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
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
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.