August 25, 2001

After six days of digging, moving rock and modifying cracks between breakdown and bedrock blocks, Highland County has a new cave. The dig, known as the [Deleted - Ed.], has attracted the attention of cavers for many years. Nevin Davis and crew attempted to gain access to the system by digging above the site in a small FRO known as  [Deleted - Ed.]. The site would probably involve a lot of mining and was abandoned. Ben Schwartz talked about digging at the site for many years but with too many caves and too little time never got beyond sharing the desire with me. In May of 2000, while looking for [Deleted - Ed.], Carol Peterson called those of us with her over to the site hoping she had found it. It was obvious she had not found [Deleted - Ed.], but something more extensive. The Highland County Cave Survey was involved in the survey of almost a dozen caves on the property of a neighboring landowner and inspite of her repeated urging to start the dig I postponed getting permission until the other caves were surveyed. Finally, in January of 2001, the digging began. Over the seven month period we dug six times. 18 people participated and they are: Tom Barton, Larry Baer, Morgan Gardner, Paul Gillis, Barry Horner, Rick Lambert, Richard Mann, Chris Moline, Megan Moline, Carol Peterson, Jackie Peterson, Penelope Pooler, Rick Royer, Ben Schwartz, Adam Snook, Simeon Warner, Andy Yeagle, and Dianne ?.


We started below the site chosen by Nevin Davis because that was where the air was. Initally, we started on the left side of the site, but quickly found the air was coming from the right. As we progressed we had to remove far more material than has normally been required on most of our digs because we were digging in a scree slope with a root mass, including trees, above it. We would remove all the material we could safely remove in a day and then wait a month or two for the freezing and thawing and rain to bring down more. Many times we would return and find the tunnel almost totally obscured by fallen debris. After removing it we would continue again. Once, we returned to find someone else had dug on the site in our absence. We put out inquires and eventually found out it was members of the Shenandoah Valley Grotto. I called the owner (before we found out it was the SVG) and found that he had not given anyone else permission to dig. As in all digs, there were multiple opinions on what should be done and how far back we would have to go to hit bedrock. I hoped we would only have to go back about 20 feet and drop down into cave passageway in bedrock. We actually dug back 20 feet in four days and hit what I hoped was bedrock. The next month we returned and dropped down approximately 10 feet in front of a massive piece of breakdown. Looking right between two more pieces of breakdown we could see what looked like a cobble stream passageway. We could not see the stream, but we could hear it. (Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then!) Rick Royer tried to squeeze into the crack, but got stuck and had to be assisted out. Our plans were to return the next day and enlarge the crack, but heavy rain confined us to my house working on maps. I notified all the people who had dug up to that point, we were about to break through to give them a chance to be there on the August weekend.


Seven people showed up for the August survey. I had expected more and breathed a sigh of relief. As always we got every one up at 6 AM to get ready for breakfast at 7. We actually left for the site at 8:30 instead of 9:00. The site had been checked by Ben Schwartz the weekend before. Larry Baer and Carol Peterson checked it on Friday, so we had an idea what was awaiting us. We unloaded the generator, electrical cords, drill, drill bits, pry bars, etc. and started removing the debris that had fallen over the past month. A skylight had actually formed in the ceiling. After removing several rocks on the surface, which were poised to fall in, we began the work. The crack, which threatened to keep Rick Royer the month before, was enlarged to accommodate all but the biggest cavers. After another ten feet it turned left, back into the mountain, and into a solutional channel through large breakdown. We had cave! I picked my way through, with Ben Schwartz following, to a pile of small breakdown that blocked the passageway. We returned to the surface to let the others in and to decide what to do next. It was past beer thirty and I was tired, Morgan Gardner had a date, which he missed because Ben refused to let us quit. A crew formed to pass the breakdown from the blockage in the cave to the surface as others tried to hide all trace of our dig. We had had several visitors that day to the site and one vehicle drove by several times watching us. Once the breakdown was removed Barry Horner worked on the tightest spot to get himself through. Rick Royer scooped to walking passageway (less than 100 feet away) and we packed up and headed home.


The next day we returned to find cigarette butts in the entrance. The landowner had let us dig if when we were through we would fill the cave back in. We were going to try to exchange filling the cave in with gating it, if it went. Larry Baer, Barry Horner and Rick Royer started the in cave survey while Carol Peterson, Ben Schwartz and I did the overland survey connecting all the springs to the entrance. Once we finished the overland survey we suited up and headed into the cave. The first crew allowed us to leap frog past them to the walking passageway and into virgin territory. The first crew really needs to be commended for their persistence. They surveyed 101 feet of mostly body size passageway in about six hours. The first 100 feet of the cave, the Salamander Passageway, is a gate in itself. The next 386 feet was beautiful, virgin stream passageway sometimes on three different levels. Every time Carol got in front she sounded like she was having an orgasm and every time Ben scouted a head for the best survey route she complained he was scooping. Our shot length varied mostly from the high teens to the low forty's. We surveyed to a breakdown dome and then back down into the stream passageway where Carol scooped into walking passageway. Barry and Rick joined us and we headed out. Total surveyed length: 486.9 feet.


Ben left after everyone was out and the rest of us talked for more than an hour before heading home. I entered the data and called the landowner. He seemed happy that we were concerned about liability and said it sounded like I had everything under control and gave me permission to gate and control entry on the cave. He chose Five Springs Cave as the name for the cave. He is hoping to have us up to his cabin in January for a dinner where we can tell war stories and show him slides of the cave.


Ben Schwartz believes the cave has the potential for 10 miles of passageway. This means a lot of people are going to be traveling through very delicate areas. Some basic, common sense rules will be imposed. All entering must sign a waiver each calendar year. Survey teams can be no larger than three people. This means all entering have to be able to read instruments or sketch. Back sights are mandatory and all readings must be within two degrees. No permanent stations may be set. Survey teams must use assigned sequences. Urine bottles and feces packets must be carried and used. This is a “survey as you go” survey, quit scooping!!!! Recreational caving will not be allowed at this time. Once sensitive areas have been surveyed and flagged as “off limits” stay out. Stay on the trail to and from assigned areas. All trips are for the good of the survey and failure will not be favorably looked upon.


The gate is being built and will be installed on Thursday. We are going to need bodies to help install it and money to pay for it. If you can help on your way to OTR please contact me. If you can't help install the gate then set aside a fourth weekend sometime in the next year and help us survey this cold, tight virgin.


Rick Lambert NSS12496