With little worse than a nip in the evening air to pull everyone closer around the fire at night, the weather at Taylor Run can only be described as splendid. The crowd was one of the largest ever and people were all over the mountain side working on a variety of projects. Among the 16 attendees were Scott Davis, Chris and David Crenshaw, Ed Devine, Traci and Elliot Goldberg, Barry Horner, Rick Lambert, Patrick Neuman, Penelope Pooler, Susan Posey, Rick Royer, Dave West, Karen Willmes, Bob Zimmerman and myself.
I got there early on Friday to recon the area and see what had changed. I drove around the mountainside a bit, located a new dig in a collapsing sink hole, and relocated several leads we had spotted years earlier but never gotten around to pushing. I flagged these latter with the intent that folks could find and work on them if they chose to do so.
Rick Lambert arrived in the late afternoon on Friday just as I was flagging the last couple of leads. With his digging implements we went to work on a rocky dig that Kristen Brace had pointed out to me during OTR last year. We broke rocks and pulled rocks and shoveled soil all the while listening to rocks fall about 10 feet down into a space below. After a couple hours of work we had exposed the top of the lead well enough to see a very narrow fissure leading straight down, and not looking very promising at all.
The next morning the turkeys gobbling on the hill woke several cavers up early. We cooked breakfast around the campfire and traded stories and plans for the day. As the sun came up we could see several more folks had rolled in after most people had gone to bed the night before.
With meals out of the way and preliminary plans set we loaded vehicles and started a caravan out of camp and up on to the mountain. I showed Traci, Elliot and Susan how to get to Twisted Fissure where they were to tie in a newly opened entrance to the cave with a couple surface features and the original entrance.
Barry, Rick Royer and Patrick split off to start on a dig that was my target project for the day. A nice funnel shaped sink that we'd known of, and ignored, for years. The other survey projects were winding down and it was time to get a new cave survey under way. This lead has the potential to turn into a large cave. It could also provide a safer access into the cave Barry is trying to reach through the unstable Beneath Breakdown entrance.
Karen, Dave West and Ralph headed for Trailer Pit where they wanted to dig and push a lead in the floor. Trailer Pit has great potential for breaking in to the very downstream end of Twisted Fissure. This would be an incredibly important breakthrough because the downstream survey point in Twisted Fissure requires six hard hours of caving to reach.
Ed, Bob and Penelope headed off for Reisenschein to continue survey that was begun last year. This was probably the sixth trip into that cave and the survey head was becoming more strenuous to reach. Reisenschein can be a sporting cave for most so Ed expected to be in the cave for quite a while.
Dave Crenshaw, Chris and Rick Lambert all went to Middle Finger, the dye traced back door to Twisted Fissure. They were going to work at the narrow passage and attempt to widen it for human access. If they succeeded they could beat the Trailer Pit crew to the Twisted Fissure survey head.
Throughout the day I rode around with Scott, checked up on different projects and worked on a couple of my own. After getting the survey started at Twisted Fissure I dropped by the funnel sink, intending to dig. Having only been gone an hour I was surprised to learn that Rick, Barry and Patrick had broken through to cave. They were suiting up to start survey so Scott and I went off to work on a different dig.
After several hours of rock, trash and soil removal at our new dig, we had collected some sunburn but not made a significant break through. The lead is very inviting, a 20-foot long fissure in bed rock that takes a small stream, moves air and is filled with rock and mud. Most people have looked at the lead pessimistically and not put much faith into it. I, on the other hand, am a believer.
Eventually, we took a break to check in on the others. It had been hours and I felt the survey crew at Twisted Fissure was overdue. As Scott and I drove up we found Elliot, Traci and Susan just finishing the survey, and their second six pack. I can't wait to see what the accuracy of the survey will be with a three beer handicap!
We drove back over to the funnel sink and the break through had only lasted twenty feet. After that it became a challenging dig in a narrow slot between breakdown blocks. The air in this lead is still tremendous and worth pursuing, but enough progress had been made for this weekend. Patrick, Barry and Rick took a poke at the dig Scott and I had started but soon abandoned it for Barry's favorite lead, Beneath Breakdown cave.
In the mean time Scott and I went to check the northern end of the limestone, where everyone else was. The Reisenschein crew wasn't expected for many more hours but Dave West, Karen and Ralph were all working within shouting distance of the surface. Their efforts were beginning to pay off. They were working in the floor of Trailer Pit and had exposed a ledge and an opening that moved air.
Rick Lambert, Dave Crenshaw and Chris on the other hand weren't having such luck. The rock they were working in was incredibly tough and their best efforts made little progress. Middle Finger was living up to its name and with little reluctance they gave up their work to join Dave West and the others working in Trailer Pit.
And so the afternoon went.
By the end of the day, Trailer Pit was a body length deeper and moving enough air to bring us back. Scott had taken several of us to the entrance of Gnarley Tree (a large, new, unsurveyed cave) and Dave West, Karen and Ralph had seen the first few hundred feet. The Beneath Breakdown dig moved about 10 tons of rock (seriously), leaving two large boulders for future contention. And the Twisted Fissure survey crew sobered up enough for a tourist trip into Across The Gulch Cave.
Later that evening, after many had bedded down for the night, the Reisenchein crew strolled back in to camp (almost a two mile hike). As I drifted off to sleep I hear Ed describe how they had started their trip with some video taping at the dome climb near the entrance of the cave. After that they had gone down stream and surveyed in excess of 300 feet. They also pushed a little further and found the cave became too low to follow, but there was enough there to warrant a return trip to mop up and check a couple side leads.
In the morning plenty of sore backs and bleery eyes greeted over the camp fire. After coffee the conversation became more animated and I could tell, people had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Slowly, over a period of two hours, people split off and headed their own way. For most that was home, but for Dave West and Karen, that was back up the mountain. They had bopped in to Ladd's Lead the day before and wanted to go back to survey.
Taylor Run has given us another great weekend, and the dozen or so great leads promise to add to the dozen or so great caves in the area. Next month should prove some of this.
Devin S. Kouts