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.
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