Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Well, my boy turned 1 today. It's hard to believe it's been 365 days since he was born. We had a small family birthday dinner at Chick Fil A tonight, since he loves the nuggets. His full blown birthday party will be on Saturday. Unfortunately, he and I both have the sniffles today, but hopefully he'll feel better by the weekend.

His latest trick is to clap his hands anytime there's music playing. He's also saying "moooo" anytime we talk about cows or make the noise ourselves. We've been trying to teach him to hold up one finger to show how old he is now, but so far he hasn't got it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Joys of Dachshund Ownership

When I got home tonight, I fed Jack his supper and then we went upstairs to play for a while and before it was time for his bath. Since it was really warm today, Marissa had some of the windows open and the downstairs door was open so Annie could get some exercise.

So Jack and I are playing on his drum and I hear Marissa downstairs moving around. All of the sudden she starts screaming and is instantly about halfway up the stairs screaming. I jump up yelling "what!?! what!?!?" Jack gets scared at this point and starts crying.

I look over the banister and right in the middle of the living room I see it right away: Dead Squirrel. Apparently the dachshund decided this would be the perfect place for everyone to see her newly acquired prized possession. To top it all off when I went down to get it I found that it was also a decapitated dead squirrel. Marissa spent the next half hour asking me where I thought the head might be.

I tossed it in the woods next to the house and told them not to let the dog out by herself for a few days. No sign of the head yet.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

Last weekend I sneaked out of the house one night to actually go see a movie. Lately a lack of time and trying to stick to a budget has seriously put a crimp in my trips to the local cineplex. I've always been a big fan of James Bond flicks though, so I managed to crack the wallet for the $8.25 it now costs to see a movie in the new theater near our house.

I have to admit, I originally cringed when I heard about the choice of Daniel Craig to be the new bond a while back. Honestly, I had no good reason to dislike him since I had never heard of him at the time, but I went along with the rest of the herd and mooed loudly while complaining that Bond couldn't have blond hair.

I heard some good initial reviews a while back though, so I decided to give it a try. The result was that it was the best Bond movie I've seen since the originals with Sean Connery. I'm pretty sure some of the biggest, geekiest Bond fans won't be happy with it, since it wasn't chocked full of gadgets and misogynistic lines. Q didn't even make an appearance in this one.

Regardless, it was very well done and makes for a fine restart of the series. Go see it whether you're a fan of James Bond films, or not. My only nitpick is that it got slightly slow at times near the end and the ending seemed like it drug on a little long. Oh, and I guess one other nitpick is that the big card game in the film was Texas Hold'em instead of the traditional Baccarat. I won't push this too far though, since I have no idea how to play Baccarat and I'm sure 95% of the movie going audience doesn't either, so it at least made it easier to follow what was going on.

A Hatch Football Post

I haven't really cared much about football recently. I'm admittedly a fair-weather Alabama football fan. If they're doing good like they did last year I'll start watching a few games and keeping up with them, but this year not so much.

Still, I've been reading with interest about the search for a new coach since Mike Shula was let go recently. It's been interesting watching friends and others come to the somewhat disturbing conclusion that the best person for the job is Steve Spurrier. Even I was taken aback when his name was one of the first mentioned.

It's appears that Alabama has finally decided to strike a deal and has Mal Moore standing in the middle of the crossroads at midnight. He's asked official permission to talk to Spurrier. Personally I've come to the decision that it's time to stop fooling around and get a real coach with real experience. Pay Spurrier the price he demands and let's get on with it.

My favorite quote about it is from this blog :

"College football is no place for honorable men. Any profession where Tommy Tubberville thrives is nothing you want your son involved with. So while Mike Shula deserves our respect for accepting a tough job at a tough time, there’s a reason nice guys finish 6-6.

The devil has a name, and he has a price. Someone in Tuscaloosa should visit him in Columbia and ask him what it is."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Forgotten Butlik

Looks like Hatch will be able to join the band someday real soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

I voted. I'm still feeling queasy about it. It was good to see all the nursing home employees getting a break today with all the patients working at the polling station. The kind little old man who was trying to find my name on the computer print out went back and forth over my name 5 times and was about to turn the page before I pointed my name out for him. For some reason they have the names printed in descending order on the page, so you have to scan up the page to find the names.

I got there about 9:00 am and it took me almost 40 minutes to get through the lines. Normally it takes about 5 minutes, so turnout looked to be pretty heavy today. In the end I voted for Ford, but it sounds like Corker is going to win anyway. I could have voted for an independent candidate, but I knew nothing about any of them and I don't want my vote to give some freak hope of winning some day. Of course I did a write-in for Paul Clemmons since I was pressured by the Big Tobacco lobby to do so this year.

In the end it was a tough election, and I've lost a good friend over it apparently, even though he lives in another state and these offices have no bearing on him. Now I just need to go wash this finger a few times and maybe it will eventually feel clean again.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hatch the Vote

So I have to walk into the polling station tomorrow and force myself to vote once again. I used to look forward to election day. I've only missed one or two of them since I turned 18, and those were minor local elections. So I'm going to attempt to explain my strategy for tomorrow.

Keep in mind that at heart I'm really a Libertarian without all the crazy "gold standard" and "kids should make all of their own decisions" crap. Essentially I'm a fiscal conservative and a liberal on many social issues. It all boils down to the fact that the government should be involved as little as possible with our lives, though. Unfortunately, there are no candidates for me to vote for to that share my beliefs.

My first rule for voting tomorrow is to vote AGAINST all incumbents. Let me state this clearly. If you vote for candidates, especially in Congress, who have already served before, you're just one of the jackasses who is keeping things exactly the way it's been for too long now. It doesn't matter what party they're in, if they've been there before they've been part of the worst and most corrupt Congress we've ever had in this country. Now let me make one exception to this rule.

Tomorrow I have to cast a vote for the Governor of Tennessee. This one is fairly easy for me. Phil Bredesen has done as good a job as anyone else could, so I'll vote for him to have another 4 years. He's mostly harmless I think, so the real deciding factor is to vote against the Republican candidate. Don't get me wrong, I despise both parties, but the Republicans have been in charge lately, and have the most to answer for, so rule #2 is to vote against Republicans when rule #1 doesn't apply.

For U.S. Senator, there is no incumbent. Normally I'd go with voting against the Republican candidate, but the Democratic candidate, Harold Ford, Jr., leaves a lot to be desired as well. His family history is not so great, but the biggest thing is that he reminds me too much of Al Gore in the sense that he didn't really grow up in Tennessee, but in Washington, D.C. I don't really have anything bad to go on with Bob Corker, but he is a Republican, so it's going to be a difficult decision since they're both bad candidates. I still haven't made that decision, and I will probably end up flipping a coin when I'm in the booth tomorrow.

I'm also going to vote NO on Amendment #1. I'm sure all my church friends are going to be shocked, but it has nothing to do with gay rights or protecting the family in my mind. It has to do with letting the government get involved in things it has no business being involved in. Marriage should be viewed as a contract between two people. The state had no business getting involved in marriage in the first place except to record the contract like it would any other legal document.

Of course very few people are going to see this the way I do. The herd is going to moo about "gay rights" or the "sanctity of marriage" while those of us who actually bothered to pay attention in history class know what the consequences of letting the church get in bed with the state are. Everytime something like this passes we take one step closer to being the "bad guys" that our ancestors left Europe to get away from.


Of course I found the wallet. It was in a pair of pants somewhere in the laundry room. I was trying to find a pair of "mostly clean" pants to wear for work last week since we were a little behind on the laundry. Marissa goes in the laundry room and comes out with a pair of pants. When I pick them up I immediately feel the wallet in the back pocket. Bleh.

The only thing I had replaced by that point was the driver's license, which cost me 8 bucks, and the credit cards, which were free. At least my streak of not permanently losing a wallet is still alive.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Baby!

My beautiful wife Marissa, whom I started dating almost five years ago, is having a birthday today. Our first "real" date was going to the Vince Gill/Amy Grant Christmas concert in December of 2001. It was the only way I could keep her from bringing escorts along since I paid top dollar for seats right next to the stage.

I can't believe it's been 5 years already. We have two beautiful children, and she's turned our house into a home that I'm glad to walk into every evening. Many people, myself included, thought I would never get married, but I managed to find the right woman and I couldn't ask for a better one.

I love you baby!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Heff

Somehow, Heff did manage to turn 39 today. Happy birthday dude. I'll always be younger and prettier. Heh. I first met Heff about 25 years ago when we were both in Coach Perkins gymnastic class, although Heff remembers meeting me then and I don't remember meeting him. Apparently I spoke to Heff and his brother Jason about a Silver Surfer shirt one of them was wearing.

Heff and I have been through a lot over the years, including our low points in life when we cleaned floors at night for an outrageously low sum of money. I think I made 20 dollars a night and Heff made 40 because he was the "supervisor."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Requiescat in pace

Mok would have turned 39 years old today, but he didn't. This Pipart Bwow is for you, buddy.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Well, apparently for the first time in my life I've actually completely lost my wallet. We've torn the house up and both cars and it just seems to be gone. Argh. Fortunately there wasn't that much in it, but I do have to replace my driver's license, social security card, and one credit card. I called the credit card company this morning and no one has used it since I lost it, so apparently it wasn't stolen. I ordered a replacement license online and that only cost me $8.00, but it may take two weeks to get here.

It still sucks, since that wallet had a lot of life left in it and it's only the third wallet I've ever owned since I turned15 about 24 years ago. I used my first wallet for over 15 years, although admitedly that may have been a little too long. Heh. I just know once I get everything replaced the old wallet is going to turn up. Sigh.

Cave #15 - Gamble Cave

This trip actually happened back on September 30. I was supposed to go to TAG that weekend, but I had been feeling ill earlier in the week and decided not to go on Thursday morning. Friday though, I felt great and was starting to regret not going to TAG since I had really wanted to get some caving in that weekend.

I remembered that Ken Oeser and Robert Van Fleet were planning a mapping trip to Bear Hole Cave in the Savage Gulf on Saturday, so I called Friday night and made plans to meet up with them the next morning. We met up at the Shoney's and headed toward the Savage Gulf area where the cave is located.

Normally access is restricted to this cave, since it is off the trails in the area, but Ken has permission since he's in the process of mapping it. Once we got to the ranger station though, we found there was a problem. It seems some property that they drive across to get closer to the cave was recently purchased from Bowater Inc. and is leased for hunting. There's a verbal agreement with the park to let people drive across it, but they decided they wanted to get something in writing so for now they're not letting non-hunting groups have access. We could have hiked in from the ranger station, but that would have added 8 miles total to the trip so we decided to try some other caves.

Ken and Robert debated while we drove towards Sparta, and we actually tried to go to Wells Cave, but the lady we asked permission of didn't really want us to go in the cave because they're getting their water out of it and she thinks the entrance might not be very safe.

So then Ken decided we'd try to find a small cave near Sparta, Gamble Cave, that is in Dr. Barr's book "Caves of Tennessee." We parked Robert's car near where we thought it was and hiked through some really dense brush and up a small hill and walked right to the cave. We didn't have our gear with us, but I had a flashlight and we went just inside to see if it was worth checking out, then we walked back to the car and got all of our normal gear.

The entrance for Gamble Cave is about half way up the hill in some light woods. There are signs of people sifting and digging there, including a sifting tray. They're probably looking for Indian artifacts, although the thickness of the mud there would probably make it slow going. The cave is short, probably 300 feet or less, but it does have a few nice decorations. It goes back about 100 feet then the rest of the cave is climbing over breakdown, most of which is covered in small popcorn which makes it rough on your clothing.

Near the back Ken and Robert found the remains of what might have been a still, which is apparently a common occurence in caves in Tennessee. We also saw some cave beetles and lots of the usual cave crickets. We spent about half an hour inside, with Robert pushing some really small holes in the breakdown but not really finding much that was interesting.

As we were leaving the cave I was starting to feel a little ill again, so I had them drop me off back in Nashville while they went on and did some more caving elsewhere nearby. I think they actually found a cave that wasn't on the TCS that afternoon, so I missed out on that.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When Drunken Shriners Attack

My maternal grandfather, Frederick Melton (F.M.) Strother, was the kind of man who had numerous stories swirling around him for most of his life. He lived his long life to the full extent, and people either loved him or hated him for the most part. Some of the stories about him I can't really repeat on a PG-13 blog, but I still occasionally hear new tales about him.

This past weekend we were down in Shelby County, Alabama for the Stinson family reunion. My grandmother, F.M's wife, was a Stinson and I met a lot of older cousins I've never really gotten to talk to much before. One of the distant cousins I met was originally a Carden whose mother grew up in Westover before she moved away in the 1930's. She related the following story to me.

Sometime in the mid-50's, she and her mother were riding the Trailways bus down to Westover to visit her grandmother who lived on Sewell Hill. As the bus was entering The Narrows, which is a long, extremely curvy section of what is now Old Highway 280, a convertible with four men pulled up alongside the bus.

The men were obviously drunk, and they were all wearing Shriner's hats. One was waving a pistol and actually climbed onto the running board that went down the side of the bus. The driver had ordered everyone down on the floor, and actually opened the door of the bus. The man stuck his arm through the door, and the driver quickly shut it again, slamming it on the man's arm. The man then fell off the bus, and the driver sped up and left the men behind.

About 10 miles later they pulled up to Strother's Trading Post in Westover, which is the store my Maw-maw and Granddaddy ran. Her grandparents didn't have a phone and they were all shook up, so she said F.M. agreed to drive them the short distance up to the house.

The house was typical of that time and had a circular driveway that ran behind the house and around the well in the backyard. When they got there, my cousin's grandmother tried to offer F.M. some money, but he refused. They started arguing about it a little and the grandmother went back into the house while F.M. got back into his car. When he saw her coming out of the house waving some bills around, he cranked up the car and started heading down the driveway around the back of the house. The grandmother cut across by the well and threw the money in the open window of his back seat while he was driving past. She said F.M. was laughing the entire time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Smokeless Hatch

Despite a determined effort by Paul Clemmons and his toadies in Big Tobacco, yesterday I celebrated the sixth anniversary of being smoke free. I smoked a cigarette in the afternoon of October 15, 2000 in the parking deck of Cat Financial in Nashville, then I quit. I started smoking when I was a freshman in college during final exams my first semester in December of 1986.

Hopefully I quit before too much permanent damage was done. During the 14 years I did smoke, I quit twice for over a year before starting again. Once Heff and I had a bet going to see who would quit the longest. We made an agreement to have a cigarette at the U2 concert in Birmingham, but Heff watched me smoke and then refused to join in. Of course, he's still smoking Reds to this day and is buying his ticket for the emphysema train.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Weekly Wrapup

I've settled into a workout rhythm for the last 3 weeks or so, and the results are starting to show. Due to work, kids, and other concerns, I can only really make it into the gym two days a week right now; on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night. So what I've been doing is just trying to flat wear myself out those two days.

I start by warming up with a walk all the way across the YMCA parking lot. They have a large lot and I can walk almost 1/4 of a mile by parking at the far end of it. I'm constantly amazed to see people circling and circling around the front of the parking lot trying to find a spot close to the door. I think they're somehow missing the point, but hey people think I'm weird so who knows?

Next I spend 35 minutes on the treadmill. I've been doing intervals for the first mile for the last month or so. Today I went below 14 minutes on my first mile, completing it in 13:51. Not too shabby, at least for me. This time last year I could barely walk a mile. A few months ago I was happy to beat 18 minute miles.

Next I rest for about 10 minutes and rehydrate, then I hit the machines. Today I did 4 sets of everything, which is the biceps, triceps, quads, and hamstrings. I keep meaning to add some shoulder shrugs, but I didn't today. My chest still isn't feeling quite right, so I'm avoiding benchpresses or anything that puts stress on the sternum area for now.

For the seven days from last Sunday, I averaged 7,446 steps a day on the pedometer. I went over 10k on three days. Next weekend I'll be going to at least one cave, probably in Georgia since I'm going to TAG on the Mountain, the annual fall caving gathering. I'm not sure what cave I'm going to yet. I may try to go to multiple small caves this weekend since I'm in better shape than the last time I went caving.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Review - The Tyranny of the Night

I don't have a lot of time to read any more. When I was growing up in Westover books were harder to come by, so during the summer I relied mostly on the Bookmobile. The Bookmobile came by every other week and stopped at my grandmother's store, which along with the other store in town, owned by my other grandparents, made up the entire downtown area of Westover.

I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry in one load, so I would carefully step down from the huge steps on the Bookmobile with a stack of books that was as tall as the distance between my chin and as far down as my hands would stretch. Yes, I was one of the Bookmobile lady's favorites. She would even go out of her way to bring books she thought I'd like.

The point of all of this is that the choices available on the Bookmobile were limited. I probably read 200 to 300 books every summer so often times quantity trumped quality. I've read bad books before, just for the joy of reading. I've even slogged through several John Norman Gor books.

Lately I've developed a policy that if the book hasn't at least somewhat interested me by the time I've gone through the first 20%, I just give up on it. It might take me a month or two to finish it if I decide to, but unless I'm told that it starts slow and picks up later on, like say Dune by Frank Herbert, that 20% is all you get to draw me in. If I'm trying to find a book to buy in a bookstore you may get even less.

So a few weeks ago I'm in the local library, trying to find a few books to read, and I picked up The Tyranny of the Night by Glen Cook. It had a decent looking cover, and the dust jacket promo sounded somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, there's an old saying about covers that I think we all know.

I did give it a chance. I struggled through the first 100 pages, so I went over the mark, but it was no use. This book just sucks. The biggest problem is that it's too complex to keep up with, and there's no map, or glossary or anything to help you along. Is it really that hard to draw a quick map to show us where things are in relation to each other? Would it be so bad to spend a few hours coming up with a glossary so we can quickly look up a person to see who they are? Books that are much less complicated, like the Wheel of Time include such devices.

Also, in the first 100 pages there is very little action. It's mostly boring descriptions of cities and people. Yawn. Of course the first villain we're introduced to is a pedophile. Wow, no one's ever thought of that before. I've never read any of Glen Cook's other stuff, and I highly doubt I ever will after wasting an hour or two of my life on this dreck. Avoid this book at all costs unless you're stuck in a small town during the summer and have nothing else to do.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday at the Gym

I did my first mile in 14:23 this afternoon at the gym. I also did 3 sets on the biceps, tripceps, quads, and hamstring. I tread water for 8 minutes and put 11.5k steps on the pedometer. All in all not a bad day, although I still would have rather been underground. Nothing works your quad muscles like climbing over breakdown for 4 hours.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hatch Updates

Last night after I got Jack ready for bed, we were laying on the floor in his room so he could play a little bit while we waited on Marissa to come nurse him and put him in the crib. Marissa was doing something in the upstairs bathroom and Jack heard her in there, so he started crawling that way. When he was about halfway there, I started calling his name and he stopped, sat up and started waving at me. This was the first time we were sure he was waving at someone so it was pretty cool. I think he's also saying "Hi" and waving now too, but we're not sure about the saying a word part yet.

After work today I headed for the gym for what was a pretty good workout. I did my first mile on the treadmill in exactly 15 minutes, which is a great improvement for me so far. That involved three intervals of about 5.2 m/h. I also did several sets on the machines for my legs, biceps, and triceps.

A girl from work was on the treadmill in front of me, doing 7.5 minute miles for an entire hour. You know the type; cute and disgustingly healthy, like Kevin Barnes with a ponytail. I don't think I've ever been able to run that far, that fast in my life. Right now I'd just like to do a 12 minute mile period and then start stretching it out to an hour.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A 16.4K Day

I got a lot of walking in today. We headed out to Gladeville around lunch for the 4th Annual Gladefest. It's sort of a craft fair with some music and a few kiddy rides thrown in. I put about 5k steps on the pedometer there and had a great pork chop sandwich and a fried apple pie to boot.

After we got back, I watched Jack for a while so Marissa could run some errands then I headed to the YMCA for an hour or so. I managed to do a mile on the treadmill in 15:39, which is a pretty good pace for me. I never went below 3.5 mph and kicked it up to 5.1 mph for three intervals. I'm concentrating on getting my legs bulked up right now for conditioning for caving, so I did several sets on the leg machines as well. My goal is to be able to do vertical caving within the next six months or so, spring at the latest.

So by the time I got back from the gym, I had passed 10k steps. I took the dog for a walk then headed to the grocery store. Then I picked up Victoria at the park in Mt. Juliet where she had been at a birthday party, so that added a couple hundred more. A final walk with the dachshund put met at 16,400 steps for the day, which is 7.5 miles and over 1000 calories. Not too shabby I guess. Next Saturday I'm going to try to go over 20K, which will probably require a trip on the greenway. I want to go down the Stone Door trail this fall when the leaves are changing, so being able to do 10 miles in a day would be helpful.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bath Time Horrors

Jack and I hit a streak of bad luck lately when it comes to bath time. Monday night I got his tub filled up and got him undressed and stuck him in the water. Unfortunately, I hadn't checked the diaper very well, so when he started wiggling around and playing with his toys, there were suddenly intruders. You've heard of "Snakes on a Plane?" Well that's nothing compared to how scary "Turds in the Tub" is. I got him out, cleaned everything up and started the bath all over again with no problems.

So fast forward to the next night. I was really tired from going to the gym and hitting 10k steps the day before, but I got his bath ready and this time got him undressed in his room, carefully checking for unwanted guests. I put him in the tub then sat on the commode next to it and tried to stay awake so he could play for a while. Since I was nearly incoherent at that point, it took a while for it to dawn on me that he had just leaned over in the tub, looked up at me, and grunted, along with the tell-tale vein popping out of his forehead. Sure enough, a few seconds later the floaters came around the breakwater and made it out into the shipping lanes where they proceeded to terrorize the hippo boat that Jack likes to play with.

This time I had to clean it up by myself, so I dried him off a little and put him down on the carpet in his room to crawl around naked, which he seemed to enjoy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Return to Tumbling Rock

We didn't have a lot going on for Labor Day weekend, so I decided to organize a trip to Tumbling Rock Cave in Jackson County, Alabama which I had visited earlier in the year. I had thought a lot of people might be interested in going since it's a great cave and easy to get to, but in the end only Joey and two new members, Jim and his wife Lauren showed up.

We got to the cave about 10am and paid Mrs. Precise our seven bucks each, then we got changed and ready to go in. There were no other cavers there that day, and none showed up later either. I think a lot of cavers were the big OTR party in Virginia, or maybe even (shudder), down at the beach for the long weekend.

I'm obviously in better shape than the first time I came to this cave. On that trip it took us almost 4 hours to get to the topless dome, mostly due to getting turned around and me having to rest a lot. This time we got there in 2 hours flat, which is a pretty good pace I think. I managed to climb up the hole into the dome with no more help than using Jim's knee, where as last time Morris had to practically shove me up into the hole.

There was very little water falling in the dome on this trip, so it was easier to see in there and we actually climbed up the side of the dome and into an adjacent, shorter dome which is connected to the topless dome by several holes in the wall going up between the two. It was pretty cool to stand in the dome and see the lights from people in the other dome coming through the holes.

Since I was still in pretty good shape at that point, we went deeper into the cave on this trip as well. Just a little past the hole to the topless dome, there is a low crawl followed by a climb up and then back down a large pile of breakdown with rocks the size of someone's living room. At the bottom is a large room with scattered breakdown that is maybe 100 to 200 feet tall. There's a large stalagmite here that is about 15 feet tall that is called the Christmas Tree formation. About 40 feet above it is a large stalactite that will eventually join with it to make a column, but that will take a while.

We stopped here for an extended break and to take lots of pictures. I took my daughter's advice and had frozen a larger bottle of Gatorade the night before, and by this point it was mostly thawed. That stuff is great for getting some quick energy back, but I could tell I was quickly tiring, so we headed back out.

Joey seems to be accident-prone in caves lately, and I think it's rubbing off on me. He slipped on a rock on the way out and stubbed his big toe, so he limped out of the last part of the cave. At one point we had to go down a small, muddy bank. I was in back and watched everyone else slide down on their butts, but for some reason I thought I could just walk down it. That was a mistake.

Newton's Second Law of Motion boils down to this: f = ma

For those of you like Heff who cut up too much in Coach Reid's class, that equation says that force equals mass times acceleration. So basically, as mass goes up, the force needed to counteract the acceleration increases. The end result of all of this was that a fat man went barreling down a hill in a cave at a large rate of speed.

So I'm running down a a cave. Things tend to slow down in your brain at this point, so I can recall what I was thinking with crystal clarity for the next two or three seconds.

"Uh oh, this is bad. This is bad. Ok legs, start the braking procedure."
"Ok, I'm slowing down. There's no wall ahead. No chasm coming up. I've got plenty of time to stop."
"Still nothing. I'm fine. Keep trying to slow it down."
"What is that? Oh hell...Rimstone Dams! Aieee!"

I may have also screamed out loud like a little girl at that point, but I'm not really sure. My boot hit the first rimstone dam and I was airborne briefly. I went head over heels and landed hard on my right shoulder and my right palm. I laid there a second taking inventory while everyone ran over to check on me. I sat up, finished my inventory, and found nothing broken. I stood up, walked it off a little and sat down to recover a few minutes.

Now that I was OK we could laugh about it. Luckily no smaller cavers were in front of me when this happened, but we made a new rule that anytime I'm moving faster than walking speed in a cave I'm required to scream "HATCH!" much like you should scream "ROCK!" when a rock is falling down a hole.

In the end I had some bruises on my shoulder and a pretty good bruise in the middle of my palm, which is a first for me. Joey and I both partook of the full recommended dosage of Aleve once we got back to the car. It was still a great trip though, and Tumbling Rock is definitely a great cave to visit.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cave #14 - Gross Skeleton Cave

On the way down the streambed towards Gross Skeleton, Joey was walking in front of me and he slipped on a wet rock, with his feet flying out to the right and the rest of him going to the left. He jammed his finger as he fell, so he was in some discomfort on the rest of the trip.

When we got to the cave entrance, Gary was coming down the hill from making a trip back to the vehicles, which were about 10 minutes away. John was laying on a rock and had been napping for the last hour, stirring occasionally to let out a loud "whoop!" in case we were in hearing range.

On a rock in front of the entrance there was a deer skull staring at us while everyone got dressed. This cave is known to be very wet, and requires swimming in at least two spots. Everyone else, being girly-men, brought wetsuits and polypro and life jackets. I had on my 100% cotton shorts from Target and synthetic tee-shirt which make up my standard caving outfit. For flotation, I had my mighty Swaygo Sink Pack, so I didn't have to carry a life preserver all around Basin Cove for three hours.

There was some concern before we went in about the water situation. I left the vehicles with three half-liter bottles, but at this point I had less than half a liter left. The others didn't have much left either. Gary said not to worry too much about it, since it was a fairly quick trip and with all the water we'd be going through we probably wouldn't be too thirsty anyway.

Finally, everyone was suited up and we entered the cave. The first part of the cave is made up of breakdown and log jams. It splits into two passages, and the Alabama folks went left while those of us from Tennessee took the passage straight ahead. This passage is about 3 feet wide and 6 feet high and is heavily scalloped. There were a few log jams to crawl over and then we came to a 10 to 12 foot fissure where the rest of the group met up with us from the other passage.

Gary said this is normally a pretty easy climbdown, but the crack where he normally went down was now clogged with large rocks which were wedged in pretty tight. Joey and John went over the lip and down to a small ledge, where they shimmied over and then dropped about 3 feet into the water. I didn't really like the looks of it, so I got out my thirty feet of webbing and found a perfect little loop in the rock to put it through. The rest of us used this to help lower ourselves down, with John and Joey making sure our feet were in the right spots. Then we pulled the webbing down behind us.

This was the first spot we encountered significant amounts of water in the cave, and it got about chest deep. As expected, it was cold. It was actually hard to speak right after I went in it, since my boys were clinging tight to my vocal chords at that point. That stretch of water was only about 50 feet long and then we were back in mostly dry passage.

Gross Skeleton is a fairly linear cave, and is pretty straightforward to navigate through, so we seldom had to stop and figure out where to go next. You just follow the stream passage, occasionally crawling over logs and small areas of breakdown. The cave is decorated, and has several areas of nice flowstone and columns and even the occasional cave bacon. We were moving pretty fast, so we didn't get to stop and gawk very often. I did spot a few small white centipedes and we saw a few white crayfish as well.

There are two stretches of cave where you're forced to swim for more than 100 feet. It saps your energy pretty quick, so you want to keep moving while you're in the water. One of the swims had formations just over your head, so I wanted to stop and take a look, but the cold water was telling me to go, go, go. I didn't really get too cold other than my forearms and hands getting slightly numb as I exited the water.

The Swaygo pack made an excellent flotation device. I gripped the buckle on it with my right hand and used my left arm to swim with while I did a scissor kick in the water. I'm not in much danger of sinking right now anyway. When we were in Florida I tried blowing all the air out of my lungs while I was floating in the pool and I didn't sink.

Eventually we came to the junction where we could head up a large pile of breakdown to what is called the "big room" in the cave. We took a vote and decided against it since we got into the cave late and we were also tired from wandering up and down Basin Cove earlier. About 20 minutes later, after the only real low crawl in the cave, we waded through one more stretch of water and out of the cave.

Just inside the lower entrance there was an inflatable boat tied up. We guessed that someone must just be stashing it there, since the water at that point is not very long or deep, so it wouldn't really be useful to take a boat in. Guntersville Lake is only about 1/4 mile away, but it would still be a pain to hike a boat that far I would think. Strange.

We stopped at the exit to let everyone get out of their wet suits and then made the one mile hike back to my car. Once we got there we all changed into dry clothing and Gary broke out a can of his famous smoked Alaskan salmon and cheese and crackers to go with it. A bottle of wine was uncorked as well, but I only had a small glass since I was driving. I drove Gary and Jerry up to their vehicles at the top of the mountain, then we all said our goodbyes and headed out.

Joey, John, and I stopped for a Mexican dinner in Scottsboro then headed north. Not long after we turned on Highway 64, we were driving along in sort of a quiet mood, with nobody saying much and John and Joey were probably about to fall asleep. Suddenly a bird hit the windshield with a really loud Bam! and it got stuck in my windshield wiper. I'm not sure what exact words I uttered when it happened, but it was probably one of my Grandaddy's favorite phrases I learned from him. I flicked on the wipers and the corpse went over the side, with only a slight smear left behind. At least it woke us up nicely.

Fortunately the rest of the trip was uneventful, and I dropped the others off and headed for home. I pulled into the driveway, got out of the Honda, and nearly fell over. My right hamstring was cramping badly, and I hobbled into the house on it and collapsed. This trip definitely passed the train-wreck test.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yes, All Men Think It's Funny

I was giving Jack his bath this evening, like I have many times before. I've also heard him laugh before, but it's always been a kind of shriek or a quick chuckle, usually when we're tickling him. Tonight I've got him nekkid and in his little blue tub, about to start pouring water on him. Suddenly he starts spraying the entire area with pee, and I give him a really shocked look. I swear he started laughing like Beevis and Butthead. It's the first time I've heard him laugh where you'd have to write it out like "ha, ha, ha, ha!" It's good to see he's got the same sense of humor as his old Dad.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cave #13 - Basin Cove Cave

I wanted to go to Gross Skeleton cave back in July, but ended up going to Guffey Cave instead as I detailed in my last trip report. I had mentioned Gross Skeleton to my friend Kevin Barnes, whose father Gary had taken me on my first caving trip to Sinking Cove Cave back in 2001. Kevin said that Gross Skeleton was one of his dad's favorite caves, so I got in touch with Gary and arranged a trip there for August 19.

Gary asked me to limit it to only two other people from Nashville, so along with the two people he was bringing from the Birmingham Grotto there would be six of us on the trip. I asked John Hickman and Joey Stuckey to go, and Gary brought along Jerry Saulsberry and Lee Burnett. I met John and Joey at Shoney's and we all piled into the Honda for the two hour trip down to Scottsboro, Alabama in Jackson County.

We got there early, so we made the traditional stop at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, or as I like to call it the nicest junk store in North Alabama. I've yet to see anything interesting there, but it makes for a good bathroom break. We met Gary and the others at the Goosepond Colony golf course, and then drove the few miles to the parking area for the lower entrance of Gross Skeleton.

Everyone got most of their gear on, and stashed all their clean clothes in my car, which we left there. We took the other two four-wheel drive vehicles up to the parking area for the upper entrance, which is commonly called the Gross entrance. From what I've been told, the cave was originally named Gross-Skelton Cave, for the Gross and Skelton families that owned the entrances. Eventually it turned into Gross Skeleton.

Gross Skeleton is a wet cave, and requires you to swim in several spots. Everyone except me had wetsuits and flotation devices that they carried with them as we headed out from the vehicles towards the cave. I bought a long sleeved polypro shirt earlier in the week that I had in my pack in case I needed it.

So we headed out through the woods, going through numerous spider webs along the way. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn early on and ended up going way around the mountain. We were initially on a logging road, but then went off trail and went down the side of the mountain amongst a lot of limestone rocks before we found a large, dry stream bed.

Gary wanted to head downstream at this point and proceeded to do so. I sat down on a rock to rest for a bit with Joey, since John, Jerry, and Lee were behind us a bit. John followed Gary down the stream bed, while four of sat there a bit wondering where we were. Jerry wanted to go up the stream bed a little just in case, so Joey and I waited while he and Lee headed upstream.

After about 10 minutes we heard them giving three "hoots" that we had agreed meant that the cave had been spotted. They came back down and said that they'd found a cave entrance up on the right that was blowing a lot of air and had a lot of old signatures at the entrance. Jerry didn't think it was Gross Skeleton, but he wasn't completely sure. We decided we'd go back up and take a look, and at least let me take a few pictures.

It was pretty hot out there, so you could really feel the cool air coming out of the cave from a good ways off, probably 50 or 60 feet from the entrance, which is in a tall bluff of rock. It felt great. The entrance is about 5 feet high and goes back about 25 feet before it takes a 90 degree turn to the left. It runs about 50 feet that way then turns hard to the right and goes back a good ways and starts getting pretty low. We all went back far enough into it that we had to start crawling and then exited.

Just inside the entrance there are a lot of carved signatures, several of which are dated May 1, 1891. One reads "In God We Trust. S.E. Lewis 1891." Another reads "J.A. Dunn May 1, 1891." There was one that was dated 1879 as well I think, but I didn't get a picture of it. The entrance also has a lot of salamanders, and I got a good picture of one that was in the process of regrowing its tail.

No one knew what cave this was, and I didn't figure it out until I got back home and posed the question on Tag-Net. Someone recommended that I contact Dave Howell of the Birmingham Grotto, and I called him Sunday night and described the cave. He looked at his maps and other materials and called me back later that night to say he's pretty sure it's Basin Cove Cave (AL1676). The cave survey didn't have a lot of information on it, so I don't know how long the cave is. As much air as it was moving I would expect it's got a good bit of passage, but there's no telling how much is accessible.

After a good rest in the cool air, we started back down the stream bed, blowing a whistle every once and a while and stopping to give some loud "whoops!" Finally we heard John whooping back at us, and we all got back together just outside the upper entrance of Gross Skeleton, about three hours after we left the vehicles.

Weekend Update

This morning my calf muscles are aching. This is unusual because I've been overweight for quite a while and my calf muscles are probably the most well developed and "in shape" muscles on my body.

My adductor muscles hurt too. You may not be familiar with these, since it's rare for them to get worked out very often. They're the set of muscles that run down your inside thigh from the groin down towards the knee. The old Suzanne Summers "Thigh Master" is one of the ways you can work these muscles if you were inclined to do so.

When I pulled into my driveway Saturday night about 10:00pm, I got out of the Honda and nearly fell over. My right hamstring was completely locked up in a cramp and I had to hobble into the house like I had just pulled up on a dash to the goal line.

They say that if you don't feel like you've been in a car wreck the next morning, then the cave wasn't tough enough. The trip I made Saturday was tough enough, trust me on this. I'm sore from my forearms all the way down to my calves, and there are blisters on both feet around the toes. I ate like a fiend all weekend, and I still weigh 1.5 lbs less this morning than I did Friday morning.

What a great trip it was! Details coming soon...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

August Football

Victoria started eighth grade last week, so football season started with it of course. Victoria is co-captain of the cheerleading squad this year, so we're all excited about that. We aren't so excited about sitting in the stands at 6pm on an August evening in the South though. It was hot and it was humid and all around just a miserable night to even sit and watch football, so I can only imagine how the players and the cheerleaders felt.

One thing interesting did happen though. Our team actually won. They won fairly easily actually. The quarterback this year is pretty fast, and the opposing team just couldn't seem to shut down the option play in the first half, when our team went up 20-0. The other team scored once in the second half and the game ended 20-8. Kicking seems to be an almost non-existant skill at this level, so the teams always go for two points after a score. There was only one punt in the game, by our team, and it went straight up in the air for about 10 yards total. No one ever caught a kickoff either, so anytime a foot connects with the ball it's always entertaining.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hatch's Reading List

I started compiling the books I've read so far in 2006 on a separate page similar to my Wild Cave List. So far it's pretty pathetic, but time to read is a luxury around here. I'm in the middle of reading 4 or 5 books that I haven't put on the list yet, but compared to how much I used to read earlier in life, the list is very Heff-like in it's shortness.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cave #12 - Mason Cave

Yesterday morning was one of those morning I really didn't want to go caving. I went to bed fairly early, but I really overdid it last week at the gym and I had been feeling pretty bad Thursday and Friday. I figured I would shake it off, so I woke up about 7:15 and met the others at a McDonald's at 8am at Rivergate Mall.

I knew I couldn't do the low carb diet in a cave again, so I grabbed an egg mcmuffin and a sausage biscuit from McDonalds before we left. Also making the trip to Mason Cave in Sumner County were Don Harter, Joey Stuckey, Aimee Roosenburg, Eve Proper, Dave Wascher and his son Andrew. We entered the cave about 10:30 after a short hike up the fairly steep hill to the cave entrance.

Joey and Aimee had been to this cave several times before, but had recently acquired a copy of the map that showed several passages that they were unaware of. The cave is fairly damp and muddy, and the first large room we came to had a lot of mist in it. Even before we got into the cave good, I noticed a lot of fossils in the rock. There were some ceilings above low crawls where the rock was just crammed with fossilized crinoids. I took some pictures, but few of them came out well since my camera has problems focusing on small objects closeup.

After looking around a while, Joey found a branch that he had not been down before, so we all headed down it. I was bringing up the rear behind Don, and a few hundred feet down this branch there was a low, tight crawl that Don didn't feel like he could get through. I didn't see it, but I figured if he couldn't make it there wasn't much point in me trying, so we sat in a small room for a while waiting on the others while I tried to get some pictures of the crinoid fossils.

Then my stomach started rumbling and cramping. I don't think it was necessarily the McDonald's, but I guess it could have been. At that point I knew I needed to get out of the cave as soon as possible. I appropriated a roll of TP from Don and headed out quickly. It was still slow going because of some of the low crawls, but I was highly motivated.

Eventually I made it out, but to the relief of my intestinal tract. I decided I wouldn't risk that again and waited outside at the truck listening to bluegrass on Joey's Sirius radio for two hours while the rest of the gang explored the cave. Eventually I got bored and did a little bit of ridge walking along the hillside before they made it out of the cave about 2pm.

I didn't see the entire cave, but I saw enough that I can count it as cave #12. It's not a hard cave to get to, so I'll go back soon and see the rest of it. Joey was under the impression there was a lot of trash in the cave from the last time he was there, so we went there thinking we would bring a lot of trash out. In the end, there was only a small white garbage bag of stuff brought out, so the cave is not as trashed as Joey thought. While were in the cave, the land owner stopped by and left a note on Don't truck thanking us for cleaning it up, so I'm sure he appreciated it.

Sunday Morning Excitement

Victoria, Jackson, and I were leaving for church this morning about 10:30. Marissa was staying home finish getting the house ready for a birthday party we're hosting this afternoon for Marissa's niece. Just as we were pulling out of the garage, Marissa came out and gave Jackson one more kiss, delaying us for about 30 seconds. Then, just as I backed into the street, there was a huge BOOM! and I looked off to my right and saw all the power lines shaking and a plume of smoke coming up from the entrance of our neighborhood, about 150 feet down the street.

Marissa yelled for us to stop, so I pulled back into the driveway, put the car in park, and ran down the sidewalk while I was dialing 911 on my cell phone. I was trying to not get too close since I didn't know why there was so much smoke, but the 911 operator kept asking me questions about who was inside, were they hurt, did I think an ambulance should be called. By this point I could see that it was a single pickup truck that had crashed through the decorative brick wall at the front of the subdivision.

The airbags had gone off inside the truck and the lady inside was acting very dazed and confused. I told the operator that to be safe they should probably send some paramedics and I finally got them off the phone. We were trying to get the lady to sit down, but she kept getting back into the truck and even tried to crank it at one point. I finally had to get a little stern with her, and managed to keep her from trying to get in the truck anymore, but she kept walking around picking up pieces of the wall. We tried to get her to stop doing that as well, but eventually gave up and let her move pieces of the wall around.

There's a big, sharp curve in front of our subdivision, and it's posted at 20 m/h, but there's no way she was going that slow. She basically missed the curve completely and plowed into the wall. When the truck hit, it sent pieces of the wall flying about 30 feet or more into our neighbor's house. It broke their window and knocked the chimney off-kilter. Even as I write this, the truck is still sitting in the wall. The power company had to come cut the guide wires for the pole she just missed, since they are wrapped inside the front end of the truck.

Notice the rebar in the concrete she punched through, which is laying about 10 feet away from the front of the truck. Yet she still claims she wasn't speeding.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Trains vs. Tennesseans

Apparently, people in Nashville are having trouble getting used to the 150+ year old practice of trains crossing streets. Being stuck behind the crossing guard for the 30 seconds it takes for an engine and 3 cars to pass is just too much to bear for some it seems.

My favorite quote from the Rail Crossing Safety section :

"Do not hunt, fish or bungee jump from railroad trestles."

Cave #11 - Blue Spring Cave

I almost didn't go on this trip, which took place on July 22, 2006. The trip was led by Hal Love, a Nashville Grotto member, and he was planning on going fairly deep into the cave, on a route that involved a good bit of crawling and a lot of climbing over piles of breakdown. He decided to split it into two groups however, with one group making the longer trek to an area called Mega-Junction and the other group going the shorter distance to the Cathedral Room, which was supposedly an easier route.

Blue Spring Cave is located in White County, Tennessee near the town of Sparta. It has an interesting story behind it. As of 1989, the cave had been known about for quite a while, but consisted of only about 500 feet of passage with another 200 foot passage that had lots of mud, but had a fist sized hole at the back that blew large amounts of air. They packed the whole full of dynamite and when they climbed down, found what turned out to be the longest cave in Tennessee. It's currently got about 33 miles of mapped passage, but more remains to be discovered.

The group met up at the McDonald's off Highway 109 and I-40. After waiting for everyone to show up and consolidating vehicles, we headed out. I chose to ride with Joey Stuckey, and Amy Roosenburg and John Hickman were in the truck with us as well. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the parking area, which is in a cow pasture at the bottom of a hill in Blue Spring Cove. Everyone got changed into their caving gear and we made the short hike to the cave entrance, avoiding the cow patties on the way. I chose not to take my jumpsuit, since I was told it was a fairly warm cave and I wouldn't get very wet. In all, 18 people entered the cave at about 11am. It's the largest group I've been with in a cave so far.

One of the guys that was on the trip with us was named Trey, and he was part of the original group that blasted into the new cave back in 1989. It was interesting to hear him recount their amazement as the new passage they went down just went on and on and on. Trey is also a fellow "big boy" caver, and he's only slightly smaller than me. We shared stories of misery involving being a little too big for certain areas of caves. Trey also had the same Swaygo pack as me, so in my book he's just a great guy all around.

The first part of Blue Spring Cave is almost semi-commercialized, since they put down a pathway of gravel to help keep people from sinking up past their knees in the mud that pervades the initial five-hundred feet or more of the cave. By the time you get to the ladder leading up to the historical entrance though, most of the mud has cleared up.

After a brief rest at the ladder, the entire group headed deeper into the cave. At first we passed the turn-off to the Cathedral Room route, since Hal wanted everyone to go a bit deeper before we split up. After we came to a large room just before some extended crawling, Don Harter and I stayed behind while the rest pushed on a bit before some of them came back with Hal to pick Don and I up and head towards the Cathedral Room. In the area where we waited, there was a small rock formation that looked like an animal of some type. I thought it looked like a groundhog, but Trey called it the Bear Embryo, and that will probably be the name that sticks.

Don was having trouble with his home-made light, so while he changed it I explored the room we were in a bit, crawling over some breakdown and through a small hole that led to a low gallery that the breakdown was shoved into. It was full of sand and gravel and there was not much of interest there other than a few cave crickets.

After about half an hour, Hal came back with three other folks and the six of us headed back towards the Cathedral Room route. The first major obstacle involved a tight chimney climb that I almost didn't make it up. The chimney was about 6 feet tall, so I could see out of the top of it, but the only good foothold was about a foot above my knee and I had a really hard time getting my foot up to it. I tried for several minutes, and was about to give up, when I finally got really pissed off at myself. I called myself some really horrible names that I won't repeat here, but I managed to cuss my way up that chimney and get enough of me out of it that the others were able to help pull me on up.

This higher passage was made of flowstone and led upwards a bit, getting progressively lower and then displaying a series of dry rimstone dams, which were anywhere from six inches to a foot deep. Eventually, the passage dipped down to less than two feet in height, and still had small rimstone dams, so that made for really slow crawling on my part. After a little more climbing and another low crawl, it led into a breakdown room with borehole leading off of it.

Most of the passage and rocks from the earlier chimney and up to this point had numerous little gypsum crystals in them, so it looked like someone had flung vast amounts of glitter everywhere in the cave. I've seen this before in caves, but not on the scale I saw it here.

The borehole we were now in eventually led to a room with a large flowstone formation at one end. Originally this was a dead end, but at the top of the rimstone they blasted a small hole that is affectionately known as the Birth Canal. It's a small, wet hole that leads upwards at about at 60 degree angle and has very few hand or footholds. It wasn't very easy for the others to make it up this obstacle, and it proved to be too much for me.

I made two attempts, but I just couldn't get my knee up to the only foothold and I'm too heavy to get pulled up it. They offered to try to pull me up with some webbing, but I knew I didn't really have enough energy left at that point so I told them to go ahead without me. I spent my time resting, eating a snack, and taking lots of pictures. Over the next hour, I slowly made my way back down towards the small chimney, exploring some small side leads on the way and taking the time to look at anything interesting.

Hal has his Ph. D. in biology and is acquainted with Dr. Thomas Barr, who is one of the leading experts in cave biology. Dr. Barr had asked Hal to be on the lookout for anything interesting in the cave, especially small beetles. On my way out I looked everywhere I could, but the only living things I saw were cave crickets, which seemed to be there in abundance. I did spot what might have been a beetle carapace, but otherwise we didn't see any beetles during our time there.

After the others caught up with me on the way out, we headed back towards the entrance. I spotted what I thought was a small white spider on a rock, and yelled for Hal to come back and have a look. It turns out it was a white pseudo-scorpion, and Hal collected it for Dr. Barr to have a look. A few minutes later I spotted two small white centipedes, which Hal also collected along with another slightly larger pseudo-scorpion. It's entirely possible they could be new species, but we'll have to wait and see.

We exited the cave after being underground about 6 hours. The other group had further to go and didn't make it out until almost an hour after we did. Most of us went for large helpings of Mexican food in Cookesville afterwards, and I didn't make it home until almost 11pm, only about 5 hours later than I thought. I guess I'm going to just have to stop trying to guess what time I make it home from these cave trips since I haven't been accurate yet.

While we were waiting on the rest of the group to get out, Hal unrolled a poster sized map of the cave on the tailgate of a truck and we all had a look. We had spent six hours in the cave, so you'd think we got pretty deep, but we were about 5 inches from the edge of the map at our deepest point, which means we saw only a small fraction of the cave.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy Birthday Nana!

My Mom's birthday was this past Friday. For some reason I always get the day mixed up so I didn't call her until Saturday. I've been doing this for 30 years now, so eventually I may finally get it right. Sorry Mom! Anyway, Mom's looking great for her age. She's lost a lot of weight recently and is getting around a lot better. Here's a picture of her and Jackson taken on her recent visit.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Anniversary Dinner

Here's a picture of my beautiful wife and I taken at the Melting Pot restaurant in downtown Nashville last night. I couldn't stop looking at her all night. It's been a while since we've been able to go out and enjoy a nice dinner with just the two of us, and last night was very special.

I never think I'm going to enjoy the Melting Pot, but I always do and we weren't even able to finish all of the food last night. They have a curry sauce that is just insanely great, and the Coq au Vin broth we cooked everything in was excellent as well. I'm thinking we might have to go back there for Marissa's birthday in November.

Grotto Newsletter

One of the things I've become active in lately is the Nashville Grotto, which is the local chapter of the National Speleological Society. I run the local website and recently I started editing the monthly newsletter, so I've had to learn how to use and despise Microsoft Publisher, although the Beta version of it in Office 2007 is much better than previous versions.

The latest issue came out pretty nice I think, and I've only been able to spot two very minor problems that I need to correct. I'm not very artistic but I'm slowing learning what works and makes everything look nice. I can't decide if I should put frames around the pictures or not.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Four Years of Love

My beautiful wife, and mother of my beautiful children, and I have been married for four years as of today. It's been a long strange trip so far, but I love her more today than I did then. We're celebrating tonight at the Melting Wallet, uh, I mean the Melting Pot with a romantic fondue dinner where Marissa says I'm trapped with her for two hours. Heh, heh, heh. Hey, back off with that skewer, woman! Ouch!

I love you baby!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Heff vs. The Arachnid

I got an email from Heff on Saturday afternoon, along with a picture. I thought everyone would enjoy reading it to see how girly Heff has become to torch a harmless creature:

"GREAT Saturday morning for me. I take Donna to work, I'm still half asleep as I get home and notice a rather large weed in the flowerbed which is totally unacceptable. I walk out to the middle of the flowerbed and pull the weed. I turn to my side to look for other weeds since I'm out there, and THIS damn thing is one inch from my nose. I know these things are harmless, but this angus beefsteak of an arachnid scared the wilfred out of me. I squealed like a violated schoolgirl, and nearly soiled myself. Just to give some size perspective, the elephant ear leaf behind him is over 2 ft. His body was about 4 inches, not including the legs, which looked hairier than my back believe it or not. I say "his" because I swear I saw testicles on this thing. Anyway, I took care of it the best way I knew how, and the way I always took care of outdoor intruders as a rebellious, girly teen. Hairspray + Lighter = torched garden spider. Any Fear Factor applications I receive through email or otherwise will be promptly rejected."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Good Number

As of today, I've officially lost 50 lbs since I started trying to lose weight again back in September. It's been an up and down process, but I feel much better. I remember telling someone 10 months ago that I had actually "walked half a mile last night!"

I'm still 60 lbs away from my target weight, so I'm not quite to the halfway point yet. At this point, making the end of this year's thong season is probably out of reach, but next summer everyone better just watch out.

This One's For Heff

To celebrate my 14,000th spin on the planet today, I did two things. First of all, I only consumed 800 calories and 8 net carbs today. How you ask? I ate four low carb bars between 10am and 5pm. I was going to eat five today, but I wasn't really that hungry tonight so I didn't.

Secondly, at Heff's suggestion I put 14,000 steps on the pedometer. I waited a little late to really get started, so I passed 14k just before midnight after walking for over an hour non-stop, which was just over 6.5 miles for the day. According to the pedometer, this burned right at 900 calories, so I burned more calories walking today than I ate.

Since I don't have a cave trip planned until the middle of August, I think I can stay around 1000 to 1200 calories a day until then, except for my anniversay dinner next week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

14k Today

It's been 14,000 days as of today since I was born in Marietta, Georgia. Yes, I know that doesn't really mean anything, but I think it's interesting to keep up with it. I'm a spreadsheet geek, what can I say? My son is 209 days old. Only 15,220 days until I'm 80 years old in the year 2048. Tempus fugit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hatch on a Rope

There's a lot of caves around that require one to go down and then back up ropes in order to see them. I've lost about 50 lbs so far, but I was pretty sure I'm still too heavy to consider doing much rope work as of yet. Avis and Gerald Moni hosted climbing practice tonight at their house for the Nashville Grotto, and John Hickman rigged me up into what is called a Rope Walker system.

I ended up getting my butt about 6 or 7 feet off the ground before I had them lower me back down. I just didn't feel very good about it. The reasons for this as I can tell and from talking to others are:

1. I'm still just too fat. I'm very top heavy and it was making me tilt very far backwards, which makes it more difficult to climb and tires my arms out quicker.
2. The equipment didn't really fit someone my size very well, but this really relates back to reason number one.
3. Damn, it was hot tonight. I was on the rope at 8pm and it was still 90 degrees outside with no breeze and high humidity.
4. My legs are still weaker than I thought from the cave trip to Guffey. I thought they were OK by now, but climbing up the rope my quadriceps still felt very rubbery.
5. It's the first time I've ever tried on climbing gear, so it may be that I just wasn't used to it at all. In retrospect I probably should have just hung there for a bit to get used to it.

I think I'll try again once I'm below 250, which as of this morning is about 32 pounds away.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Cave #10 - Guffey Cave

I first heard about Guffey Cave when I was at SERA 2006 last month, and we almost went there instead of Limrock Blowing Cave that weekend, but the logistics of getting the key for Guffey caused us to skip it at the time. Then I decided to organize a trip to Gross Skeleton for a July grotto trip, but a few people were concerned that Gross Skeleton was a fairly difficult cave with a lot of water and climbing, so I ended up changing the planned trip go to Guffey Cave in Marshall County, Alabama near the town of Grant.

I woke up at the buttcrack of dawn on Saturday morning, and finished getting my stuff together for the trip. Since I've always forgotten something on every cave trip so far, I had a checklist that I carefully went over, and I had everything on it except my compass, which I couldn't find. Jay Santiago showed up just before 7am, and we loaded up the Honda and headed for the usual meeting spot at the Shoney's in Antioch, TN.

We got there and found Joey Stuckey, a new grotto member, waiting for us in the parking lot. We went in, grabbed a table and hit the buffet to wait for the other people to show up. Eve Proper, who is also a new grotto member, showed up a few minutes later and joined us at the table. As we were paying right before 8am, John Hickman showed up and as we hit the parking lot Dave Wascher and his son Andrew pulled up. We consolidated down to three vehicles and then headed down I24.

I made the mistake of using Google Maps to plot the route, planning on going through Manchester and down TN 16 through the Walls of Jericho. Unfortunately, this was not the best route, as John pointed out after we were well into the route that Google had shown us. At least I know the better route down TN 64 for next time.

We still made pretty good time, and managed to make it to Guntersville to pick up the key around 11am. After that we headed back to the cave, and found Don Harter nearby, so the group was complete. The cave is about 100 yards down an old logging road, but it wasn't anything the Honda couldn't handle. We parked, got geared up, and headed down the short trail to the cave entrance. After a bit of fiddling with the gate, we got it open and headed in, locking the gate behind us.

Guffey Cave has over 6 miles of passages, and is currently the 4th longest cave in the state of Alabama. We had no plans to see all of it, since much of that process would involve crawling along 3 feet high passages or lower for thousands of feet. We had a map, and picked a general direction, but as usual once we got in the cave it just sort of turned into going down whatever passage looked the most inviting.

Not long after we go into the cave we noticed that it was warmer in there than expected. After about an hour, I shed the coveralls I had on and put them in my pack. I did the rest of the cave in my shorts and standard red caving shirt. At least I'm consistent in my apparel choices.

The cave was also muddy and had lots of breakdown to crawl over and under, and a few places where you had to slide down on your butt and stretch out with your legs to reach where you were trying to go. After a few false leads, we finally made it to what was called Grand Central on the map. This is a fairly large room with a few formations. It also has some very cool shell fossils in the wall, which I got a few good pictures of. The main thing it featured was a very large borehole leading south, which was a welcome relief.

After a brief rest, we followed that borehole into what is called the Hall of Giants. We finally encountered lots of decorations in this area. It's covered with soda straws and helectites, although the helectites are mostly small, being an inch or less in length. One of the things I found interesting about this cave is that it has lots of small alcoves that contain formations. You'll see a small hole in the wall of the cave, and when you peer into it there will be soda straws, flowstone, and helectites. I haven't seen that in any of the other caves I've been in so far.

Not far past this area the ceiling of the cave got low again, going down to about 3 feet wanted to push on to an area on the map called the Crystal Room. I declined to crawl that far and waited back in the formations for them, cooling off and taking pictures, including a few self portraits. They were gone for about 45 minutes so I took lots of pictures, finally stopped giving off so much steam, and even took a brief nap.

When the others returned, they reported that the Crystal Room was nice, but by no means worth the long crawl involved to get there. Everyone stopped to take some pictures and to snack, and I realized that I had forgotten to put my snacks in my bag. I bummed some power bars from a couple of people, so that blew my low carb diet for the day, but I definitely needed the energy at that moment.

After the break was over, we strolled back to Grand Central and headed down another passage. After some more breakdown climbing, we slid down a rock and reached the stream bed in the cave. The water was not flowing, but it had some large pools which were so clear it was hard to tell where the edge of the water was. Someone spotted a salamander in the water and I managed to get a few decent shots of it. Turns out it was a Tennessee Cave Salamander, and this was the first one that I've seen. There were also a couple of normal crayfish.

This area also had some nice formations, and we stopped for a while to let Jay and I take lots of pictures. The passage is large here, but ends after a few hundred feet at a very low crawl called the Sand Crawl that goes for several thousand feet. We were running short on time, so we decided to head back towards the entrance at this point.

Most of the group made a quick side trip to see what the map labeled the Spires of Guffey, but Don and I declined, sitting on a pile of rocks and talking for about 10 minutes until the others rejoined us. It's very cool to turn all the lights off and just talk in the darkness. I try to spend at least a few minutes in total darkness on every cave trip I go on. I find it to be very cathartic.

So now the push is on for the entrance. I was really starting to get tired by this point, so it was a little slow going on the way out. The last few hundred feet before the entrance had gotten really foggy as well, so picking a route over the breakdown became more of a chore. We exited the cave a little after 6pm, so we spent almost 6 hours underground.

After getting cleaned up, we drove back to Guntersville to meet the owner of the cave, Dan Harbin, so we could give him the key back. Dan's a caver himself and has owned the cave for over 30 years. He goes out of his way to provide easy access to the cave, but still has problems with people occasionally he says. He had to implement a $50.00 deposit for the key because people would just not return it. It's amazing how people just pretty much suck, but I guess we all know that.

We asked Dan about restaurants in the area, and he recommended a couple, including a BBQ place near the 79/431 junction. We gave it a try, but they apparently don't really like to serve sitdown patrons, and it took almost an hour to get our food. We were the only ones in the place, so that's pretty bad. The food was OK, but definitely not worth the wait or the price. We were all so hungry though that we didn't complain too much.

Because of that delay, I didn't get home until almost midnight. The next day my quadriceps were basically blown out. It hurt to walk up steps until Wednesday. I'm going to have to find some hills or long stairwells to start walking up to them into better shape.

I think we maybe saw 1 mile of the cave, so there's still 5 miles or more left to see in it. Next time we'll know the route back to Grand Central better, so we won't waste as much time there. It's definitely a cave that I will go back to.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I accomplished something today for the first time since I got my pedometer. I've walked over 10k steps per day for the last 3 days. Sunday was 12.7k steps, yesterday was 10.4k, and today I've done 11.8k steps.

When I'm walking in the evenings, I have small arguments with myself. I would normally total up how many steps I've averaged for the week and start rationalizing doing less steps tonight. So if I only walked 5k steps today, hey, I've still averaged 9k steps for the last 3 days. The problem with this is that I'm at a plateau on my weight loss. I'm stuck right around 285 lbs and in order push below 280 I'm going to have to up the calories burned, plain and simple.

Fortunately, tonight I slapped down the little voice in my head that was trying to be lazy. The other voice took over. The one that kept calling me a wuss for even thinking of stopping short of 10,000 steps. The one that made me turn around in front of my house and add another 1000 steps after I reached 10k instead of going inside and enjoying the a/c. That voice did get slapped down when when it called me a wuss for taking two Alleve, though. I can only put up with so much of that kind of crap. Heh.

Cave Pic

I don't take too many pictures of myself in a cave, but my friend Morris took this one inside Stephens Gap Cave a few months ago. We climbed up through the small waterfall you see here to explore about 150 more feet of passage behind it. It eventually leads to a 20 foot high dome room with another waterfall that is the source of this water.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Vacation Recovery

We're back this week from over a week in Ormond by the Sea near Daytona Beach, Florida. It was nice, but it was hot and sticky all week, and the place was just covered up this past weekend with NASCAR rednecks. We had no idea there was a race going on until we got there.

I went down this past Saturday to watch the space shuttle launch, but after 5 hours of waiting and a near fight with a short bald man over viewing space along a fence, the launch was scrubbed at the 9 minute mark because of some thunderstorms a few miles from the launch pad.

We ate too much, spent too much, and had lots of drama over the 8 days we were there, but it was worth it and there are lots of pictures to share in the next week or so. Stay tuned for more highlights.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cave #9 - Twin Caves

This past Wednesday night, Bill Overton had a trip scheduled to visit Johnson Cave, which is located in Davidson County, TN where I live. The cave is mentioned in Dr. Barr's book "Caves of Tennessee," and had been closed for many years, so I was happy to have a chance to visit it. As it turns out, there were some complications getting the key at the last minute, so Bill decided we'd visit Twin Caves instead.

Twin Caves are also mentioned in Dr. Barr's book, and they are located just off a wide creek in Cheatham County. Joining the trip were Steve Cooper, his fiancee Michelle, David Wascher, and his eight year old son Ian. We all met up at the Walmart in West Nashville and then headed out to the parking area. I put my stuff in Bill's truck and rode with him.

After we got there, I of course discovered I had left something in my car, which was my coveralls. I always forget something on a trip, it's just my nature. Don't make me tell you the story about the scorpion and the frog. I wasn't going to let that stop me though, so I got the rest of my stuff ready and we headed out down the trail around the lake.

Now calling it a trail is being very generous. At times it actually resembled a trail, and at other times we were just crashing through briars and undergrowth, just following the edge of the lake. Bill had an excellent idea of where we were going, which was "somewhere on the other side of the lake where the creek is."

At one point we came within 20 yards of an old road, but we missed it on the way in and made our way through a swamp. I sank into mud almost up to my knees a few times, and did I mention it was about 92 degrees that afternoon? I guess I didn't. Well, it was and so it was hot, sticky, and smelly until we finally intersected the old road again on the way to the creek.

After we made it to the creek, we still didn't know where the cave was. Bill was wearing thigh high muck boots, so he just waded on out into the creek and headed up it, while the rest of us made our way down a trail on the bluff along the creek, which was 20 feet or so above the water. Finally Bill hollered that he had found the cave, just as it was about to get dark out.

Twin Caves is two caves, as the name implies. I went in the northern entrance first for about 20 feet, but it looked like a really low crawl and nobody was too anxious to do that, so we decided to try the southern cave since it looks like it goes further back without any crawling. It goes straight back for about 250 feet and then gets too low to continue. We didn't spend much time in it, but did see several bats flying around. I got a decent picture of one when it roosted for a minute, but I'm not sure what kind of bat it is yet.

As we left that cave, it was truly getting dark, and the fireflies were really lighting up the woods along the creek. It's been a long time since I've seen that many in one place and it was magical to just sit there and watch them as it got totally dark outside.

I noticed that at some point in the past, someone tried to brick up one small area near the north cave with stone and mortar. It would have enclosed a small area under an overhang. Bill said he thought it might have been someone building a food storage area back in the days before refrigeration. I'll have a picture of it up soon.

After a brief rest, we headed into the north cave. This was the first time I've done a true belly crawl in a cave, and I have to say it wasn't too bad. I've lost some more weight recently and I've been walking a lot, so I got through it without too much trouble. The passage through this area was about 2 feet tall, maybe a little less, and the floor was mud, so it made it easier on my elbows and knees. The passage was probably 40 feet wide in most places as well. Eventually, it leads to a T intersection where it starts to open up more.

We took at left at the intersection and came into the first large room, which was about 10 feet high, 20 feet wide and 50 feet long. It had a pool off to one side which had some plant debris and a few normal catfish that were probably washed into the cave at some point. It had some large breakdown stones, one of which was set on a fulcrum just right so that you could wobble it back and forth easily. This stone is over a foot thick, 4 feet wide, and 20 feet long, but you can rock it back and forth like it was a see-saw.

This room is connected to another room which is almost the same size, but doesn't have much breakdown in it. It is however, full of mud and water. The mud is thick and sticky, and I sank up past one of my knees with one step. A stream cuts through one end of this room and heads out one side. There is a pile of breakdown with some passage beyond that Steve and Michelle pushed while Bill headed down the stream.

I sat there on the breakdown while they did this and watched a bat fly circles around the room. It would fly about 5 circles, the swoop into the low passage Bill had crawled into, stay gone for a minute or so, then come back out and fly some more circles. I don't think they were too happy to have us in their home.

Eventually everyone came back from exploring their small passageways and we headed out. We took the right turn at the T intersection on the way out, and it ended up just being a small loop that led back into the low, wide crawl. It was still cool though, since this was actually the tightest passage I've been through so far, and it required me to suck my gut in and wiggle through it.

So now we were out of the cave, covered in mud, and had to hike back to the parking area. It was extremely dark since there was no moon out, other than Bill in the creek. As we walked down the old road, an owl started hooting about 30 yards up the hill, very close to us. We could hear another one answering a ways off as well. Amazingly, there were no mishaps with us stumbling around in the dark through the woods, and we made it back to the vehicles by about 10:00.

My thoughts on the trip were that it was a Weeknight Cave, but a Weekend Hike to get to it. Bill told us it was about a half mile hike, but my pedometer said it was right at a mile on the way to the cave and about 8/10 of a mile on the way back since we bypassed the swamp route. It was a nasty, muddy, cramped cave, but it was still a lot of fun.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Hatcher Clan

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hatch's Teenage Daughter

We now have a teenager in the House of Hatch. Victoria turned 13 today. I'm thinking it's time to find my old shotgun and get it into working order...

Happy Birthday Victoria!

Cave #8 - Limrock Blowing Cave

So after not getting into a real cave on the first day of SERA, Jay, Bob, and I were anxious to go to at least one good one on Saturday morning. Unlike most of the hedonists who had stayed up late Friday night bellowing "Free Bird", our small group woke up around 7:30 that morning and started deciding what cave to go to.

There was a messageboard set up in the middle of the camp where trips were supposed to be posted. Sadly, there was nothing really on it. It was mostly things like "Anyone want to go to Tumbling Rock?" We had already been to Tumbling Rock about a month earlier, so that wasn't high up on the list.

After looking through the guidebook and discussing it with some other more experienced cavers, we decided we'd go check out Limrock Blowing Cave, which is in Jackson County, Alabama and owned by the SCCI. We wrote the trip on the messageboard and for anyone to meet us at 9:30am sharp to head out towards the cave and then got our stuff together.

We met back at the board at about 9:20, and waited until 9:30, but no one else showed up. There was one guy sitting there named Bob that said some people were going to take him to Tumbling Rock. We offered to take him with us, but he declined, so we set out.

About an hour and a half later, we arrived at the cave. The directions we were given were slightly unclear, but we're used to that by now. A nice lady that lives next to the cave finally pointed us in the right direction. When we pulled into the parking area, there were two vehicles already there, including the guy named Bob who thought he was going to Tumbling Rock. The two people who brought him there were an older guy named Fred, and another guy who simply called himself Sleaze Weazel.

We suited up, and the six of us entered the cave together. Limrock has a decent sized opening that you only have to stoop to get into. Then there's some nice walking passage until you get to some fairly large borehole and you have a choice of directions. We chose to go to the left.

This branch begins with some muddy, twisty canyon with a little bit of crawling to get through some lower areas. Then it opens up to some breakdown that you can go over or crawl along a streambed at the bottom of it. Eventually we reached an area that had a 50 foot dome with a waterfall coming down some really pretty flowstone formations. There were also some popcorn formations near the entrance to the dome.

We spent some time there taking pictures, then we pushed on, finding the register. After we all signed it, we went down a passage with lots of rimstone dams and mud that led to what is probably the most decorated area of the cave. It involved some fairly low passage that was probably only about two feet high. My new Swaygo pack was great here. I just took it off and drug it behind me with the straps.

This was the only part of the cave I was nervous in, since we were crawling over fairly smooth rock and if you rapped on it with your knuckles it was obviously hollow. Weighing almost 300 lbs and not nowing how thick the rock was I was going over made me not pause long on that stretch of floor.

The formations in this area were mostly soda straws and a few columns. They were all blackened, by what I don't know. Many were broken, but showed signs of forming again, with white growth on the ends. This area was a deadend, so we turned around, headed back for the register.

We climbed down some rocks near the register into some really large borehole. The passageway was probably 100 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet high in most places, maybe larger. I don't have a good eye for judging distances underground yet. The stream bed runs through here, but wasn't currently flowing. Instead it had pools every 50 feet or so. In one of the pools we spotted two blind crayfish, which were the first I'd seen in a cave so far. I managed to take a pretty good picture of one in which you can see the internal organs.

We followed the borehole deeper into the cave until it started getting narrow with a lot of breakdown on the left side. I had been told that you would get really wet if you go much further than this, and the water was very cold there and almost at crotch level. We decided this was a good point to turn around. On the way back down the borehole we met up with a couple of other cavers, but I didn't catch their names or where they were from.

Now back at the register, we had a choice. We could go back out the way we came in, or we could take a section of the cave that parallelled it. The problem with it is that there's pretty much no way to avoid getting wet. Now I have lots of insulation, so that's not really a problem for me, but some of the skinnier people tend to want to avoid it. After a brief discussion we decided to go ahead try it.

It did indeed get pretty wet, which made people like Jay, who hates to get wet, fairly miserable. The worst part for me was that the passage got a lot lower, so I had to stoop walk or crawl, which is really hard on me right now. Fortunately, everyone was patient with me and we finally made it back to the entrance and out of the cave. I think we were in the cave for about three hours or so.

When we got back to the parking area, we took a few group pictures and a truck with about 4 locals showed up. They were asking us about the cave and we tried to give vague answers since they said things like "so you guys really went caving, huh?" They didn't appear to have any equipment with them so I was afraid they were probably gonna go in with just a flashlight.

As we were about to leave, I mentioned I was going to show Bob and Jay where the trailhead for Stephens Gap was, since we were only a few miles away. Bob from Florida said he'd like to follow us, so we loaded up and headed over there. We hadn't planned to make the hike up to the cave, but Florida Bob talked us into it, so I took a couple of Alleve and the four of us headed up the trail. It took a while, since I was pretty bushed at this point, but we eventually made it up to the pit just as a large group were leaving.

I sat at the top of the pit and watched the water and the birds while the other three guys made a quick trip down the horizontal entrance. There wasn't as much water going over the side as there had been two weeks previously when I was there, but it was still incredibly beautiful and peaceful. After about 20 minutes the other guys came out of the cave and we headed back down the trail. Tennessee Bob and Jay walked right by a 4 foot snake without seeing it at all. Florida Bob pointed it out to me and we watched it crawl off the trail. I think it was rat snake. It didn't seem too concerned with us at any rate.

We made it back to SERA by about 6pm and I crashed in my tent for a little while. I was awakened by someone setting off a carbide bomb about 10 feet from my tent. They set off two more and I gave up on the nap and went down to check out the carnival. They basically set up a small circus and had some rides and games and food. I finally crashed about 11pm and slept pretty good until I started freezing about 3am. I only brought a sheet since I thought it wasn't going to be too cold at night.

Click This Link for Photos.

Skullet No More

So Heff and I have a bet. If I'm down to 275 on June 23rd when I drive through Columbiana on my way to Florida, I get to shave his head. The DBAN this morning was 284.8, down from a recent high of 299 from 18 days ago. I've got 14 days to lose 9.8 lbs and then we all get to see a truly bald Heff. Oh yes, there will be photos.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Don's Dudley Dig

I took off work this past Friday to spend a long weekend in North Alabama at the South Eastern Regional Association (SERA) Cave Carnival, which was held in Buck's Pocket State Park in DeKalb County. Being married with children, I only get to go caving about once or twice a month, and the opportunity to have a whole weekend to cave won't come along too often. So I was hoping to go to a good cave on Friday, then a few on Saturday before heading back to Nashville on Sunday.

A fellow Nashville Grotto member, Don Harter, had said he had some potential dig sites along the way he'd like to check out if we wanted to accompany him. We talked it over on Thursday night, and agreed to follow Don to a potential new cave site the next day to check it out. I was curious because the one we picked was next to a pit he called Thor's Hammer, so I had to see anything with that cool of a name.

Bob, Jay, Tony, and I left my house about 6:30
Parking Area at Little Coon MountainFriday morning and headed down I24. We met Don at a Shoney's and after breakfast we followed him down to Stevenson, Alabama and headed out in the middle of nowhere to Little Coon Mountain. We drove up a dry, rocky stream bed and parked in a large grassy area. We grabbed our caving gear and headed up an old logging road.

Don hadn't really described this "cave" that we
Bob Kimball at Thor's Hammer Pit were going to visit very well, so I was under the impression that it was a lead in an existing cave that we were going to try to dig out some. After walking up the road for about half a mile or so, we turned and went up the side of the hill to where there were large piles of rock. Don showed us Thor's Hammer, which is about a 30' deep pit, with another 20' or so of passage at the bottom. It's not too impressive and definitely doesn't live up to it's name. Bob is shown to the right squatting in front of it.

Up the hill just a little from this pit and to the left was the pit that Don has brought us all here to see. It was about 2.5 feet wide and went down about 4 feet with a 6 inch wide vertical crack on the bottom. Don dug on it with his shovel for a bit, while the rest of us stood there and thought about how we'd love to be in a real cave about now. Tony climbed down in the hole to check things out, and I handed him my camera which he used to take a picture as best he could past the small crack, to see if it was even worth bothering with.

We couldn't really tell anything from the pictures,
Tony Groves in the Pit so we finally rigged up a rope and pulley to a tree, tied it around Tony's ankles and he went into the hole head first. He stuck his head in the crack and found that it had a small pit beyond that went down only about 10 feet. So the pit was about 15 feet total, which doesn't qualify as a cave. So we trudged back down the trail to our cars and after a trip to the Wal-Mart and some burgers at Hardee's, we made it to SERA about 2pm, just in time to register, get our tents set up and see what was going on. There were no cave trips being planned that day, so I drove to Cullman to have dinner with my old friend Dave and got back to the campground to get some sleep for the next day.

I'm not really mad at Don, since it came close to being an actual cave. I should have just gone to what I know was a real cave so I didn't waste an entire potential day of caving. There's over 2500 known caves in Jackson County, Alabama so there would have been lots of choices.