|More than thirty years ago, in the
summer of 1965, D. Carl Hinkle asked me to come and see his "Cave of the
Winds." He owned a large tract of land in the mountainous region above Rough
Run, Grant County, West Virignia.
Old D. Carl Hinkle promoted this tract as the "Deep Spring Park." His ultimate
pleasure was to see the state or county adopt it as a scenic parkland. He
boasted of its chimney rocks, natural bridge, waterfalls, forests, streams,
rock cliffs, and Cave of the Winds. He even went as far as to place picnic
tables at strategic points along the circular roadway he built through the
property. There was a time when church groups and schools did use the "park"
for a day's outing. It was indeed a beautiful spot in these rugged mountains.
Most folks considered it too remote, as it was a goodly distance from any
major town or thoroughfare.
As our reputation of being avid cavers had spread throughout the region,
D. Carl approached me about his Cave of the Winds. For documentation of his
claim he showwed me nineteenth century logging records of his grandfather.
Those records clearly showed that the cave, in Wolfpen
Hollow, was noted by these early loggers. This documentation and the tale
of the tremendous volume of very cold air blowing from the cracks and crevices
of the rocks naturally intrigued me. Although I was familiar with other caves
in that area, I had not heard this tale. We had previously visited Deep Spring
and the cave associated with that spring. That was the closest I had been
to Wolfpen Hollow. I had always heard the tales of D. Carl and his park,
but never had visited the tract. Needless to say, we planned a preliminary
trip to the area.
D. Carl was very anxious to receive us and gave us the royal tour of his
famous Deep Spring Park. Smitty Alt, Jack C. Barr, Linton Sites and I accompanied
D. Carl through this unique area, taking in all the wonders it held. Finally,
we got to the place where the wind blew out from the earth. You could hear
it whistling from the round metal drainpipe he had pushed back back into
a crevice to enhance the volume of air emerging. He was correct in saying
that it was cold...very cold. We have never witnessed such a volume of air
emerging from a rock. We took a photo showing a white handkerchief being
extended horizontally out from the pipe by the enormous volume of air blowing
outward. Realizing the implications of that amount of air coming out, I gathered
there would have to be another open entrance at a much higher elevation and
furthermore, it more than likely implied a rather extensive and large cave
system under our feet. We were overwhelmed with excitement and enthusiasm.
D. Carl was pleased. However, now he wanted us to fulfill our enthusiasm
and his curiosity as well. How to gain entrance to this underworld...that
was his, and our, primary question.
As we sat upon the rocks eating our lunch of sardines and crackers, supplied
by old D. Carl, who loved the canned fishes, plans were suggested and made
to gain entrance. A future trip could not come soon enough. We departed the
Deep Spring Park and its Cave of the Winds that day full of aniticipation
and enthusiasn for a newly found prospective cave. And what a cave there must
be, thought each of us. The volume of cold air blowing from within those rock
crevices was to haunt us for the next several weeks.
Finally, I heard from old D. Carl again. He was ready for a return trip
to his beloved Cave of the Winds. Lo and behold, he had prepared an entrance
for us. In his enthusiasm, he had dynamited the rocks and laid open an entrance
big enough for us to enter...he hoped. He was as excited as I at the prospects
of entering a virgin cave. I immediately contacted my caving buddies and Linton.
We agreed on a date for the initial exploration and planned everything to
the minutest detail. Preparations were underway for a major trip. Adrenaline
flowed rampantly among us all.
A very hot day was shaping up in the valley the morning we loaded the back
of Linton's pickup and headed far into the Elkhorn Mountain region of Rough
Run. Linton had planned on a long spell of us being there, so he had thrown
his charcoal barbecue grill on the pile of equipment. He had no intention
of surviving on D. Carl's sardines again. As Linton was a bit on the hefty
side, he knew he would not be able to accompnay us underground. But, as so
many times in the past, he would always be a member of the party and enjoyed
being with us boys on our many underground adventures. Occasionally we could
get him to go with us underground. Regardless, he was always there for moral
support and manly strength when needed. Besides, his pickup could haul
our equipment and take us nearly anywhere we wanted. There were many places
our old '57 Plymouth cavemobile, infamous throughout the tri-county region,
could not go. This was one of them. The members of this memorable expedition
were me, Linton Sites, Smitty Alt, Jack C. Barr, my Father, Max C. Sites,
and D. Carl, the landowner.
Upon our arrival , we immediately hurried to see the newly created cave entrance
to assess the situation. He had done it. D. Carl had indeed blown away enough
rock to open up an entrance in the darkness below ground. We were filled with
awe...to be sure. The very chilly air literally gushed out from the opening
with great vigor and volume. We certainly did have some doubts about the
nature of the rocks around the entrance. There was concern because of the
blasting promoting some possible instability. But who could hold back adventurous
young boys eager to explor a virgin cave!
D. Carl had placed an old iron gate over the created opening. We removed
the gate, and were very anxious to poke a head into the actual "blow-hole".
The wind was fierce and mighty cold. It looked as if we could definitely enter,
but with little room to spare. It was also apparent the carbide lamps could
not be lit until farther inside. Therefore entering would have to be done
with a flashlight. Ahhhhh, the thrill of it. While still by the entrance,
old D. Carl hollered at me to check under some leaves behind one of the rocks.
There I found a cache of soda pop which old D. Carl had previously placed
in anticipation of our return. They were as cold as if they had been refrigerated.
I, furthermore, attempted to take a picture looking backup up through the
iron-gate from the entrance. Upon development of the film, those pictures
were very cloudy and diminished from the volume of cold air fogging the lends.
We proceeded to unload and gear up. Anticipation was with all.
At midday we were ready to enter. Jack C. Barr, Smitty Alt and I were ready
and willing to take the next step. Precaution was exercised in slowly sliding
through and under the entrance rock. The wind whistled by me as I proceeded
to slither and slide into the cave beyond. As a safety precaution, a belay
line was rigged, not knowing what we may find. Once inside I could sit up
and get the carbide lamp going. One glance around told me we could go garther.
We had hit upon a new cave. As each of the other entered and passed gear
ahead to one another, we turned to see the tiny opening we had passed through.
Lo did we realize it would be twelve hours before we saw that tiny place
again. Once all our lamps had been lit, we soon realized that this was probably
a breakdown room at the end of a large cave system...at least we were hoping.
For the first hour or two, we followed the leads and tried to sketch a map.
I photographed as we went. We had always been very safety minded on our trips,
and this time was no exception. We proceeded very cautiously every where
we walked, crawled, or chimneyed. Once inside the wind volume appeared to
have subsided. We tried to locate a continual source of the wind, but to
no avail. Our photos give some idea of the passageways and cave we found.
There was nothing really spectacular as speleothems go. I did not really
expect them to be prolific within this breakdown area, assuming we were in
the backend of a cave system.
We continued to explore passageways and crievices. The cave seemed to have
multiple levels. We found a stream on a lower level. We found connecting
passageways to the main level. We finally kept going down into the system,
until we came to a very large walkway-type passage with nearly fifteen to
twenty-foot heights. It led steeply down and made a turn to the right...as
I recall. At this point our hearts were pounding. Was this finally the main
passageway we had been hoping to find? It looked as if there was
definitely cave beyond. More important, there did seem to be air flow coming
up through the passageway. At this point, I realized the time and that it
was nearly dark outside. Those guys outside had to be wondering what had
happened to us. And they would soon be faced with the darkenss of Wolfpen
Hollow. We decided that perhaps this being the main trunk, it could wait
for a return exploration. It was time to leave the cave and return to the
We picked our way back toward the entrance. By this time we were getting
tired. We mustered up the last of our energy in getting back through the
entranceway. It was very difficult as it was quite small and going back through
was not like coming in down a slope. Furthermore, it was dark out and
with the tremendous volume of wind, the lamps were of no use. Being dark
outside, it was difficult to see the opening. We also had to get all our
gear out as well. We tried to be extra careful and not bang around too much,
as this area had been dynamited and we were still a bit anxious about that.
We finally all emerged nigh onto midnight to a very chilly outside. The guys
had awaited our arrival and had the grill going for heat. As it turned out,
the temperature in the valley had risen into the nineties during the day,
but it was now within the lower forties in the mountainous hollow. Those
guys were mighty chilly out there waiting on us to emerge. Linton had brought
his CB and had kept in touch with his wife back in town. We jabbered on about
our days exploration while scarfing down hamburgers Linton was so graciously
preparing on the grill. Boy, were we hungry. The cold pop from the cave entrance
was mighty welcome to wash the burgers down with. The plans were already
in prepartion for the next assault on this Cave of the Winds.
We had planned on re-entering the cave within a week. However, old D. Carl,
although impressed with what we had learned and seen, had second thoughts
about further exploration. He became concerned about liability. Even though
we agreed to sign waivers, he was not convinced of the comprehensive coverage
of such a waiver. He became increasingly apprehensive and was reluctant to
allow us further entry into the cave. We pleaded with him, but his decision
had been made. We would be forever denied another chance to enter that cave.
We accepted his decision, and moved on to hoping to discover another entrance
higher up on the mountain. We thought perhaps on the Kesner property, but
no leads were found to take us into the system we felt would connect to the
large passage we left behind under Deep Spring Park. We could not seem to
get very far in Deep Spring Cave either.
So there she laid under the mountain - a virgin cave passage just where
we halted our forward steps. Oh how I wish we had gone onward. But it was
time to quit. It was late and we were tired. Someday, though, someone will
go beyond or come in from another firection. Until that time, all I could
do was speculate as to what wonders lay beyond. If we had just taken a few
more steps, and another, and another, etc. Oh well, such is dreaming.
D. Carl had been very kind to us, more so than some landowners. We greatly
appreciated his allowing us to go as far as we did. He was not the first
landowner to dynamite entrances open for us. We boys had wonderful and rewarding
landowner relations. We would not defile that by trespassing and entering
the caves behind their backs. To this day, those that are still with us,
are friends indeed. To we three who ventured that day into the inner depths
of Deep Spring Park, we vowed never to forget that virgin passageway that
lay ahead of us the night we turned around in our beloved Wind Cave of Grant
County. Perhaps someday, someone will pick up where we three left off.
Wind Cave has been explored and remapped in the years since.
- The Editor
[Ed. This article was first published in the newsletter of the Potomac Speleological
Club, The Potomac Caver, Volume XLII, June/July 1999.]