Highland County Cave Survey

Rick Lambert
NSS 12496
February 23-24, 2002

I know you are tired of hearing me say it was another successful weekend with the survey, but quite frankly it was. Our goal was to survey five caves on the flank of the Bullpasture Mountain and we came back with four completed surveys and one partial survey.

The weekend began like all other weekends except instead of getting everyone up at 0600 I let them sleep in until 0630. (Carol wasn't here to do her hair and put her make-up on.) Breakfast was at 0700 and at 0900 we headed to the project area. Once there we divided up into two teams. Miku Mehta, Joshua Rubinstein and Scott Wahlquist headed to a cave with a boulder blocking the entrance. Their mission was to remove the boulder and survey the cave. Larry Baer, Jim Gildea, Kim Johnson and I were to locate and survey four caves in two locations.

Jim guided us to our cave with his GPS. The cave was described as, "not for those who dislike steep slopes". We were not happy to find the entrance 18 feet up the side of a vertical cliff. Kim went around and tried to approach the entrance from above as I tried to climb the face. After several attempts Larry and I carried a fallen tree to the cliff face and I used it to get that last crucial foothold to get me over the lip. Once there I rigged a cable ladder to a two inch diameter tree and backed it up with a knot jammed into a crack. Kim and Larry joined me while Jim stayed on the ground for safety reasons (someone has to survive to write the accident report).

The cave turned out to have an upper room that was half full of small breakdown cemented together with dirt. The result was a constant stream of rock and dirt falling out of the room, down the sloping passageway and down the cliff. We managed to survey the cave with out any injuries. Kim and Larry descended on the ladder and I re-rigged for a pull down with Larry as my anchor.

From there we headed for our final three caves. These were grouped together in two outcrops surrounded by talus and scree. The trip would have kicked the ass of a mountain goat! We searched the slope all the way to the top of the Bullpasture Mountain. On the way up I dislodged a large rock which whizzed past Kim and smacked Larry in the leg. It broke and bruised his skin immediately. Not finding the caves we moved over and started down. In route we found a small cave which was shaped like a chimney. We did not have descriptions of two of the three caves, just dots on a map, so we surveyed it and moved on.

The next cave entrance matched that of the one description we had. It was a small entrance at the base of a cliff that dropped twelve feet to a passageway. I rigged the cable ladder even though Larry said it was climbable. Before he went in Larry complained that the cave smelled funny, like his dog. I told him the cave was reported to be the home of Allegheny Wood Rats. Larry dropped down the vertical tube and I looked in. He again complained of the smell. I told him all I could smell was him. As I was preparing to follow him in Larry asked us to stop moving around, that we were causing dirt to roll down into the passageway ahead of him. I climbed in and noticed the passageway the dirt was falling in was not under the crew above, but in a different direction. I knew Larry was injured, thought he may not be drinking enough water and this may be causing him to whine a little. I comment to him that someone had been digging in the floor. He said he had noticed it. We continued the survey.

I crawled into a dead end passageway at a junction and noticed a crushed rat's nest. I asked Larry if he had stepped on it. He said he must have. I then noticed three more that were smashed flat and told him I didn't think he had. As I crawled back to shoot an azimuth into the passage Larry quickly, but calmly said, "Rick I see a bear!" I thought to myself, "Why is he doing this to me?" I continued with the shot and he grabbed me by the shoulder and said again, a little louder and firmer, "Rick I see a bear!" Instantly the digging, the smell and the crushed rat's nests all made sense. I said, "Let's get out of here!" I immediately grabbed the tape, compass and book and jumped in front of Larry putting him between the bear and me. (Someone has to survive to write the accident report!) At the cable ladder I stuff the compass and book into my coveralls and started rolling up the tape. Larry was breathing down my neck saying, "Can't we do that on top!" I finished with the tape and we both climbed the ladder in record time.

On top I found out that Larry, in the cave, was concerned how we were going to push the tape into the bear passageway to finish the survey. Are these guys dedicated or am I a slave driver? The bear never acted aggressive and never made a sound other than that of moving it's feet. It was backed as far as it could go into the passageway and looked more worried than anything else. We decided to call it a day and headed down to the Bullpasture River and back to our vehicles. There is never a dull moment in Highland County!

At the vehicles we saw Miku and he reported they did not remove the rock. Miku and Scott were able to squeeze past it and they did the survey while Joshua stayed on top. They surveyed 111 feet of cave. The cave had a dry streambed in it and blew air at the point it became too tight for them to pass.

We finished the night in the tavern of Royal's Pizza in Monterey feasting on friendship and food. The next morning I again let everyone sleep in until 0630. After breakfast we headed to our assigned project areas. Scott and Joshua were to continue the overland survey above Five Springs Cave and Brien Farris and I went back to the side of the Bullpasture Mountain.

The trip up the mountain again was a trip out of hell. Again, we were not sure what we were looking for so, we surveyed a short phreatic tube and a limestone tectonic. The day was beautiful and the sun warm. We spent a lot of time sitting and talking. Finally, we called it a day and headed off the mountain. Josh and Scott finished the overland. After four or five overland survey's the Five Springs Cave dike has finally been located on the surface of the mountain. This is a major accomplishment and is due to Joshua's persistence.

The next Highland County Cave Survey weekend will be March 23 and 24. We will do more of the same. Come on out and participate in the fun.

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