So, I got to go caving on Saturday for the first time in a very long time, and it was wonderful. I had such a great time, why not blog about it. I still don’t understand the concept of blogs, what they are for, why people write them, who reads them, etc, BUT I’ll hop on the train anyway.
Saturday was a beautiful day outside with the temps in the 70s, not that temps matter too much when caving, but it was still a beautiful day. I met Kerry in Harrisburg, where we loaded my gear into his vehicle and were off to Shippensburg to hit our first cave. The summer has been very dry so we were hoping that it was not flooded.
The drive to Ship was filled with great conversation and many stories of OTR and bathroom adventures. After what seemed like only a few minutes, we arrived at the truck stop. I then had a decision to make…go caving or make some cash being a lot lizard. As the lot was not too full of trucks, I opted to cave. LOL
First let me say, that my gear sat, dirty, in a garbage bag for over a year. Even though I hosed everything down on Weds night, it still SMELLED! I basically smelled like a very musty ‘ho. Kerry was nice enough to say he didn’t smell anything every time I complained about my suit stinking…but I know he had to smell it!
Once we got to the cave and unlocked the trap door, we found spiders. Oh, our favorite thing! The two of us were like a couple of 16-year-old debutantes with these spiders. We were making sure the gate/trap door was cleared of any spiders as there were quite a few crawling on it when first opened. After we assured each other that the gate seemed ‘spider free’, Kerry proceeded into the cave. He asked if I wanted to go first, but I told him to go ahead with the honors. See, if he goes first, he’ll clear out any that may be in the way before I head down…this is not my first time caving, and I’m not stupid. Let the leader clear the way for me. Ha ha!
After Kerry was in a reasonable distance. Let’s just say, I went as fast as possible for me and looked only where I needed to look. No stray peeking around, because this would surely show evidence of more SPIDERS.
We proceeded in as far as we could, hoping to find a relatively dry cave. We knew it wouldn’t be bone dry, but were hoping for at least passable. Unfortunately, we encountered a large pool of water. We estimated it was at least 9 feet deep and approximately 40 feet (my approximate, so it could be less) long. At this point, there is a ladder that was brought in by the local grotto to assist those who do not want to free climb down…hello, that would be me as I’m horrendous with climbing.
Kerry descended the ladder to test the water temperature, which we already knew would be cold. As he dipped his foot, he said in a pleasant voice ‘oh, this is freaking freezing’. And here, I thought he was going to say it wasn’t that bad. We debated on what to do, and finally decided it was either swim and hope that we reached the other area to find it passable, or abandon ship for another cave. Neither one of us wanted to give up so easily, so we took turns descending and going in the water just a little deeper each time…trying to convince ourselves and each other that we could swim…we finally decided we would not be swimming that day.
We decided to clear out of the cave and hit another one nearby. We climbed out no problem, but he had problems locking the gate. The lock just didn’t want to release that key! Kerry tried for 5 minutes, at that point I took over and immediately removed the key from the lock…I think his hands were just cold from the water.
We hiked to the other cave and found a beautiful old tire swing along the way. Again, I gave Kerry first honors. After he tested, and found the rope to be good enough to hold each of us, we both took a ride. Of course, we had to stop and take pictures of this adventure too.
Once we were satisfied with swing rides, we proceeded to the second cave where I about pooped myself at the drop down in. Kerry assured me that he could help me get in and out of the cave, so we dropped down in. Once we entered the largest area, we found candles everywhere. It appears that some stoners have taken over the cave. We debated about having a seance…perhaps, we could call on the ghost of Elvis and he could go caving with us?? After much debate, we opted to talk about more serious things, like how we both like Lucky Charms and will eat around all the marshmallows first. You know, your basic life-or-death conversation.
With not much to see in the second cave, we were soon ready to leave. This, of course, was an issue, and Kerry had to give me a boost to get to my first foothold. Poor guy, I bet he wishes that I’d lose some weight. Either that, or learn how to free climb. LOL!
All in all, we had a great time. I’ve definitely found, that while I do go to the gym routinely, I am still seriously out of shape. But, hopefully, this past trip was the start me getting back to a hobby that I truly love.
The day started out raining and humid. Well, ok, the day ended that way too, but who really cares. Once again, Kerry and I met at the Colonial Park mall. Two Saturdays in a row. I’m sure that everyone working at Boscovs thinks we’re having an illicit affair at this point. They probably wonder what kind of kinky goodies I have packed in that big, black bag.
The drive to the cave was fairly uneventful. Of course, there were several stops along the way. First Sheetz for some breakfast, and then on to Wal-Mart to buy an air pump, new backup headlamp and some new cave shoes. We also had a heated discussion over which batteries to buy for the pump with Duracell winning in the end. Along the way, we checked out the Halloween costumes but Kerry would not commit to dressing as Alice in Wonderland so no costume was bought. Feeling thrifty at this point, we turned down a request to give money to charity. After all, no one offered us any money when we walked in.
Not sure if the pump would work, we decided to put the batteries in while still in the parking lot. Kerry is amazing as he managed to down two packs of Reese’s peanut butter cups while inserting the batteries. Not to be outdone, I also put the batteries into my new LED headlamp. Much to my dismay, it did not work. After a few minutes, Kerry discovered that I am fairly stupid and had inserted the batteries backwards. Once they were re-inserted, all worked well.
Now that everything was put together and in working order, it was off to the cave. Upon driving up, we noted that the stream was not flowing which was an excellent sign. We were anxious to test the theory that the water decreases a foot per week so we quickly pulled into the truck stop and parked. Again, I had to make the decision to cave or become a lot lizard for a day. I offered Kerry a quickie for a nominal fee, but was turned down. With my confidence shot, I decided being a lot lizard was out of the equation for the day.
We quickly changed and headed to the cave. Kerry mastered the Master lock in 5 seconds flat and was elated to see no sign of any spiders. So, dragging an inflatable raft, oar and newly purchased pump, we descended into the cave.
Once inside, we were excited to see that the water level had dropped by a foot and a half compared to the previous week. Kerry methodically went about inflating the raft with the pump and then blowing the rest of the air in each tube.
Kerry was first to brave the water, and managed to get on the raft without flipping it. He went exploring and could see dry land; however, the cave narrowed that the raft would not fit through. He returned and I took my turn on the raft. I managed to get to the point that Kerry had reached and discovered that our trip was short-lived unless we wanted to swim it.
Once I returned, Kerry hopped on the raft for a second time and decided to push it to its limit. He squeezed through the narrow spot, scraping the sides as he went. Unfortunately, there was still a decent amount of water passage, and we weren’t fitting through. He decided to return again. At this point, the raft was really scraping and Kerry, thinking he heard air whoosh out of the raft, freaked out. All I can hear is “Oh shit, oh shit, it’s got a leak, Get me out of here!” I’ve never seen anyone raft back so fast in my life. Me, being so helpful, could not stop laughing. I asked him if he was sure he hadn’t farted and that’s what he heard…then I laughed until my stomach hurt. I just couldn’t stop laughing at him. Once he was in his “safe area”, he also found the humor and enjoyed a good laugh too. So much so, that he snorted which made me laugh harder.
After we regained our composure, we decided that the day would not be complete unless we both got wet again. Now that our “cave bath” was complete we deflated the raft and exited the cave.
On the walk to our second cave, I asked Kerry if he thought I could return my new cave shoes. I thought Wal-Mart would take them back if I told them they were muddy when I removed them from the box. Kerry said he would pay money to see me try and return them, but afraid of being accosted by charity seekers again, we decided against the idea.
Third Time’s the charm
There it was, a rainy Saturday morning in late October, and I was headed to meet Kerry for trip #3 to Cleversburg Sink Cave. It was four weeks after our rafting adventure in the cave, and we estimated that the water level should have dropped 3-4 more feet since our last trip. In an attempt to be prepared, we each decided that we would wear our wet suits under our cave suit on this trip. We spoke and decided that this was most likely as low as it could get until next year.
After a restless night’s sleep, I awoke with enough time to make sure everything was packed, stop for gas and a quick breakfast and meet Kerry, once again, at the Colonial Park Mall. I went to my local Sheetz, pumped gas and proceeded inside to order my sandwich. Tried to pay for my items with my debit card which has “ask for ID” written on the back. The cashier made me run back out to my car for my ID. After everything was paid for, I happily walked back outside, got in my car, and realized I didn’t have my sandwich. So, already disgusted, I went back inside where I proceeded to wait another 20 minutes for my breakfast. At this point, I have 15 minutes to make a 40 minute drive. So, I had to call Kerry and tell him I’d be late…I’m sure that was no surprise to him.
I arrived at Boscovs and we quickly put my gear in Kerry’s vehicle. Once again, Away we go on our drive. We were about ten minutes into our highway drive when the rain started to come down at a steady pace. Unfortunately, the rain would only get worse as the day progressed. During our drive, we discussed all of the important issues including the election, Yahoo personals, and how we wished someone would post about us in the “missed connections” section of Craigslist. I promised Kerry that I would post something on Craigslist just for him.
Once again, we arrive at the truck stop and drive through the parking lot. Due to the pouring rain, we decide to change as much as we can in Kerry’s Xterra. This may not sound too difficult, until you factor in the wet suit. Try pulling up a rubber suit when you’re already half sweaty, not so easy.
After all caving gear had been donned, and life vest in hand, we headed to the entrance. Once again, Kerry unlocked the gate with amazing speed (I think he’s been practicing every night and not telling me). As always, Kerry asked if I wanted to descend first. He knows that I won’t, and he knows the reason why, but he still offers with a smile. As usual, Kerry descended first and all I hear is “don’t look around, just look straight forward”. I ask him if he’s sure some of what he’s seeing is not crickets rather than spiders; he assures me that there are very few crickets. Once Kerry was down, I descended. I did not follow his pervious friendly advice and looked around. I was glad I had on a wet suit as I almost wet myself at all of the spiders! I’m not talking about little, tiny things. No, I’m talking about big, ugly spiders!
Definitely more than the previous two trips, but seemed about the same amount as had been during my first trip to this cave, which was seven years ago.
Once inside, we were both happy to see that the water level had dropped several feet. Unfortunately, there were still areas that were too deep to touch bottom. Kerry donned the life vest (we only had one to share) and did a fabulous job of making it to dry land by chimneying down the passageway. While Kerry is much taller than I am, I decided to give it a go.
When I say we got to dry land, “dry” would be the operative word. It’s not sumped, but it’s a muddy mess. We proceeded through a section to the left which was quite a lot of belly crawling, in mud, uphill. Now, I’m not talking about the old “I walked to school, uphill both ways”; I’m telling you this was belly crawling uphill. It’s very interesting and extremely tiring. Once again, I’m reminded that my evening gym jaunts have still left me very out of shape. I was huffing, puffing and bitching the whole way…and I was loving it!
I did manage to fall during our exploration. This is not a shock to anyone who’s ever caved with me; however, I fell into a slight depression and felt like a turtle on my back. There I am trying to get up as Kerry looks back and sees me rolling around.
We spent a good deal of time exploring (2 hours), but did not see nearly all we wanted to because of being tired and knowing we had a challenging time ahead of us to get out. I, once again, just decided to swim it on the way back while Kerry chimneyed. I am truly amazed at how well he does this. The way he works a chimney, you’d think he’s Santa Claus. I would not be nearly as comfortable as he seemed, and I know it had to tire him out.
Getting changed back into our regular clothes, without getting mud everywhere, was a real challenge. We were both disgusting messes and looked like we’d been swimming in mud puddles all day, but we managed it. Kerry did have a wardrobe malfunction and this was, perhaps, the highlight of the trip…
By Allison Myers