johnny November 5th, 2008
Yah, I know we’ve been slacking on the blog updates lately, but as soon as we were done with the carnie gigs, we hit the boonies again without pausing to look for cellular service. I don’t think we’ll be doing any concession work anytime soon; so whatever jobs come next should be fairly new to us.
We left South Carolina in a hurry and made a beeline for the Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve in Mt. Vernon Kentucky again. We were hoping to get some caving in and see some friends once more before it gets too cold to be in Kentucky and we head out west for the winter.
We got to GSP on a Friday evening and were disappointed to find there weren’t many folks around for the weekend. By the end of the weekend, we hadn’t managed to go caving, but we did meet the head of the GSP committee, who had not heard of our ‘pseudo-real temporary membership in lieu of an actual real membership and almost real camping pass’ which had been issued by the former membership chair of the Greater Cincinnati Grotto. However, Bob, was polite and let us stick around while we straightened things out.
Halfway through our first week there, we met Shane, who had come up to do some trail maintenance and caving. We ended up doing a night trip with Shane to John Griffin cave. We later heard conflicting information regarding the closed state of this cave due to bat hibernation season. As of this moment, I am unable to find it listed on the cave closure list. I wish we’d had this list handy during our time at GSP. There is a 1600′ stream passage that has acted as an obstacle to finding the other entrance to this cave system. During our trip, this passage was nearly dry and it would’ve been an excellent time to try and find the other end without risking hypothermia as previous expeditions have.
Friday night, Shane’s wife and daughter came down and we hooked up with another couple to do an evening trip to Sinks of the Roundstone. Jenn and I had been in the cave during Karst-O-Rama, but we barely scratched the surface of the cave. During this trip, we saw several new areas. Now, it seems like an even nicer cave because I’ve seen that there is quite a bit of cave there that we haven’t seen and experienced some of the more interesting passages that we passed up during our previous trip.
Saturday night was the Halloween party. Jenn got suckered into sewing tarps to act as a wind break for the party. I made a couple of chocolate pies, decanted a bottle of whiskey and finished making the bottle of limoncello that Jenn had begun work on during the week. I can safely say that none of this was left over except the ‘lemon hooch’ that I had to wrestle free after a drunken hayride so Jenn could have a drink or two.
Sunday, we got together with Shane’s family and went to Climax cave. Climax is a really fun cave. It has several different maze areas where you can get quickly turned around if you’re not careful. Jenn and I have been on trips to this cave twice now and I’m still not sure we’ve seen much more than half of it. This is one of the caves that makes people really appreciate the reflective markers I’ve made up. In fact, the next time we ran into Shane and family, they’d made their own set of flags similar to my own.
The first half of the following week passed quietly until people began arriving to setup for the Rockcastle county elementary school field trips. Once again, Jenn got suckered into sewing tarps as the previous tarps were not dark enough to block the sun so that we could show movies to the children. Thursday and Friday, we got to remember what it’s like to get up early… we were helping with the cave tours of the Great Saltpetre cave for 2nd and 4th grade students. We had a lot of fun and made sure to follow as ‘tail gunners’ for a different guide every trip. Each guide had a little bit different lecture to give as we were walking through the cave, so we got to hear quite a bit of the history of the cave.
By Friday evening, we finally got our GCG membership straightened out and were no longer ‘the squatters down on the point’. Dave rolled in Friday evening and we spent the weekend hanging out and looking for caves. The sad thing is that we were looking for known caves, but with poor directions. We spent Saturday afternoon climbing all over a ridgeside and found a few holes, one of which was human-passable, but only about 40′ one direction and 15′ the other. The upside to this was hearing Dave scream like a girl upon seeing ‘some sort of giant rat-like monster’ and then hearing him shout ‘OOGEDY BOOGEDY!’ in order to frighten off the critter before sending Jenn and I in for further exploration.
Sunday was almost as bad, except we drove Dave’s truck through some 4WD trails rather than actually walking. We found one potential cave, but the entrance was awfully tight and downhill around a corner; none of us was really comfortable with trying to get out of that belly-crawl once we got in. Jenn made it in the farthest, going headfirst while I held her feet. She was able to see around the corner and it was more of the same, so we gave up on that particular hole as being a lousy way to experience a first hand cave rescue.
Monday, Shane and his family came back down and he took us over to Wells Cave which is about and hour drive from GSP. The entrance to the cave acts as an excellent nerd filter. It took about ten minutes to negotiate a crawl through four to six inches of mud that has the consistency of peanut butter. Behind this, there is over eleven miles of cave. We’ve barely explored this cave; it would take much longer than the time we had available to see anything approaching the entire length of such a system.
And today, we’re back on the road!