Highland County Cave Survey

Rick Lambert
NSS 12496
April 26-28, 2002

The April survey weekend for the Highland County Cave Survey was another success story. Larry Baer and I decided to start the weekend early, on Friday the 26th, by ridgewalking and digging. We drove to the top of the Bullpasture Mountain and found our parking area occupied by turkey hunters. After talking to one of their friends we found that only two of the party were in our area. (Later, that evening we talked to the entire group and found we did not disturb their hunting at any time.)

Larry and I hiked to the Attractive Nuisance dig. In less than thirty minutes we had a pit with a small black hole in the bottom. Our plan was to open the holes and leave them for the team as a reward on Sunday.

We moved to the Chipmunk Hotel dig. I started digging and Larry being impatient asked me to get out and let him in. Once there he asked me why I was digging where I was. I told him that one spot was probably as good as another at this point in time. Larry moved over and in ten minutes had a hole big enough to get a Baer in. When we dropped the last rock into the cave bats started flying around. It never ceases to amaze me at the number of caves we dig into and find bats there ahead of us. We left Chipmunk Hotel as it was, "Virgin", and moved on to the next dig, Iron Girl.

Kim Johnson found Iron Girl in December and has predicted it will produce a cave. We have dug on it several times and have only gotten a body length into the cave. I jumped into the hole and started digging up dip instead of down dip as before. In less than five minutes I had a hole going down into cave. This was the same spot I had told Kim she was wasting her time digging in. OK, I don't know everything about digging! We left Iron Girl as it was and moved on.

We next tried to locate Bullpasture Mountainside Cave with GPS coordinates provided by Nevin Davis. My GPS took us back to the same area the Virginia Speleological Survey's coordinates took us to earlier in the year. We have since had Phil Lucas plot the coordinates and have the cave farther down the mountain than previously thought. Members of the BCCS surveyed the cave several years ago and we are going to give them one month to produce a map or we will re-survey the cave and produce a map.

On our way back to our vehicles Larry and I tried to find several fissures that we had located and that the Shenandoah Valley Grotto reported as having cave at the bottom. We failed to find them, but will try again next month.

On Saturday morning we had seventeen people assembled for work. Barry Horner, Scott Wahlquist and a reluctant Rick Wagner went to April Showers Pit to finish the survey. When they arrived the exsurgence for the cave was feeding the creek. When they got to the bottom of the cave there was water seven feet deep in the stream. They were not able to survey the stream but did finish a few leads elsewhere. Exiting the cave again was very hard. I owe you BIG Rick.

Carol Peterson, Billy Pickett and Rick Royer headed to Judy's Pit to re-survey it. They were the last crew out late Saturday night. They were in cave in excess of 10 hours, but did finish the survey. Judy's Pit taped out at 276.9 feet long and 52.7 feet deep.

Pat Bingham, Brien Farris, Morgan Gardner, Tim Grimm, Rene ?, Jessica Pickett, Wayne Thompson, and RJ Wagner were to move ahead of my team and locate and open several caves that were reported, but not yet located. They ended up on several digs. One Brein, Jessica and RJ took down ten feet and could poke the four-foot bar through the clay plug into space. We had to force them to leave the dig and quit Saturday evening.

Larry Baer, Kim Johnson and I headed back to the bear cave, Lost Fossil Drop, to see if the hibernating bear really could jump and claw his was out of the 12 feet deep pit. I wrote the Game Commission's head biologists after finding the bear in the cave. I wanted to report the denning site for their programs and to find out when black bears are normally out of the denning sites in this area. The head biologist informed me that males are usually out by the first of April and females with cubs are usually out by the end of April. When we arrived the cave no longer smelled like Larry's dog. I rigged the cable ladder and dropped into the cave first. There was no sign of a dead or a live bear. Kim and Larry followed and we resumed the survey. We surveyed the "Bearly Surveyed Passageway" and found out that Larry was within 13 feet of the critter when he spotted it. Lost Fossil Drop taped out at 76.9 feet long and 18.1 feet deep.

From Lost Fossil Drop we moved to meet up with the dig crew and found them preoccupied with digs. We abandoned one dig as it pinched down to nothing and left Brien, Jessica and RJ working on theirs. Larry, Pat, Tim, Kim, Wayne and I spread out and started ridgewalking in line looking for The Other Hole. A now unknown reporter reported the cave verbally, second hand to the VSS. So, we knew the location might not be right. It wasn't! We walked probably a mile across the mountain and then back and never found the cave. Wayne, on his first time with us, found a new unreported cave. I named it Wayne's World Cave. It was small in all aspects and taped out at 18.4 feet in length and 15.1 feet deep.

From Wayne's World we ridgewalked back to the dig crew, made them quit and left the mountain. We met the April Showers crew at the parking spot and waited and talked with them until it started raining. When the Judy's Pit crew did not show up by 1800 we left and went to eat. After we ate Pat and I decided to go and get the members of our crew who waited for the Judy's Pit crew and bring them back for dinner. Fortunately we met everyone on the eastside of Jack Mountain.

Sunday was totally rained out. Some people entered data, others drew maps and still others watched caving videos. One by one every one left. We have finished maps on 25 caves for this year. With six more months to go before the VSS meeting we are going to try to do 25 more. The May survey weekend will be the 24th, 25th 26th and 27th. We have a lot of projects waiting, plus the three virgin caves Larry and I dug open last month. Come on out and help. We need you!

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