Fall Ball at Aqua Campground, Caving at Marshalls & Breathing

Fall Ball at Aqua Campground
Caving at Marshalls & Breathing

Fall Ball ’97 began Thursday night for Ed, Rich, Mike, and David. These brave four were going to make certain that the best campsite available at “The Gorge” would be occupied by MUSG. After hours of preparation from going to UREC, food shopping, supplies, and packing-the cavers were off at 12am Thursday evening. The ride out there kept all in Rich’s car quite awake. We were traveling up the first mountain when in the distance everyone in the car noticed a deer in the middle of the road. Everyone save Rich, who happened to be the driver of this weighted-down tank. Closer and closer we approached the deer, when was he going to slow or stop? Everyone was getting antsy-and then finally the deer made its move only missing the car’s fender by 6 inches. At this moment, Rich exclaimed, “Wow, if it weren’t for my lightning quick reactions, that deer would have been road kill!” The rest of us just shook our heads and smiled. We were at Aqua Campgrounds come 1:30am. We expeditiously set up camp and hit the sack, for the next day would be an adventure. Ed had a bit of trouble sleeping that night. He was concerned for his club. “I wonder if all these people that are coming will have sleeping bags, tents, or anything.” UREC had rented out ALL of its equipment by Thursday evening and I wasn’t sure how much of it had gone to cavers.

The next morning we departed Aqua at 10am. This drive was eventful as well. We were on route 42 when in the distance we noticed many cars backed up along the road. Rich, who was driving again-did indeed see this backup, but it didn’t occur for him to stop. He tore into the left lane and passed about 7 cars only to find a construction worker holding a STOP sign at the front. Rich nonchalantly pulled into pole position and received evil looks from the stop man. Once we had returned to the ‘burg there was still more planning to arrange. Finally by 2pm Ed, Rich, and Mike were ready to depart for Aqua via Bicycle. The courageous three battled the traitorous roads without fear. Route 42, no problem – Jenning’s Gap, stinks-Route 250, why is all up hill!!! Most of the cavers driving out there had passed us along the way. First were Steve and Laura. Then many others, including Brett “The man with the van” which was filled with about 10 people! The last ten miles of the bike trip was awesome. Darkness was approaching and the sunset was gorgeous. When it was completely dark, the three bikers still had four or so miles left. When they hit the wooded area it was completely black. We had no lights and couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us. Traveling 5 mph in the black is quite scary. (Ask Rich) Suddenly out of nowhere we hear an animal scamper away about 2 feet from us. We heard its nails running. Ed and Mike almost hit the animal that was passed for a dog. We couldn’t see anything. We reached the campsite finally after six hours of biking. 60+ miles and three mountains were ours. We were greeted by the club and congratulated. After some conversation transpired, Mandi asked us if we had seen the bobcat a mile before the campsite. That was no dog we almost hit.

There were over 50 people at fall ball-definitely the largest turn out in years. Everyone introduced themselves and all was merry. Several “old school” cavers took an evening dip into the 40-degree bull Pasture River via rope swing, while other newbies watched in admiration, or disgust. Many stayed up late and enjoyed themselves, while others retired early. The next morning Carl and Vonnie led a trip to breathing cave. About 16 people went and they had a great time. The rest of the club hung around the campsite or found other amusing things to do. Swim, rope swing, shoot rocks with a water-balloon launcher, hike, climb, repel. Definitely a good day for the outdoors. The weather was the best it has ever been recorded on planet earth. In the evening two more alumni showed up-Alan and Suzanne, which brought the total alumni appearances to 6. There were a total of three campsites MUSG was using. Tents were everywhere to be seen, and three individual fires for the sites were constantly burning. Brett led a trip to Marshall’s at 10pm and it returned at 2am or so. Bennett and Faye, two alumni, spent the day building a sauna that worked marvelously come 10pm, and then again at 12:30am. Unfortunately several members left early Saturday, for they missed out on a lot of fun. On Sunday, Alexander and Diane, two alumni, returned from their difficult evening’s work on Saturday. Sunday was pretty chill. More of the same activities took place, save caving. The pack out was difficult. People kept leaving but not taking enough stuff with them. Luckily John VanZant brought his Jeep Cherokee with a V8 4L engine. He had about 5 bags on his roof, his trunk was full, and on top of it all three bicycles and a bag of trash on Alex’s lap!!! It was weighted down. The trip home was painful for John, his breaks had worn completely through the pads and this terrible grinding sound echoed through the vehicle. Nonetheless, it made it home. The weekend didn’t stop here however. Seven of us hardcore cavers-Ed, Alex, Linne, John, Jeff, Scott, and Mike cleaned the gear, returned the stuff to UREC and then went out to dinner at Luigi’s for a scrumptious meal. Thus ended fall ball ’97, one of the greatest.