Highland County Cave Survey Trip Report Or “The Big, Beautiful New Cave”
Sept. 23, 2001
by Brad Ricks
Naturally, Saturday morning I arrive fashionably late to Burruss to be greeted by Chris, Angela, and Thea. Obviously the other missing four folks I expected to join hit the snooze bar one too many times, likely three or four of them doing so while still drunk at 7:30am. So we head off to Highland with a quick stop at Bridgewater’s new gasoline and convenience mecca, “Quarrels” – a place fully equipped with seating identical to D Hall!
I directed Chris towards the caves, knowing full well that a river crosses the road before you get there, but I knew we could get a ride in the other cavers trucks that have a little better clearance and traction than Chris’s Sentra. We pull up to find nobody is there yet, until closer look shows us the fresh, very wet tire tracks coming out of the river on the other side. Obviously they couldn’t wait for us, as they were already so close to this great big, new, beautiful cave, and they wanted to get the exploration started. We grab the gear and get hiking by foot. Following a cold, wet hike through the water, then down the road, we hear a truck coming. Yes, it was our good friends, the Ambiguously Gay Duo of Scott and Josh. They looked at us and drove right on past. So naturally we kept walking. Five minutes later, the truck returned, this time with only Scott in the driver’s seat. Obviously Josh had to jump out because he was anxious to see this big, beautiful new cave, and begin surveying it!
Scott pulled in, and we were there to greet a dozen other cavers, all geared up and ready to survey this great new cave! Immediately we jump out and begin putting on our gear. We head up towards the cave entrance, psyched and ready to go, when oddly the people in front of us grab a bag of cement on their way up. So we each grab an 80-pound bag and carry it up. “Obviously this is so we can block wild animals from entering the cave while we are inside” we thought. “The Cave is so big, beautiful, and new, who WOULDN’T try to get inside of it!?”.
Three people went in the cave, and we knew that we would be the next group in. Of course, they just wanted to space the survey groups out so nobody surveys where somebody else already has. I mean, it was so new, and big and amazing that all the survey teams would be moving so fast, they would definitely cross paths somewhere! So we waited for a little while. In the meantime, Rick told me to grab a shovel and remove a whole lot of dirt, so I did. I guess this was so we could fit all of us in the entrance together. Maybe because it was so big inside, they felt bad squeezing through a dirty entrance. So me and Thea finished that up, while Chris and Angela mixed cement.
As they mixed sediment, Thea and I carried dozens of big rocks and put them around the cave entrance, as well as bucket after bucket of mixed cement. Suddenly it occurred to us! We knew what was going on! There was no Big, Beautiful cave!! Not YET ANYWAYS! They spent the last few years trying to find this “new cave” and couldn’t, so we got suckered into coming to help them BUILD THE NEW CAVE!!! Although we did come to this stunning realization, we didn’t really want to leave without going caving, so we continued to haul rocks and mix cement for the next few hours.
It was a warm, sunny day, and by now, we were really hot. This wasn’t just your average kind of hot, but the kind of hot you feel just before your gym coach makes you “Hit the showers.” The hours passed, and we surrounded the big metal new cave with cement more and more, hoping to shortly see what it looks like inside. There were even people building it from the inside out. Rick pushed a 150lb rock out of the vertical entrance, risking his life and limb just so we could have a little more room to play around in inside this big new, fake cave.
After that, Rick was beat. So we didn’t go caving in that cave at all. We went to McClung Hill cave just down the road a bit. It was a nice chance to teach a couple folks the art of Vertical caving, because should anything unexpected happen, they’d fall right on the leaves at the bottom. I mean the rocks must have had a good solid coating of leaves one or two inches thick! (i.e. its usually not the best of opportunities to teach 1st timers the art of vertical while IN a cave, but back to the story) Yeah, so the whole training process took a LONG time. While Scott and Josh went to go check out a very wet lead, we had enough time to cave out a good 100 or so feet of cave before realizing just how long it would take to ascend one climb on rope, then off rope, then back on rope to climb straight out of the 30-foot pit that is the entrance to McClung Hill! But fortunately we made it to ROYAL PIZZA (newly remodeled!!! (but still 25 cent payphone!)) The first crew inside the cave never made it out. I mean really. We left Royal Pizza by 8:30 or so. They were in the cave at 9:30am. Long trip for a FAKE CAVE, HUH!?!
Naw. Really there’s a nice cave there. So far (10-1-01) there’s a good 3100+ feet surveyed, with a good more cave to go! But with the gated entrance in place, and the leads marked, its ready for an ACTUAL CAVING TRIP one of these months!