Monday, October 26, 2020

Lechuguilla Cave 150th Mile Online Symposium - November 14th & 15th

I'm really excited about this event!  This is a two day event to celebrate the exploration and science of Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico.  Please note you MUST register for this event and note that all times listed below are in US MOUNTAIN Time (not EST).  Lastly, there is an event planned next summer at the 2021 convention to discuss this as well.  Hope you can make any or all of these!   

Monday, October 5, 2020

Trip Report - 9/11-9/13/2020 Bowman’s Pit; Camp re-charge & Walden Room

 Abigail Mack, Phillip Francis, Darryl Marsh, Brian Devine (reporting)

We had some divergence from the planned rendezvous, i.e. meeting at the landowners ready to salvage last light for the hike to the cave, and ultimately had just left the car after 9pm. Then, the orienteering along the dark path got scrambled and we were pretty quickly reduced to looping back to the car as last known point once we had found Buck Creek and established our directional sense again.  It was only 12:30 before Brian started to drop Bowman’s, and Phil was last off rope at 00:50 when we started out to camp. We would feel the ripple effects of this late start as our objectives got compromised, but would do it all over again. The revisit at the car definitely gave a pretext to guzzle more water against the soupy, August heat.

We arrived at camp at 04:30am and deployed to the various, sandy flat spots at MZ8’s camping footprint & promptly got some sleep. There was no real push to collectivize a wake-up time, and personally I figured I’d let my body dictate when I’d feel recharged. Unfortunately the upshot of the variance in wake-ups was a departure time at 12:35, initially to visit The Source (=vestigial remains of the downcutting waterway that formed local passage) to fill up our water containers and dump liquid waste. The refill went great, and an idea I’d had to bring a length of garden hose and siphon into containers got them absolutely full of undisturbed water, which we then treated with iodine. By 2:30pm we grabbed the bags we had shed while refilling, stashed the water for later reversion to camp, and by 4pm were up in MT survey effectively above The Source, en route to the Walden Room.

Our objectives there were to splinter the four of us into a bolting and a digging twosome, and (respectively) deal with beckoning passage up the north wall & groom a window in a ceiling shale layer to get up and through. With a 5pm Walden Room arrival however, and remembering how wobbly our decision-making became in last night’s wee-hours camp approach, we scaled back our objectives considerably. My personal recall of the bolting objective was actually an amalgam of 2 passages, and this amalgam drove my planning. Yet the actual climb projected as more involved and not particularly enticing as a breakout possibility. We did some scouting, explored a bit, and decided to devote energy reserves to falling back to camp and the water transport that would require.

We made it back to camp by 8:30pm with enough water cached to fill most of two big ‘cubes’, a smaller Platypus, and several bottles amongst us. I finished off the remnants of that morning’s breakfast and enjoyed a nice wind-down to lay out the sleeping gear, steam off some dampness in my suit, and prep to bed down. The 2nd night’s sleep afforded me some bonus sleep, since I think I awoke around 6 & fell back asleep for a nap before the alarm. At 9:15am, we left camp in a condition of very high readiness and organization, with recharged water, stove fuel, desiccant, supplemental gear, and a current inventory. The trip out, like the trip in, was pretty uneventful except I, as last exiting caver, had to descend & re-ascend the pit to unhitch a snag right when it looked like the only thing left was to coil rope.   

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Baby's First Trip to GSP

We did an overnight at Great Saltpetre Preserve (GSP) with our 10-week old baby, Elliott. We arrived around mid-afternoon on Friday and set up camp. I've never brought so much stuff camping in my life. I wanted to "rough it" so no electronic toys were allowed. But I just couldn't give up my nursing pillow. After loading him up in a carrier, we hiked to the creek and took a few minutes to dip in our toes. 

Elliott did not appreciate the cold water, but he liked looking around. After that we hiked up a trail that led from the backfield to the top of the hill near the cave. There were lots of ticks so as soon as we returned we went to the shower to scrub down and check for any missed ticks. Elliott got checked twice but he didn't get any. 

Aaron went caving in Pine Hill so I took over baby duty at the camp site. Camping went really well. He woke up a little more than usual because it's really hard to be quiet in a tent. Each time he woke he got a layer changed or added so he ended up in a fleece sleeper and mittens by morning. I, on the other hand, hardly slept at all and constantly worried he was too cold or getting dripped on since we didn't put the rain cover on the tent and the trees were dripping water. (He was perfectly fine and never complained).

The next day after packing up camp, Elliott went on his first cave trip in GSP! It was a quick tour because we had to get on the road and he was hungry. I stayed near the pig pen as the others explored Russian Dome. I was reading a sign and learned that the area was possibly haunted. But I convinced myself that no ghost would be mean enough to bother a mom with a baby. After spending some time in Echo Auditorium we made our way to Fat Man's Misery where Elliott decided he was tired of waiting to be fed. If you've never tried to squeeze your way through a tight passage with a crying infant, you can count yourself lucky. As soon as he can crawl we'll start prepping him for his first wild cave trip! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Salts Cave trip report - Bill Gort

On March 14th 2020 I went on a caving trip to Salts Cave near Mitchell Indiana. Since I live in Columbus Ohio, I had to plan my trip the day before. I went to the Whetstone branch of the Columbus library and printed out a waiver just before the library closed down for Covid-19. I packed my car and set my alarm for 3:30 a.m.The next morning I left Columbus by four and drove to Indiana while listening to the BBC on NPR. The stories were about disease and how Chinese companies are cutting down all the Rosewood trees in Senegal and shipping them out through Gambia.

After skirting around the southern edge of Indianapolis, I arrived at McDonalds, where I met our trip leader, Paul Uglum. We continued on to Mitchell where we met up with Kyle Hoyt, Timothy Trine, and Steve McQueen. Proceeding to the property the cave is located on, we parked in a field next to an old horse barn. By this time it had begun to rain. We used the shelter of the barn to change into caving gear, before heading across a field and into the woods to a sinkhole. At the bottom of the sinkhole, we ducked under a ledge and entered the cave.

The initial part of the cave was relatively dry walking passage. As we went further in, conditions got wetter and muddier. Eventually we dropped down and found ourselves walking in a stream passage in an upstream direction. This passage became narrower and turned into a canyon. We had to turn sideways to squeeze between the curvaceous undulating walls. In at least one place we saw blind crayfish in the stream. 

At the end of the narrows, the stream passage got wider and we began to negotiate a series of steep muddy climb ups and climb downs. Steps had been carved into the mud, but one had to be very careful so as not to go sliding down a slick slope and collide with a rock. Our efforts were ocasionally rewarded with views of formations including flowstone, draperies, and helicites. In the back of the cave, we found a room with a circular domed ceiling. The stream led to a short low crawl ending in a sump. In order to confirm that the passage sumped I got down on my belly and crawled in the water until I reached a spot where I could sit up and see the sump.

On the way back out of the cave, I decided to see how many of the treacherous muddy climbs I could
avoid by crawling in the stream. I was already wet so I didn't mind trying this. I found that almost all of the slippery exposed sections could be bypassed by crawling in water. After passing through the narrows and returning to the entrance we walked across the field and changed into dry clothes.

During the time we were in the cave, it had continued to rain and the ground became softer. After Paul left, we found that two of our remaining  cars were stuck in the mud. We found some shingles in the barn and tried placing them under the tires for traction, but this did not do much good. The two non-stuck cars were Subarus which have all wheel drive and consequently had no problems. I remembered that my car had a towing bolt which could be screwed into the bumper. I had never used this, but decided to give it a try. One of the other guys had a long piece of webbing. The towing bolt has a ring on the end, so we tied one end of the webbing through that, and the other end to the other vehicle (a van). To my suprise, this actually worked and I was able to tow the van out of the muddy field and down the driveway. The other Subaru driver then installed his towing bolt and used his Forrester to free the other stuck car.

After resolving the automotive issues, we bid each other farewell. I then drove to a coffee shop in Bedford where I rewarded myself with blueberry pancakes and coffee.

Editor:  All photos by Kyle Hoyt

GSP Closure - Please Read

From the desk of GSP Chairman Scott Pavey:

Tonight the GSP Committee voted on and approved the following:

Effective immediately, GSP will be closed until May 8th due to Coronavirus and in compliance with government recommended restrictions.  We will reevaluate the situation at that time.  The lock will be changed during this time as well.  

Chains Lock Shackle - Free photo on Pixabay

Friday, February 28, 2020

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The First Couple of the Central Ohio Grotto

The election results are in and lo and behold, COG has its first husband and wife pair for Chair and Vice Chair!  I thought it would be nice to get to know our new power couple!

COG:  How did you two meet? 
Kim:   We met in college (Case Western Reserve University). We lived in the same dorm freshmen year, but we didn't start dating until our sophomore year when we lived in different suites on the same floor. I was hanging out in his suite one night and read a little bit of a paper he had due the next day. It...needed work... So I stayed up with him until 5am helping him to revise the paper. That started off a friendship that turned into dating a few weeks later.

COG:  How did you each individually start caving?
Kim:  We started caving together, actually!  I found out Mammoth Cave offered wild cave tours so I planned a trip there to celebrate our 5 year dating anniversary. I assumed Aaron would use the opportunity to propose so I wanted to make the trip special and memorable. The first day of our trip was the wild cave tour and at one point we entered a room which the guide said was called Cathedral Domes. He then said, "This is a popular room for men to propose to their girlfriends...any takers?" Aaron then....did nothing. And waited two more years to propose.

COG:  What do you guys do for a living?
Kim:   Outdoor Adventure Programmer at Columbus Metro Parks
Aaron: Software engineer at Battelle.

COG:  What are your favorite caves?
Kim:   Pine Hill
Aaron: Pine Hill and Roppel

COG:  What are your plans for the grotto?
Kim:   Not break anything. Seriously though, I believe the past chairs have set us in a good direction and I'd like to continue that. I'd love to see more people taking on leadership roles.
Aaron: Come up with engaging and interactive programs.

COG:  What other hobbies or fun things are you guys into?
Kim:   Hiking, backpacking, fishing, kayaking, hanging out with my birds.
Aaron: Soccer and frisbee.

COG:  Do you plan to change the bylaws of the grotto to make it so only married couples can be chair and vice chair?
Kim:   No, however I would like to explore the possibility of making Patrick Gibson Grotto King which would eliminate any need for a democracy

Sunday, January 5, 2020

REMINDER! 2020 GSP Camping Passes

The GSP annual camping passes for 2020 are available for Grotto members. Individual passes are $40 and Family passes are $60. If you visit the Preserve more than five or six weekends a year it is a worthwhile investment and eliminates the chore of remembering to put nightly camping donations in the pay pipe. 

The regular camping donation request is $6/night/ person. Electric sites are an additional $6/night/site, which includes the lower mondo. Remember that use of electric is not included with the camping pass. 

Camping passes are always available whenever you see me. Barring that, the next best method is to purchase by mail or on the GSP website: Use the donation button and make sure you specify “for camping pass” in the comment section. If paying by mail, make checks out to: Great Saltpetre Preserve. (Not to your Grotto or to Rockcastle Karst Conservancy) and put a note in the memo line – “for camping pass”. Remember camping passes are only available to current members of the supporting Grottos: GCG, BGG, DUG, and COG. Membership will be verified before issuing a pass. Renewal time is at hand for many Grotto members, so if you have not renewed your membership, please do. 

My mailing address is: GSP c/o Werner Jud 1044 Vacationland Dr. Cincinnati, Ohio 45231. Once the donation has been received you will be sent a card for your wallet. 

Thank you for supporting the Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve. 
Werner G. Jud GSP Treasurer Jan 2020 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Big Newt Cave - Wayne County KY - 12/31/2019

Big Newt Cave
Wayne County, Kentucky 

    Around 12:30 pm, Chad Leeder, Brian Devine, and I entered the cave via the recently “Bob-ified” entrance. It only took us a few minutes to get to the terminus, which appeared to have additional passage beyond. We just needed to get rid of the rock blocking our way, but we had a nice array of widening tools to help out with that! We also had proximity to the surface in our favor. It was very tight and “contortion-y” in there, so for about two hours, we decided to move as many of the rocks out of the way as possible from the previous dig to make more wiggle room for us to work. With the help of a plastic bucket and our own strength, we did a not-too-shabby job of rolling, pulling, and stuffing some massive rocks into various nooks and crannies. Next up, a few more hours of widening followed by moving even more massive rocks! Our widening efforts revealed that there’s potentially even more passage to explore!

Some time around 5:00 pm, we decided to wrap things up and head back to the hideout to ring in the new year. Until next time and happy New Year!

Bethany Widmayer