Wednesday, February 21, 2007

102nd Anniversary

Yesterday was the 102 year anniversary of the Virginia Mines Explosion that killed my great-uncle Bruce Hopkins father, Irvin Hopkins. Bruce was the half brother of my grandfather Luther Vernon Hatcher.

Here's a nice collection of articles from back then about the disaster that I just happened to come across last night while I was doing some research on my family tree after talking on the phone to my uncle Eugene for several hours.

I've started doing some more genealogy research, which I haven't really done since about 1986. I've already added several more generations of Hatchers, which was a complete dead end for us when we were researching before the Internet came along. It turns out there's now a very large online Hatcher research site, and they're even doing some genetic testing to help fill in some of the missing generations.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Limrock Pictures

Here's a couple of pictures that Joey sent me from our trip to Limrock Blowing Cave last weekend. In the first one, taken at the entrance, I'm showing everyone that I need to buy a larger caving shirt, while Joey appears to be scratching his butt on an icicle.

The second picture is the first waterfall in the cave, about 150 feet or so inside. The water is coming out of a V shaped hole, and just above my head was a large gathering of cave crickets. The water flows around the large rock I'm leaning on and goes out through a small hole in the cave wall to my right.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Weekend Caving

This past weekend I finally got motivated again and decided to go caving, which is the first time I've been since the trip to Big Bone Cave back in December, which I guess I still haven't talked about on the blog. I'll have to try to sneak in a Big Bone trip report while Heff is distracted. I can only imagine the heinousness of the comments he would come up with for it.

Joey was camping near Scottsboro with an old friend of his, another friend of that friend, and their wives. They wanted to go caving, and Joey wanted to go somewhere new, so he decided on Limrock Blowing Cave and then a trip up to Stephens Gap to rappel the big pit there. I had been to both caves, so I told him I'd come along and act as guide for Limrock.

This was my second trip to Limrock, and it was a bit different this time. I went during SERA last year, and the cave was warmer and drier. The cave wasn't blowing air on Saturday, it was sucking air in. Cold air. It was right at freezing outside I think. There was also a lot more water in the cave. I was dressed in my standard caving outfit, which is cargo shorts and a synthetic t-shirt, along with Smart Wool socks. As long as my feet stay warm I can take pretty low temperatures.

As we got deeper in the cave, it warmed up significantly. We reached one point in a 50 foot dome with a waterfall where we guessed it may have been as warm as 60 degrees, which felt like a sauna compared to the cave entrance. We spent about 2.5 hours in the cave, and we made really good time. We pushed down the main bore hole passage until we hit the large pile of breakdown and turned around. We skipped the loop on the way out where we'd have to swim for a bit, and managed to find a crawl that skipped another medium sized pile of breakdown that we had climbed over on the way in.

After a sandwich break in the parking lot, we drove over to the parking area for Stephens Gap. This was my third trip here, and I was dreading the one mile hike since my legs were already tired. I almost backed out, but decided to go ahead and hike up. I warned the rest of the group that I would be slow making it all the way up, so just go on ahead. They needed to rig the pit anyway.

I was really huffing and puffing by the time I made it up to the entrance, but the trip up there is always worth the hike. Stephens Gap truly is one of the natural wonders of Alabama. On Saturday there was a lot more water going into the pit than the last two times I was there. I sat and watched them rig the rope through the keyhole for a bit, then went down into the cave through the horizontal entrance, which was trickier this time due to the ice coating the breakdown. At least I didn't have to worry about copperheads this time of year.

From below the big pit was very interesting. There were actually two waterfalls in the pit, the big one at the top and another one that entered from a crack about 50 feet down and across from the other one. The water from both merge about 50 feet below that, but it's a strange effect since the water from the big waterfall is moving a lot faster at the point where they merge. It's hard to describe, but it's cool to watch.

I sat on a ledge and watched Joey rappel the pit, then I decided I'd had enough for the day. I wanted to get home in time to put Jack to bed. Joey asked me to make sure his truck was OK since he couldn't lock the back of it and he was worried someone would break into it. I trudged down the valley, having to will my legs to take one more step. They were pretty much shot by that point. When I got back to the vehicles, I immediately broke into Joey's truck and stole a sandwich and a beer. I made good time back to Nashville, and was there to give the boy a bath and put him to bed. I took an Aleve, fell asleep on the couch, and didn't move for about 14 hours. My quadriceps were complaining the rest of the weekend, but they were fine by Monday.