Leap of Faith
Sept. 7, 2002
by Chris Woodley
I awoke Saturday morning quite refreshed from a horrible night of sleep. I was staying over at a friend’s apartment while in town, sleeping on a couch. I watched some TV and for breakfast I had two croissants. They were butter-riffic. Soon, it was 10:55 a.m. and I made my way to the parking lot behind Burruss to meet Jared and whoever else was going. Jared and I had discussed, via email, going to Marshall’s but since I had unexpectedly gone there Thursday night, I thought of other places to go but none seemed quite as enticing as Marshall’s. It’s magical.
When I got to Burruss, Jared was there along with Sharid, Rian and five others I had yet to meet. We waited about 15 minutes to see if anyone else would come.None did.We split up into groups of five and four and loaded into vehicles. On this trip, Jared and I would drive.For the second consecutive trip the passengers in my car were warned about my music.
We went to Ian’s to get gear.I mentioned to Jared how we had about 20 helmets and working lights the other night. He was very impressed. In the gearbox was some paper work that club members need to sign. Sharid got everyone to sign the forms that mention something along the lines that the club is not responsible if you die or something like that. Who knew that we would soon be in that very situation or something like that?
After we got the gear, we started towards Marshall’s. For the second straight trip, my car was full of freshman, except for myself.We introduced ourselves and I proceeded to kind of forget their names. I apologize but you must understand that I was busy concentrating on driving. In the passenger seat was Dan or was it Dave? I’m going to go with my gut and say Dan. He’s from up state New York and we talked about Vermont. In the back were Stephen, Mike and Andrea. I believe they are all from Virginia or not. It was a beautiful day so we had the windows down. This caused a sticker in my car to make a noise so it was taken down.Jared is probably the slowest driver in the world. We had to slow down quite a bit so we wouldn’t lose him. Someone should remind him that he isn’t in Iowa anymore. In Jared’s car was Sharid, Rian, and Erin.
(I later received conformation from Jared that I got everyone’s name correct.)
We made it to the Aqua parking lot in due time.We got ready to go and Jared and Sharid got their cameras ready for action. It seems that they are taking a photography class. That’s pretty cool. They were lucky to have someone as photogenic as me there.They are sure to get A’s. The hike to the cave was the same as it always is, amazingly exhilarating.
At the entrance to the cave, I went over to the side and went to the bathroom. I noticed that there seemed to be a trail over there and I told myself to remember to check it out on our way back. While I was doing this someone was supposed to give the cave talk but I forgot to tell someone to give it. They were taking pictures instead. When I got back Jared gave the talk with Sharid providing support.We introduced ourselves again, counted off and entered the cave. I had another chance to remember everyone’s name but I didn’t seize the opportunity.
We went in the cave and had lights out at cave sign place to allow our eyes to adjust to the cave environment.We trudged along at a descent pace through the cave and I pointed out the spots were a caver from the previous trip, I don’t want to mention names, had fallen into the water. I came the realization that a couple of guys were better climbers than I was. We were almost at “The Pit of Death” at this time. I was so full of jealously that when they were crossing the pit, I threw rocks at them hoping they would fall but fall, they did not. I was filled with a quiet rage that was sure to consume me and lead our amalgamation towards doom. I exhaled and regained my composure. Not for me but for the kids. Luckily, they did not notice the rocks. That would have been awkward. I watched the three cavers behind me cross and then Jared came. When Jared was there I continued on and let Jared watch over the rest. As far as I know they passed over without much trouble. We were soon in the big column room where we took a rest and had lights out. We continued on, in search of the Mud Wall. We got to the place where you have to go down the little hole and I had everyone look for where we were going next. This usually stumps most groups for a minute or so but Rian found it immediately and again the rage was building within. We went into the hole and down the stream and up to the Mud Wall. I think Dan started things off and climbed up the wall without much trouble. Sharid decided that he was going to chimney up the left side because he believed he was too short to climb up the middle.While Sharid was doing this, Steve climbed up the middle. Sharid and Steve met at the most critical point of their climbs. Sharid was in a better position so he finished first. Steve, exhausted, finished shortly there after.Mike tried to climb up the ridiculously hard right side but soon came to his senses and came down. Erin chimneyed up the right side, Mike and Jared climbed up the middle. Rian and Andrea tried to chimney up the left side but got stuck and had to come back down. The three of us then started to loop back. On the way back I noticed a spot that had some noticeable trails.I climbed down and told Rian and Erin to come down. I thought it might go to where we were going but actually didnâ€™t go anywhere. I noticed this after Rian had already climbed down. After overcoming my stupidity, we made it back to the column room with everyone else and had another lights out.
I think this is when we had a small mud fight. It may have been during the previous lights out or both. Someone got some dirt in the mouth. Good fun. I decided that I wanted to bring up the rear on the way out so I think Dan started to lead us out.We were going alright until we got to “The Pit of Death” again. Dan and maybe Steve made it across all right.I then went across and help some cross until it was only Erin and Jared left. At this point I was tired and said the rest of us would come back the next day to get Jared and Erin and so we left. That didn’t really happen.What really happened is far more terrifying. Erin started crossing but ended up in an awkward position. I had to brace myself in a weird stance and reach my arm out between my legs.Our fingertips touched briefly and then the unthinkable happened, she slipped and fell down into the pit.Yes, that’s right.She fell into the pit. It was kind of surreal. Her scream alerted the rest of the group, who was moving on past the other sketchy part, that something horrendous had happened.Almost immediately, though it seemed like an eternity, followed one of the most alleviating caving moments I have ever been part of (along with Jared’s fall), Erin’s voice saying that she was okay. It was incredible.She had fallen into “The Pit of Death” and survived. Not only survived but she was standing up. Quite absurd really. Jared got across and then Erin tried again. This time she had no trouble and didn’t need any help at all.That is hardcore. She doesn’t make the same mistake twice, that mistake being having any confidence in me. With that horrifying ordeal behind us, we continued out the cave without much happening except the growing excitement of getting to the rope swing.
Once out of the cave, we headed down the slope but Sharid, Rian, Erin and myself started down what I thought looked like a trail. It turns out that it wasn’t much of a trail and we ended up just walking through the woods.Chalk up another great decision for myself. While we were doing this, Dan, Mike, Steve and Andrea made their way to the rope swing. By the time the rest of us made it there, they were all swimming.Not everyone went off the rope swing. They were the smart ones because the river seemed to be at least a foot lower than normal. As I was taking my shirt off, I heard someone say, under their breath, “No, no. Too sexy . . . but I must.” Then Jared and Sharid started taking pictures of me on the rope swing. I hope they are just taking a photography class and those photos won’t end up on the Internet making them millions. We then gathered our belongings and went back to the cars.
We were shortly on our way back to Harrisonburg after a short discussion about dinner. PC Dukes would still be open if we hurried back. We pulled into the PC Dukes parking lot. I gave my regards to everyone and went back to my friend’s apartment. It was yet another quasi-successful caving weekend. I had a really good time and I hope everyone else did even after reading this report.