Nov. 9, 1994
Our Halloween Hunt (for caves)
While others looked for clues, we looked for caves. Halloween was fast approaching and we had a full weekend of caving ahead as we left D.C. early on Thursday. Dave Crenshaw, Traci Kammer and I would meet up with Pete Penczer that evening at the fieldhouse to prepare for the subterrainean assault we had in mind. I had been given a lead on a new cave in the Smokehole area, just across the line into Grant County. That was Fridays target. Saturday we would return to a pit shown to us by a landowner in southern Pendleton County. Sunday we had plans for a photo trip into Nutt, a popular cave I'd never been to.
Friday morning we got out early and picked up an addition to our party, Dan Stooky. Driving to the Redman Run trailhead we parked our vehicles, put our gear in bags and set out on what turned into a mile and a half ridgewalk over USFS land. Locating the cave just where I'd been told it would be we were excited by the shear size of the entrance, 8 feet wide by 4 feet high. A small trickle of water came out and there was a virgin sand dune deposited by high water, nothing more than animal tracks in it.
We pushed into the cave and after 20 feet found ourselves in tall canyon, 25 feet high and 8 feet wide. Another 30 feet took us across a pool of water and to the base of a flowstone wall. Dan "The Monkey Man" Stooky chimneyed up 15 feet to the top and proclaimed going passage. Pete followed him up, rigged a hand line and checked to see if it was worth our climbing up. After 50 feet more Dan and Pete reported the walls closed down too tight to pass. I shot a couple photos of them at the top of the climb and we headed out. We refer to this cave as I6, the number it was given on the original ridgwalk that located it.
Traci Kammer and I had energy left after our hike back out so we went over to Upper Tract and tried to locate Skinner's cave but had no luck. Friday's caving was largely a bust, but we did see something new and proved that it doesn't go.
Saturday Traci split for the Halloween hunt, Dan did his own thing. That left Pete, Dave and I to meet with our friends the Mixons; Robin, Debbie and Devon. Our goal was to get into a pit we had been shown three weekends earlier. Failing that we had brought along shovels to dig open another pit the same landowner had given us permission to enter. We arrove at the first pit by 11 a.m. and cleared logs and weeds from the entrance. It was a beautiful hole, 8 feet by 6 feet, situated high on top of a knob. We rigged a rope, climbed down ten feet and found a mud plug. We made up our minds to dig. We took turns, on rope, filling a five gallon bucket and probably removed about 200 buckets of dirt and rock. We dropped the floor by a credible 4 or 5 feet to where we had exposed a boulder lodged between the walls of the pit. This blocked our progress on one side and forced us to work on the other side of the floor. At about 4 p.m. we decided it was time to let Mother Nature have a crack at it and hope the winter's precipitation would help to open things up. Never once did we get any air movement.
We trekked down the mountain thinking we should have opened the other sealed pit, we knew there was cave under that. But c'est le guerre, we had plenty of other weekends to come and open that one up. As we chatted with the landowner on our way out he slapped his head and said "darn, I wish I'd thought of this earlier. My neighbor gave me permission to show you to a pit on his land. It' open, I've thrown rocks down it and heard them splash in a stream at the bottom. The hole's big enough for a man to get down no problem and when we threw chaff in there two years ago it came out a half mile away at the spring." "Arrgh", my aching muscles cried out. Strike two for the weekend.
Sunday we had a sure thing. Photo trip to Nutt. Traci and Madeline Li joined us and we moved at a more leisurely pace getting into the cave about noon. I had heard Nutt was worth the admission price and I'd have to agree. There were a lot of beautiful speleothems to photograph and while Pete played with his new fish eye lens I worked on a few shots of the stream passage. Thanks to everyone for their patience, I know cave photographers can move slow and it really stinks to sit around for them. We got some decent shots, Dave explored the nether regions of Nutt and everyone seemed to have fun. Both Pete and I agree that we need to make another trip to get a better set of shots.
So a good weekend of caving even though we did strike out on Friday and Saturday. At least Saturday led us to a new pit to do in December. The same landowner has also gone out of his way to obtain permission for us to enter nearby Cove Knob Cave and Arbegast Pit. Stay tuned and I'll report how all those trips go.
Devin S. Kouts