johnny July 23rd, 2008
We made it back from Karst-O-Rama alive! We met some really amazing folks that were happy to bring along complete novices, loan equipment to complete strangers and give lots of advice. Jenn’s parents and her nephew came along in her parents’ Class A. The road getting in and out of the Great Saltpetre Preserve was… interesting… for the 35′ motor home, but we made it without any mishaps.
The general format of Karst-O-Rama is caving all day and partying all night. The electric sites are smack in the middle of the party camp, where there are no quiet hours as there are in the family camping area. It was awfully hot, hitting the 90’s every day and we were glad to be underground during the heat of the day.
Thursday afternoon, we took a tour of the Great Saltpetre Cave, which is a ‘show cave’. In other words, it is lit up, has high ceilings and an easily negotiable path. The cave has quite a rich history as a mine and a Civil War hospital. More recently, it was used as the location for Fire Down Below, which is where most of the lighting came from. There is a single room within the cave which has been used to host a party with several thousand attendants while a band played on the rock ‘stage’. While we were there, it was often being used to play frisbee.
We had been advised to show up and borrow equipment rather than buying gear ahead of time, so once the Pre-Howdy party started, we headed over to introduce ourselves and try to bum some gear. It was either too early during the event or we just didn’t run into the right people and we didn’t find any spare gear floating around for Friday, although Ryan was glad to offer some spare gear for Saturday. We did, however, meet a nice group of folks that offered to take us caving on Friday if we could score some helmets.
Friday morning rolled around and we finally got lucky. We ran into a chap called Thor who loaned us a couple of converted construction helmets. Since we were halfway there, Jenn and I broke down and bought headlamps, packed our gear and just barely caught the last ride out to Sinks of the Roundstone cave.
Sinks of the Roundstone was a pretty darn big cave. It was mostly dry with some tremendous rooms. Unfortunately, it is a very well known cave with an easily accessible entrance. This means it is heavily graffitied and has an inordinate amount of litter.
We also met Chaos, the caving dog. He is a Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog), and the most extraordinary thing about him was the way he would run up and down his ‘herd’ of people and try to get the stragglers back with the group. Sorry Jenn, you’re going to have to ‘lose’ a couple of cats before we have room for a puppy.
After having a blast caving on Friday, we broke down and bought a couple of helmets. This meant we had an easier time borrowing a helmet and lights for Jenn’s nephew on Saturday. Also, we’d met a few more people and had an easier time scoring a helmet and lights from Mike when we found we’d missed our trip due to the long hike back to our campsite. Luckily, we got spare gear and still managed to catch up with a group heading out to Mullins Spring Cave.
Mullins Spring was a completely different experience than the day before. The entrance to the cave was through a waist deep pool of water that was damn cold. This did have one very nice effect… no graffiti or trash! There was a little more rock climbing inside, but not nearly as much mud as SoR. About a third of the way in, we encountered the second pool that must be crossed. This one closer to five feet deep and we had a few people decide they’d rather wait there than get that wet.
Six of us continued on and found that the best features of the cave were behind the water. There was a high dome with a waterfall, a nice flowstone formation and a couple of quite large rooms. Unfortunately, our camera man was one of those that stayed behind, so we missed out on some nice pictures. Chuck did get some awfully nice pictures of both trips though. There are quite a few posted in the gallery.