Apex Cave
by Rocky Parsons
8 March 2003

The Weatherman was FINALLY predicting decent weather for the March Germany Valley Karst Survey weekend. Up until the first of the month, the weather had been one storm after another. One of the worst had dumped around two feet of snow in the Valley and had caused the delay of the much-anticipated assault on Memorial Day Caveís Puppet Buster. The improved weather and the planned work in Memorial Day resulted in a very large turnout of cavers for the Project weekend. Since there were more than enough people signed up to work on the Puppet Buster and other projects, I decided to join Billy Pickett, Larry Baer, Brian Farris, Rick Wagner, Chris Woodley and Rick Lambert in an effort to install a gate on Apex Cave.

Backhoe
Rick Lambert's improvised snow mobile.
Apex Cave has a special place in my heart because I was the one who found the entrance when I noticed a softball-sized hole in the stream bank blowing air last summer. Easy digging in the scree slope soon produced a small, unstable entrance. Subsequent work has enlarged the cave to a passage that appears to continue with considerable promise of more, bigger cave (donít they all!).

Since there was still a considerable amount of snow on the ground, Rick Lambert put chains on three wheels of his four-wheel drive truck. The fourth set of chains was too small to fit. We easily traveled up the road to the old quarry scale-house where Rick had previously stored several bags of cement and the gate. The gate is a very impressive structure made of corrugated pipe and a plate-steel gate with a six-inch hole fitted with a screw-on cap. We loaded the gate onto his truck and several bags of cement into the back of my truck. I figured I was going to need the extra weight to give my rear wheels traction on the slick, steep road. Rick churned up the hill, chains flailing, and made a set of tracks for me to follow. In a couple of places, we had to get shovels out and dig open the tire tracks for traction. After several efforts, we made it up to the cave entrance.

Snowmelt from the previous storm had caused the stream in front of the entrance to rise about two feet. Fortunately, Rick had placed fencing and wire grate over the entrance in order to keep debris from flowing into the cave. If he hadnít taken this precaution, the cave would have been filled with leaves and sediment. Cleaning it out would have been a major job. Still, we had to use a spud bar, mattock and shovel to clean the leaves, snow and ice from the fencing and grate in order to open up and clean the entrance.

We ďdry-fitĒ the gate to make sure it would fit and function properly. Very little work was needed to get it into place. Once we decided upon the proper orientation, the gate was set and we started mixing cement and filling around the gate with rocks. Fortunately, Rick had the forethought to have jugs of water available for mixing cement because, in spite on the snowmelt, the stream was dry. Rick Wagner and I made several trips back down the hill to the scale-house to get more bags of cement. My little four-banger Totota couldnít haul very much weight up to the cave entrance.

Backhoe
The boys from Highland Grotto install a flood control gate on Apex cave.
After several hours of work hauling rocks, mixing and placing cement (working from inside and outside of the entrance), we had the gate installed. It will make the entrance more stable and keep the cave open and clean, protected from flooding. The six-inch opening will restrict air movement to what it was when the cave was first discovered. After posing for a group photo in front of the gate, we went to the entrance of Memorial Day Cave to check on progress there.

What an impressive sight! The cave had been hot-wired with electricity from the entrance to the Puppet Buster and a set of field phones was installed. Bob Alderson was at the entrance manning the generator and phones. Though we didnít talk directly to them, we could listen to the voices of those working on the other end and could also hear what sounded like a waterfall. Now, if we only had video, we could take up some serious armchair caving.

Another great day of caving in the Valley. I met some new caving folks, enjoyed the weather and accomplished something constructive. Iím looking forward to working on Apex Cave again in the future.