this was a room he had dropped into from the other entrance earlier. We surveyed a few more stations before calling it quits.

After a well deserved Italian meal, a few of us headed up to Marion Quarry Cave for a 15-minute, causal tour. Part of Marion Quarry is a walking cave, no gear and no major disruptions to the food replenishing each and every cell in our bodies.

Sunday brought a quick breakfast at the Apple Tree in route to Wide Mouth cave. The goals here were for Lisa and Tanya to survey the known going passage. Joe and I were to continue to dig a section of passage that had previously been started. Mary and Melissa were going to explore Wide Mouth and the adjoining cave, Anderson.

Joe and I led into Wide Mouth; I was a bit taken back by the amount of dung in the cave entrance. The previous day’s talk about bear sightings around Rowland’s had me questioning my quest to get into the cave. Not being an expert on dung, I drew a tentative conclusion the dung was too small for a bear. After reaching a soft, mud area, I relaxed a bit more noticing the tracks were that of a raccoon. The dig ended up being a wash; previous rains had filled much of the passage back in. With little airflow, the effort was abandoned.

Joe backtracked to check out Anderson cave with Mary and Melissa. I located Lisa and Tanya and assisted with the sketching. Joe joined us some time later; it wasn’t long before we opted to stop the effort and return another day. On the way past Joe gave Lisa and I a quick tour of Anderson cave; no owls here, just a lone Harold Moth. Before leaving the area we received permission from the adjacent landowner to ridge walk his property. Ridge walking did produce a few more possible entrances into caves. Further investigation will have to be another day.

For survey-oriented individuals, we surveyed approximately 200ft and reached the lowest part of Rowland’s thus far; 40ft below the lower cave entrance. I would guess the upper level entrance is 60ft above the lower entrance.