Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Caving Hatch

I've had lots of different reasons to lose the weight I've lost in the last 5 months. The main reason is to live long enough to see my kids have kids one day. One of the top 5 however is to be able to get more into an activity I briefly engaged in back in 2001, which is caving. I started going to the monthly meetings of the Nashville Grotto back in October, and soon got drafted into being their webmaster.

So for about 6 months now I've been itching to get back into some caves. While Marissa was pregnant I promised her I wouldn't disappear underground and out of contact, so I held off until this week, when I went to not one, but two caves within 4 days.

Wednesday night, despite the threat of driving snow and sleet, nine of us from the grotto made a two hour trip into Hardin's Cave. We went about a mile in and back out. Hardin's Cave is the longest cave in Davidson County and has a little over 3 miles of passageway. It's also commonly known as "Junkyard Cave" since the property it's on was actually once a junkyard and the cave contained tremendous amounts of garbage and graffiti at one time. There used to be no bats in it, but now there's a good many Eastern Pipistrelle bats hibernating there. You can get really close to them and they look like little frozen furry statues.

The cave is nice, although there is still a lot of graffiti and it's pretty muddy. There's a good bit of crawling, climbing over breakdown, and stooped walking involved at various points, and by the time I made it out of the cave a little over 2 hours after going in, I was pretty whipped. I didn't really start hurting until the next night and by Friday morning I was sore pretty much all over.

So I was a little worried about the trip to Frick's Cave in northwest Georgia we had planned for Saturday. Frick's is a cave owned by the SCCI and is only open one day a year due to the large population of Gray Bats that normally inhabit it but vacate during the winter. There was also supposed to be another snow storm hitting Nashville Friday night and Saturday, but there ended up being zero accumulation here despite the calls for 5 or 6 inches.

So we pulled out of Nashville early Saturday morning and made to the cave in Georgia about 12:30 eastern time. I was still sore but I was pretty happy about getting to go to a second cave within one week. We got our gear on and four of us from the Nashville grotto went into the cave.

This cave is much prettier overall than Hardin's, and not quite as difficult. The only real problem is that it's wetter and it's pretty hard to avoid getting wet in a lot of the passageway. Since I'm still out of shape and have more natural insulation than most cavers, I just sloshed through the knee-deep water in places instead of crawling over rocks and ledges.

In one of the bigger and more decorated rooms, you're basically standing on a huge pile of bat guano. There were a few gray bats in the room, hanging over a pile of very fresh guano, and they chittered at us until we left. The thing we found out about the huge pile of bat guano is that it's an excellent cushion when you slip and completely bust your ass sliding down a rock. That was another reason why I didn't try too hard to avoid going through the deeper parts of the stream later on in the cave.

We spent a little over two hours in Frick's as well, but we didn't completely explore all of it. We did see some signatures from 1888 and 1875 near the entrance. Graffiti sucks, but old graffiti doesn't suck quite as much I guess.

Below is a picture of me just before I entered the cave. Jay Santiago, another Nashville Grotto member who rode up with me is in the blue suit just to the left of me. We went in where you see the two people on the lower left climbing out of the cave. Check out the Flickr display on the top right of the blog for a few more pictures of the cave entrance.

1 comment:

TheHeffer said...

Isn't that the same getup you wear to the Star-Trek conventions ?