Super Sweet Dig in Helictite Cave
Feb. 22, 2003
by Jared Bowie
The night before i had been smart enough to move away from the path I knew Rick Lambert took every morning on his early morning wake up walk. The previous time i had come I had been kicked and stepped on multiple times by Rick. I unfortunately left Sharid and Chris right in that path. At around 5 am Saturday morning i was awakened by the sound of Rick walking down the stairs, but quickly fell asleep again. At an unknown time i was awoken again by “JMU we’re leaving in 6 minutes.” from Rick. I looked over to see a pool of blood next to Sharid and asked what happened he said “It’s no big deal, just a bloody nose i get them all the time.” As I got up, I looked over at Chris and he had 2 black eyes and a cut lip when i asked what happened he said “I was just playing baseball and i didn’t catch the ball a couple times.” I said “ok”, but wondered when he had gotten time to play baseball between when we went to bed and this early morning time. So i got up and got ready for breakfast and we soon left for High’s. We ate and went back to the house to discuss what was going to happen today.
The rain kept things very limited and it was eventually decided that 2 trips would go out one to Vandevander a rec trip and another to Helictite Cave for a Super Sweet Dig. I chose to go to Helictite cave because i had heard the infamous stories about how great it was. The two abused JMUers decided to go to Vandevander, because of how the Super Sweet Dig was described as being not so Super and not so Sweet.
After a good amount of car mingling I hopped in Brien’s truck to find Rick Wagner already in the back. We began the journey to Helictite with a quick stop at the store for Rick to pick up some water and something to eat. And then we traveled over to Phil Lucas’s property. We parked a little up the road from the cave, because that is where the snow had been plowed, there were only 2 spots open but Brien’s badass truck drove right on the snow with no effort.
I got dressed in the car because it was raining and there was a good amount of snow on the ground. I hopped out and began walking toward the cave with Kim. We met Mike along the way and all walked together, i made note of the gigantic hole in the butt of my coveralls and Kim agreed that i needed to do something about them.
We got to the entrance and snow was dug off the locked gate. Barry then took the key out and opened it up. It was a giant metal pipe with wooden stairs going down. A couple people climbed down then it was my turn. I was surprised at the stability of the steps and after a little bit i rejoined the group.
Once everyone was there we moved on in the cave. This first section was the most decorated of any cave i have ever seen. There were stalactites, stalagmites and other awesome formations hanging everywhere. A lot of them were white too and because of the little travel that goes on here none of these formations were broken or even touched. The helictites were truly amazing and so was this awesome wavy formation of a name i don’t know.
This was not a tourist trip so we proceeded without seeing everything back to the Super Sweet Dig. The next notable room we came to was the slip and slide or slick and slide room. This room was entirely slanted and looked like a huge slab from the ceiling had fallen leaving an almost flat floor and ceiling which we climbed across for easily 100 ft. It was truly incredible.
Next we came to a beach type room, which was just monstrous in size. We walked for a very long time in this room along a flagged path. There was sand everywhere. Along with dried sand that had cracked and little holes in the ground from the dripping ceiling. A little bit after this we arrived at the dig site. Me, Bob, Kim and Mike stayed outside while Barry, Rick and Brien went into the hole. What the dig site was so far was a 35ft dig into clay/dirt where there was a crack just above the clay before the rock and supposedly air could be felt through this crack. The hole that had been dug so far was about 3 ft by 3 ft and had been being dug for 3 years now.
We had a sled network set up where they would dig and put the dirt and clay on a sled and we would haul it out and stack it as orderly as we could. After a couple hours of this the group of 3 went came out of the hole and the others went in except for me. During this time Rick took out MRE and started heating it up. He decided it was a good idea to put his carbide light off to the side because the MRE was releasing hydrogen gas. After about 5 minutes Rick made us all jealous as he ate his Chicken Tetrazine and kept on talking and talking about how good it was and how much better he was with picking out food for the trip.
After i helped pull some dirt out for about 30 minutes, it was my time to go into the hole. At the first position i would pull the sled back in after it had been emptied and help guide the sled out. It was a bit tiring but i was glad because i had been getting a little cold outside. After another 30 min i switched positions again. This time i was switching sleds and helping guide them out. And then after another 30 min i was the last person to dig. The digging was quite hard and i had a feeling i was doing it very slowly. There were several layers at the bottom was dirt and the higher you went the harder the clay was. What i would do was dig at the bottom and then cut up on some clay and it would fall.
After quite a long time i was done with digging and we packed up and got ready to go. We made our way through all those beautiful places again, but it was much harder this time because we had dropped a good number of feet. Eventually we got to the exit and made our way out. Barry, Kim and Mike were a little bit behind us so once we got out we had the great idea to throw snowballs on them on their way up the ladder. As Bob relieved himself i came up with something better to do to them on their way up, but everyone decided that urine would only annoy them while snowballs might actually make them fall. So everyone threw snowballs as they all climbed up.
We then made our way to the cars got dressed and showed up at Royal’s Pizza about 5 minutes late. It was the last time the Highlanders would ever eat at Royal’s. It is unfortunately closing down.