In Thursday’s meeting, much was settled, including the shirt size of the members, where to spend a weekend camping and caving, whether or not “free beer” was misleading, and of course where we’d be caving this weekend. This being my first meeting, I was bright-eyed and excited as to the prospects of following in my sister’s footsteps as a JMU MUSG member (she met her future husband, Jeremiah, through the club, who you can read about at the beginning of the February 18, 1996 Trip Report, something that forever changed how I look at my brother-in-law). Bob was throwing around ideas of going to the very wet and aptly named Aqua cave in the 20 degree weather, but settled for the equally chilling Glade, while Steve volunteered to lead a trip to Marshall’s, which drew some excitement and fear from the MUSG members present. I was intrigued. Though, being the naïve rookie that I was (my previous experience was walking around Trout on Easter morning a few years ago with my sister and parents and later having Easter Breakfast at Fat Boy’s Pork Palace, whose t-shirt I retain to this day), I decided doing the hardest cave that MUSG goes to would be a better option than the muddiest.
The ride down to Marshall’s involved Bobby driving Jon, Whitney, Jason and I and Steve leading the way, driving Dan and… a few others down, keeping in mind that it was my first time being around these people, and that remembering six names is an impressive enough feat.The ride was a fun two hours.At one point, while in Harrisonburg, we spied a pickup truck with an apparent trident protruding from its side, clearly thrown by Steve.This led us to assume that Steve had taken the form of a Greek god, possibly Poseidon, though we confused Jason’s explanation involving the words “God is” with “Goddess,” and thus Steve came to be tagged with the title of Goddess. His Goddess-like abilities would be put to the test later in the day.While Whitney explored our comfort with our sexuality by stretching her legs every which way in the truck, we were serenaded by the Bluegrass stylings of one Bruce Springstein, courtesy of Bobby.
Arriving at the parking lot, Steve and Dan discovered that their caving clothes were more mud than fabric, and spent a good deal of time and energy in trying to get them on. With the help of a makeshift shoe horn/unfortunate carabineer, Steve’s shoes were on and we were ready to go. The hike went well, and we met at the entrance to the cave. Marshall’s was fairly wet this afternoon, and the water levels were high, probably from all the melted snow this season in Virginia. Bobby was carrying the caving pack, while Jason was carrying a small backpack whose purposes were unknown. Steve and Dan explored the many dead ends at the beginning of Marshall’s before we settled on a good place a fairly deep in to have lights out. Marshall’s proved to be a daunting adventure, as most of the ground was slick, where there actually was a floor to stand on. The going was at times confusing, as Whitney said the cave changes every time she visits (most likely due to leprechauns, we determined), though she later said that she’s finding she knows where she is at most parts of the cave, so I could gather that Marshall’s was in itself an oxymoron, confusing yet straight-forward.
At many times during the cave, I thought to myself that there was no way that I could accomplish what I had to do ahead of me, be it shimmy across a 20 foot stretch of just water as a floor, or fit through an incredibly tight space, or take a “jump of believing,” if you will, at the Leap of Faith. However, I found them all doable, which gave me more and more confidence in my ability to not plummet to my death. Each obstacle that I came across replaced the last as my least favorite of the cave, but in retrospect, it had to be the crawl, when coupled with the fact that people kept on farting in areas that we had to crawl through with no escape from. For me, getting to the Leap of Faith was more difficult than the actual landmark, but I was told time and again that doing it on the way back would be more strenuous. There was a good deal of waiting-around time, which frustrated me at first since I wanted to charge on. I later welcomed these breaks however, since I found that I was just as out of shape as I assumed I was. The mud wall was difficult for some (I only made it half way up before slipping and deciding to use the rope instead), and made to look easy by others (Jason, Bobby, John).On John’s first attempt though, he made it up a decent way, then went straight down, and had Steve not caught him, he would have been going all the way down, and it was agreed that John should write Steve a “thank you for saving my life” note.
On the way back, the Leap of Faith brought great hardships on many in the trip. Jason showed me a way to clear it in a step and a pull, and the whole thing took me 10 seconds. I was glad that there was a way for short people everywhere to do it. My teaching methods proved flawed though, and those after me had to have Steve hang below them to make the deathly fall look less bottomless. This was a good idea, as Steve saved another life when someone fell straight down the Leap and onto Steve, whose Goddess powers allowed him to stand firm and help her to safety. By the end of it, I was wiped out and glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Heavy delays at the Leap of Faith split the group into two, each a good half hour apart, and the front group enjoyed a nice break in the refreshing cold of the top of the cave before the others arrived. The ride back was relaxing and most of us fell asleep to the sight of Steve speeding dangerously around turns. We got back too late for D-Hall, so we all parted ways and some of us (at least me) forgot their dirty pants and hiking boots in the car.
Quote of the Day:
“Wayland, that’s in the Neighborhood, right?” - Bobby