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Cave Rat Cave Weekend
May 18 & 19, 2002
After piling all the equipment & 3 people into my Jeep we headed to Franklin. When we got West of Harrisonburg I cranked up the bluegrass on the CD player & we all got in the spirit! After a good dinner at Thompson's Motel & checking into room 46 there, I drove them to Smokehole road & showed them Eagle Rock & Cave Mountain with the binoculars. Then up to the PSC fieldhouse to show it to them........there was no one there all weekend so we were on our own. At least they got a chance to see it.
Off we crawled & climbed to the big breakdown block, where we squeezed under to the rest of the cave. I was new to this leading business so I left some well placed pieces of flagging tape along the route to help us find our way back (and if anything had happened to me they could have found their own way out). After navigating our way through the 5 successive rooms on the other side of the big breakdown block we arrived at our dig site. The 5 rooms can best described by the terms: up, down, up, down, mud, mud, mud (mud)!! While they looked around I squeezed into the slot that goes down to our little dig site & promptly got stuck. Laughing like a fool I had Dave remove my web army belt from around my waist. That did it....I slid in. After you are through this vertical slot you are in a chamber ~ 8 ft long X 5 ft wide X 2 ft high. At the bottom is a big rock in a hole that covers a lead. I beat on it for a while with my new 4 lb hammer, knocking chunks off. I got my new led flashlight & attached it to the end of an 8 mm handline & lowered it down into the lead to see if I could see anything interesting. I could not.Throwing small chunks of rock down there sounded as if it might "go". It was hard to say. Chris came down & beat on the rock a while. I'd say we hammered about an hour......but alas the rock stays, somewhat marred & chipped in the same spot. Next time I'm bringing a chisel too. I built up a little mound of rocks so we could step on them to get out of the squeeze. After some puffing & grunting we were out, and on our way back out. It took less time to get out than to get in. I guess that was because we were simply following the flagging tape & not wayfinding as much. I was amazed when we got to the big breakdown block so fast. We, of course, were picking up the tape as we went for disposal later. When we got to the entrance room we went up into the Square Rat Room for a look. It's ~ 50 degree pebble & mud slope up to a point then it gets steeper & you really need a rope or something to get up there safely. So we went back down & started out. I went first. The rain / drizzle seemed to be dripping in the hole & down the slick nylon webbing. I got a regular PMI handline rigged outside on the tree & it was less slippery to hold. We all got out safely and covered the hole with branches again to keep the leaves out ....but still "bat friendly". Back in town we had a good dinner & they decided they liked caving, and I discovered again that I like it a lot! Our waitress at Thompson's was named Jamie & she said she owned Dennis Mitchell Cave & we were welcome to visit it, she was very nice, just call her first (e-mail me for her tel #). We then went to the bowling alley in Franklin & bowled a while......before turning in.
On the way back on Monday we decided to see the flip side of the coin & stop at Luray Caverns.......it is a very pretty & well decorated cave and I had not been there since I was a child.......not to forget to mention "The Largest Caverns in the East" according to their ads.(East of Rt 81 I guess ??) Holy cow it's .......$16.00 to get in now!! We decided that a look at the gift shop was good enough so we headed home.
Great weekend............let's go cavin'!