RETURN TO POOR FARM

Devin Kouts
June, 1996

I’VE BEEN CAVING WITH SOME FOLKS FROM THE ELKINS AREA RECENTLY, NAMELY SUSAN POSEY AND SILAS WITEZMANN. BOTH OF THEM ARE NIMBLE, HARDY CAVERS THAT CAN DANCE CIRCLES AROUND ME IN THE SMALL STUFF. I’D RECENTLY JOINED THE NEWLY RE-ACTIVATED MOUNTAIN STATE GROTTO AND LEARNED THEY HAD FINAGLED A TRIP TO POOR FARM CAVE IN POCAHONTAS COUNTY.

REPORTEDLY A NICELY DECORATED CAVE, FULL OF LARGE WALKING TRUNK PASSAGE, POOR FARM HAD BEEN CLOSED SINCE THE EARLY 1970’S. WE WERE BEING GRANTED ACCESS BECAUSE AN OLDER MEMBER OF THE GROTTO WAS A FRIEND OF THE LAND OWNER. IT WAS A TREAT TO SEE SUCH A NICE CAVE AFTER SUCH A LONG CLOSURE PERIOD.

ALONG FOR THE TRIP WERE MANY GROTTO MEMBERS WHOM I’VE NEVER MET. ALSO THERE WAS BARRY BAUMGARDNER AND HIS DAUGHTER AND THEIR CAVING BLOODHOUND BELL. I’VE KNOWN BELL SINCE SHE WAS A PUP AND KNEW BARRY WAS TRAINING HER FOR SAR WORK IN CAVES. IT WAS VERY INTERESTING TO SEE A TRACKING DOG WORK UNDERGROUND. BLOODHOUNDS DEPEND MORE ON THEIR NOSES FOR GUIDANCE THAN THEIR EYES AND BELL WOULD CONTINUALLY EXPLORE REGIONS WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF OUR LIGHTS.

THE TRIP WAS LEISURELY FOR THE MOST PART AND INVOLVED STROLLING DOWN WIDE AVENUES OF TRUNK PASSAGE. TYPICALLY THE WALLS WERE THIRTY TO FIFTY FEET APART AND CEILINGS OCCASIONALLY CLIMBED TO FIFTY FEET IN HEIGHT. WE POKED AROUND DIFFERENT LEADS AND NOTED THINGS THAT WEREN’T ON THE PUBLISHED MAP (DRAWN IN THE SIXTIES). WE DIDN’T POKE TOO HARD INTO SOME AREAS BUT BY THE END OF THE DAY MANY OF US FELT WE COULD MAKE A CONCERTED EFFORT IN THIS CAVE AND COME UP WITH SOME NEW PASSAGE.

WE DID MAKE AN EFFORT TO FIND A WELL DECORATED PLACE CALLED JACKIE’S GROTTO. UNFORTUNATELY WE MISSED IT AND WOUND UP CRAWLING THROUGH A COUPLE BREAKDOWN PASSAGES THAT LEAD TO THE END OF THE MAIN TRUNK. OF NOTE HOWEVER WAS A NAME IN CARBIDE AT THE VERY END OF THE PASSAGE. I DUCKED INTO A LOW CRAWL TO SEE IF IT WENT AND ON THE LEFT HAND WALL I SAW “NSS RL LUTZ, 2-29-48”.BOB HAD BEEN HERE, AND ON A LEAP DAY NO LESS. BARRY AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS INTRIGUING AND WHEN THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE TRIP ASKED “WHO’S BOB LUTZ?” WE THOUGHT IT WAS HILARIOUS.

OF GREAT FORTUNE WAS SILAS’ EARLIER CONVERSATION WITH THE CAVE OWNER. HE HAD ALLOWED AS HOW HE’D LIKE TO HAVE A NEW MAP OF THE CAVE DONE AND WOULDN’T MIND AT ALL IF WE WANTED TO UNDER TAKE THE TASK. EXISTING SURVEY STANDS AT OVER 8000 FEET OF CAVE. MUCH OF THAT IS VERY EASY TRUNK SURVEY. WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT THE PROSPECT, NO ONE HAS DONE ANY SERIOUS POKING IN THIS CAVE SINCE ITWAS CLOSED IN THE EARLY SEVENTIES AND SINCE THEN WE’VE HAD AT LEAST TWO MAJOR FLOOD EVENTS.

EVIDENCE OF THE IMPACT FLOODS CAN HAVE ON CAVES EXISTS VERY NEARBY POOR FARM CAVE. AFTER WE EXITED POOR FARM WE WALKED DOWN THE HILL TO LOOK AT POOR FARM #2. BARRY TOLD US IT WAS A SLIMY LITTLE THING WITH A MUDDY FLOOR AND STREAM, NOT LONG AT ALL WHEN HE VISITED IT IN THE 70'S. THIS WAS JUST THE THING SILAS LIKED TO PURSUE. IN FACT THE SOUTHERN POCAHONTAS COUNTY SURVEY DESCRIBED THE CAVE AS TWO TO THREE FEET HIGH, TEN TO THIRTY FEET WIDE AND ONLY 150 FEET LONG, THAT DESCRIPTION WAS BORROWED FROM DAVIES.

Poorfarm #2 as mapped in the weeks after this trip report was written. Requires Adobe Acrobat. - copyright D. S. Kouts

WHEN WE WALKED INTO THE INSURGENT SINK HOLE I WAS QUITE IMPRESSED WITH THE ENTRANCE THAT GREETED US. BARRY ON THE OTHER HAND WENT APE-SHIT. HE KEPT HOOTING AND HOLLERING ABOUT HOW THIS WASN'T THE SAME ENTRANCE. WHAT WE WERE LOOKING AT WAS FIVE FEET HIGH AND ABOUT FORTY FEET WIDE. A LARGE LOW ROOM WAS VISIBLE INSIDE.

REJUVENATED WE DONNED OUR HELMETS AND SILAS, SUSAN AND I STEPPED IN FOR A LOOK. THE PASSAGE WAS WIDE, POSSIBLY APPROACHING 100 FEET IN PLACES. THE CEILING WAS UNIFORMLY FLAT AND THE CAVE SEEMED TO STAY A FAIRLY CONSTANT THREE TO FOUR FEET IN HEIGHT.WE FOLLOWED THE STREAM HOPING TO FIND BIG PASSAGE. WE PROGRESSED ABOUT TWO HUNDRED FEET IN VERY WIDE PASSAGE AND NOTED A STREAM PASSAGE ENTERING ALONG THE RIGHT HAND WALL. WE CONTINUED ON TWO HUNDRED FEET MORE TWO WHERE THE PASSAGE CHANGED DIMENSION AND NARROWED TO TWENTY FEET WIDE. SILAS PUSHED DOWNSTREAM ANOTHER HUNDRED FEET GETTING WET TO HIS KNEES. HE REPORTED LOW AIR SPACE OF THREE INCHES AND RETURNED.

ON OUR WAY OUT I HAD AN EERIE VIEW OF ALL THE FLOOD DEBRIS STUCK IN THE CEILING. MANY SEEDS HAD BEEN WASHED IN AND LODGED UP THERE. THEY WERE SPROUTING NOW AND THE FAINT GLOW OF ENTRANCE LIGHT WAS CAUGHT BY HUNDREDS OF THIN SPROUTS AS THEY HUNG DOWN VAINLY SEEKING SOIL AND LIGHT. I FOUND ONE BOOT PRINT IN THE MUD SO OBVIOUSLY WE WEREN'T THE FIRST ONES THERE. SILAS SCOOPED UP THE SIDE PASSAGE FOR ABOUT 600 FEET AND REPORTED TURNING BACK IN GOING, WALKING PASSAGE.

OUTSIDE, SUSAN POKED AROUND A BIG PILE OF OLD FENCING. BARRY TOLD US THAT PILE WAS WHERE THE ORIGINAL ENTRANCE HAD BEEN. SUSAN FOUND A HOLE TO ONE SIDE OF THE PILE AND CRAWLED IN FOR A LOOK. SHE REPORTED A CRAWL, BLOCKED BY MUD BUT EASILY DIGGABLE THAT HAD GOING CRAWLWAY BEYOND. BOTH SUSAN'S LEAD AND THE PASSAGE SILAS HAD ENTERED HEADED AWAY FROM THE AREA OF POOR FARM CAVE AND TOWARD ANOTHER LARGE HILL OF LIMESTONE AND SEVERAL LARGE SINKHOLES A QUARTER MILE DISTANT.

WE WERE QUITE SATISFIED WITH OUR AFTERNOON OF CAVING AS WE WOLFED DOWN A MEAL AT FRENCH'S DINER IN MARLINTON. NOT YET CONTENT TO CALL IT A DAY HOWEVER WE DECIDED TO CHECK A COUPLE THINGS ALONG THE DRY FORK AND ELK RIVER ON OUR WAY HOME. I TOOK SILAS BY THE YOUR CAVE DIG AND INVITED HIM TO JOIN US AT OUR DIGGING CAMP ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND. HE TOLD ME HE HAD A SIMILAR LEAD VERY NEAR MY CAVE.

DOWN ALONG THE ELK WE STOPPED AT THE NEW HOME OF BILL AND TOLLY, ESCAPEES FROM ANNAPOLIS. BILL AND TOLLY HAD INVITED SILAS TO CHECK A CRAWL AT THE BASE OF A HEADWALL BEHIND THEIR HOUSE. NOT CAVERS THEMSELVES THEY HAD BECOME QUITE INTERESTED IN THE CAVES OF THE DRY FORK AND ELK SINCE MOVING THERE TWO YEARS BEFORE. THEY WERE PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN FINDING A BACK DOOR INTO LEFT TIT PIT WHICH RAN THROUGH THE HILLSIDE BEHIND THEIR HOUSE.THEY FIGURED THE KOWABUNGA ROOM WAS SOMEWHERE NEARBY. WE CHECKED THE LEAD AND FOUND IT WAS A LOW, WET NASTY THING IN NEED OF WET SUITS. SILAS AND I TALKED ABOUT RETURNING LATER IN THE SUMMER.

WHILE WE STILL HAD A DRAM OF DAY LIGHT LEFT WE RUSHED UP THE ROAD TO HAVE A LOOK AT FALLING SPRINGS CAVE. WOW, WHAT AN IMPRESSIVE SINKHOLE. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I'D SEEN IT OUTSIDE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND CAMERAS JUST COULDN'T CAPTURE WHAT I SAW. WE PUT ON OUR HELMETS AND STOOPED INSIDE TO SEE WHERE THE BLOCKAGE WAS. WE MADE IT DOWN STREAM TO A POINT THAT SILAS AND SUSAN BOTH SAID HAD BEEN PLUGGED BEFORE. LAST WINTER'S FLOODS HAD REMOVED THE BLOCKAGE AND THE OTHERS PUSHED A LITTLE FURTHER ON UNTIL THEY REACHED A PLUNGE POOL. I WAS COMPLETELY IMPRESSED WITH THE CAVE BUT I WAS ALSO THOROUGHLY CREEPED OUT WHILE IN THERE.

IT SEEMED THAT EVEN A RISE IN THE HUMIDITY WOULD CAUSE THAT PLACE TO FLOOD. WE PARTED COMPANY AFTER THAT AND LEFT SUSAN WITH AN ACTION ITEM TO ORGANIZE OUR FIRST SURVEY TRIP INTO POOR FARM CAVE. SILAS HAD THE ACTION TO CONTACT THE LAND OWNER AND SEEK PERMISSION TO MAP POOR FARM #2. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS SHOW UP, JEEZ I SHOULD BE A MANAGER.

DEVIN S. KOUTS

Site Hits: