For many of us, caving has been on the back burner recently, but for four of us, this past weekend caving was back in the cards. The plan was Crossroads cave with some excellent camping at the RASS field station. I drove up with Peter, and we met Ken and Emily at the field station. It was great to see everyone face to face again. 

Rass field station

Saturday we went caving. 

We got to Crossroads cave a little before 11am, got dressed, and headed in around 11:30. I explored the entrance area for while everyone got settled in, then Emily led us into the rest of the cave. Our first destination was “The Pit” as that was a part of the cave the others had been to previously, but not gone too far beyond as they had spent most of there time lost in the “Lost and Found” section. Having learned their lesson, Emily was pretty quick to lead us to the pit without much route finding. At critical junctions, I tried getting my bearings, but as our exit journey made clear, I didn’t manage to get a good picture in my mind of every twist and turn. More on that later.

Crossroads cave entrance

After arriving at the pit we went north to “Campsite” and started into “The Maze”. Of note on the map, we worked our way up toward the “Small Man’s Shortcut” with the hope of going further north, but the 8” squeeze size turned out to be a limiting factor. If nothing else, it was a classic Ken filter. I was the only one who pushed through it. After passing the restriction, avoiding to inhale too deeply, I ran about 200’ beyond the squeeze. After getting oriented to what as immediately beyond the squeeze, I turned around and rejoined the group.

Cave formations

After the squeeze, we explored the maze and found variety of nice formations. Ultimately, our turn around point was at the end of one of the southern arms of the cave. Unlike a lot of what we’d experienced up to that point, this passage there was relatively spacious at about 20’ wide passage with 10’ to 20’ high ceilings. All the walking was over breakdown boulders. In this passage there were also number of roots that were fairly clean and smooth. In other caves, I’ve previously seen both dirty and calcite covered roots, but these were the cleanest larger roots I’d ever seen. They looked like electrical cables. It was similar to poorly hidden wiring in a show cave, only here the only lights we could find were attached to our heads.  

Underground tree root

At the end of this passage, we also found an interesting intact top half of a brachiopod fossil with a very distinctive center ridge. 

Brachiopod fossil

At this point it was about 4:30 and time to head out. Navigating the maze back to the pit was pretty straight forward after all the earlier exploring we had done. Getting back to the entrance room was another story. I tried to lead us out, but had a rare experience of not knowing which turn to take. Usually I have a very strong visual memory of every cave passage I’ve been through, but this section was a blank spot in my mind. I deferred to the others, but they didn’t give me great confidence right away that they knew were to go. Ultimately Ken stepped up to the plate, and was able to point us in the right direction at a couple critical junctions. Unfortunately somewhere in our navigating, we missed a turn and found ourselves right back at the point where I originally deferred to the others for navigation help. Hmmmm, time to panic? Getting lost is definitely something that can get your heart rate up. Well, we decided to try the loop again, more cautiously this time and found the missing turn. After making that new turn, it was still a little confusing, but Ken came to the rescue again and clarified yet another critical junction. After that it was a fairly easy trip up and back to the entrance room. 

Group of cavers

We exited around 6:30 after 7+ hours underground. On the way out we did take a few breaks, so the time wasn’t all spent going in circles. If nothing else, getting lost and then found again really increases the sense of accomplishment after a caving trip. It certainly helps make the trip more memorable.

Carlin standing at cave exit

That night we had dinner back at the field station. We hiked down to the river near the property and skipped a few rocks. After the river we took a stroll around the amazing property before heading back to the pavilion. At dusk I saw a bat flying by, and after dark the fireflies and whippoorwills kept the night alive.

Rass field station at sunset

Sunday we went caving.

This time it was a quick trip to Island Ford. Conveniently not too far off of the road home, with easy access, we entered the cave following the dry high route and exited through the river. 

Island Ford cave

Fun was had by all.

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