To begin, one quick note-at least half of the cavers that went to Marshall's on March 22, I personally saw at Ed's party the previous night. So to begin the trip we already had quite a few very sleepy and hungover people with us. Okay, so Ed ad Katy picked up Steve around 9:15, and went directly to Buruss to meet up with John, Caroline, Crystal, Angela, Kelly, Becky, Christy, Peter, and Warren. We messed around for about an hour getting everything ready, including a stop at Mr. J's and a lengthy discussion about whether we should appease the Marshall's rat with food, or just have John kill it with a big rock (a practice which is NOT endorsed by MUSG). Our 9:00 trip finally left around 10:30, but was abruptly put on hold as Steve swerved across 2 lanes of traffic on 42 to make an emergency battery stop at Food Lion. To this day, I swear the whole mix-up was Ed's fault. We again stopped 45 minutes later at the Confederate Breastworks (once again Ed's idea) to see the McDowell Maple Festival (I highly recommend the Maple fudge).
We continued on, quickly passing underneath an adult toy dangling from a power line and the flooded Bull Pasture River. We changed in the parking lot and Steve wowed the crowd with his female changing trick, changing from his boxers to tighty whities without showing any skin. We were then approached by a hillbilly-ish man, and a conversation ensued about when they stock the river. Finally, with his flannel shirt, faded overalls, old baseball cap, and mountain accent, he replied, "No, actually they stock it all year-I read it on the Internet"-ahhh-progress. It took about 30 minutes to stretch 7 primary light sources among 8 people but we finally figured it out. We started hiking to the cave, listening to Ed tell us how he won't get wet this trip, just like every other trip he has ever been on. We reached a flooded branch on the river and each of us crossed in our own way. Ed walked toward a tree that had fallen across the river while mumbling something about not getting wet. We all watched as Ed slowly walked across the fallen tree, putting one foot in front of the other. All of a sudden, as though America's Funniest Home Videos had just come to life, Ed's feet slipped, each falling on a different side of the tree. There he laid, straddling the tree, with his feet dangling knee-deep in the water, and Steve rolling on the bank of the river with tears streaming out of his eyes. John found a good "Rat killin' rock" and carried it up the side of the mountain up to the entrance, only to accidentally drip it once he reached the top.
Okay, so here starts the caving. Warren led and we all slowly entered the cave, and wound around through the beginning until we finally reached the water, and the more difficult parts of the cave. Everyone was doing a great job navigating their way from hold to hold above the frigid water. As we waited for passages to clear of people, we sang many songs as usual, and were enlightened by John's song lyric analytical skills. "You see guys, this girl is dancing with all the guys at the party, and all the guys want her. Then you come in and start pimpin' on her and you end up getting her. You see-I rock the body that rocks the party! It makes sense." Katie replied, "True, true." We reached a difficult pat of the cave where you can either go high above the water and try and squeeze through a bottomless little hole, or you can go low and try and chimney above the water through a wide passage with few holds and large stalactites hanging very low in the middle. Katie, through pure spite, decided to do it, and through much difficulty, made it to the end no wetter than she had been. Steve tried next, and valiantly made it within about three feet of the end until-SPLASH!! He ended up nipple deep in some very cold and very nasty water. Through all the laughing, all that could be heard was John yelling, "Hell if I'm going to do that." After much name calling, he yelled out, "Well, I might be a pussy_but at least I am a dry one." Insert your own joke here. Warren, Steve, and Katie all decide to go ahead of the others to make sure things were safe-or something like that. Anyway, they ended up in the back of the cave, and spent awhile working their way through the reasonably complicated network of holes and passages. They reached the stream in the back and decided to follow it for awhile, just as Katie's light was going out. Katie and Warren took it slow as they tried to stay dry, while Steve just stomped through the water, occasionally becoming irritated by the slow progress. They got pretty far back until they finally decided to turn around as Steve's light slowly dimmed. They were soon to be with only one light for the 3 of them, and none had any idea who had the pack. As they reached the big room, they were greeted-or scared rather, by John, who informed us that the others weren't too far behind.
After changing batteries around, exchanging stories about how we got wet, and exploring the big room for about a half-hour, we started back. Caroline and Katie took off for the entrance first, and rumor has it that Caroline took a nice swim through the cold cave water. Everyone did a great job on the way out except for Steve who, while patiently waiting his turn, slowly slipped into the water again in the same room that had conquered him before. After crawling out of the water, he again began to wait his turn, when all of a sudden one of the winged spawns of Satan reared its ugly head, and decided to target the poor wet boy. We got out of the cave without too many further incidents, and were walking across the bridge to get to the cars, when we saw this little kid wearing a caving helmet yelling, "What's up, dudes? What's up, dudes? What's up, dudes?" we were a little taken aback until his dad called us all over to warm up by the fire (which the wet ones appreciated very much) and to eat all their leftover food. Hot dogs and baked beans never tasted so good. On the way home we tried to forge the Bull Pasture River as a shortcut, but alas, the rain had rendered it too deep. After arriving back in the 'Burg, we searched for about a half-hour to find a place that was open at 11:00 at night. We ended up at Dave's Taverna Express, where John refused to eat because then it would "take him longer to get drunk."