VAR/MAR 2007–Alpena Cave

Friday morning was mighty damp. As I helped Philly Grotto set up for the 2007 VAR/MAR, the sky sprinkled every hour or so. I looked down at the cave description for the survey trip I was planning to lead to Middle of Nowhere Cave, and I added the phrase “may be damp” to the entrance description.
At 10 PM the signup sheets went out, and people hurriedly scribbled their names beside the trips they wanted. At least three people came over to me at Registration to announce that no one had signed up for my trip yet. By the morning, I couldn’t even find one of my sketchers and we were down to the two leaders. Cancel the trip.
I myself then signed up for Barry Horner’s trip to Alpena Cave. We had a blast with just six people making the through trip. Barry had dug open the back entrance, surveyed the cave, and used chemical persuasion to make the connection large enough for humans. Therefore, our trip included full descriptions of the exploration of the 2001 connection all the way through.
As for the character of the cave, I was a little reluctant about my ability to make the through trip because the description read that a 44-inch chest size was the limit, but Barry convinced me I’d fit. As it was, I don’t really know where the tightest spot was because I never had any difficulty with a squeeze.
We entered by climbing down the breakdown in the sinkhole entrance and then spent most of the time following a downstream passage. The ceilings were often high, and we crossed over and through very little breakdown. The most fun part was descending the cascading stream as it plunged from one pool to the next.
The least fun came when the ceiling dropped down near the stream. We laid down in an inch or two of water and scooted along. The scooting was easy, but the wait for the people in front of me made my legs cramp a bit. Fortunately the stream was low enough to avoid the passage becoming an ear dip, but unfortunately the stream belly crawl was about fifty feet long. Still a lot of fun because it didn’t get tight until I was near the end and could see people standing in front of me.
We popped out of that hole and headed straight for the entrance. After putting on dry clothes, we spent some time bouldering around Bear Heaven before heading back to the TRA site. The Lions Club dinner and dessert were tremendous (not to mention the sheet cakes), the presentations by Doug Medville and the Japanese Exploration Team were fun (with some great photos by the Japanese), and Ericka’s superb performance with the live bluegrass band astonished everyone. Overall a great VAR/MAR with good, cool weather in the end. Happy 60th Anniversary to Philly Grotto.