Monday, June 30, 2008

Cave #20 - Indian Grave Point Cave

Ever since I started caving a few years back, everyone has mentioned Indian Grave Point (IGP) cave to me. I was starting to feel like I was the only person in Tennessee who caves who had not been there yet. As a matter of fact, I was sitting at Paul's house Saturday night watching fights, and we started talking about caving. One of Paul's friends immediately asked me, "so have you been to IGP yet?" I told him I was leaving at 8am the next morning to go. He told me about going there 40 years ago with the Nashville Grotto.

So we all met up at the McDonald's off Hwy 109 at 8am, and headed out about 8:30 or so after waiting for a few stragglers. There were 12 of us total on the trip. We got to the parking area near the cave a little less than an hour later.

The landowners of the cave are very friendly. The cave is located in a cow pasture on the side of a very steep hill. You park on the side of the road next to a creek and then go over the fence on a climb-over that's been installed to avoid damaging the fence. Then you're staring up a hill that you've got to go up about 250 feet at about a 50 degree angle. The view of the surrounding valley from up there is great. It was early enough that you could still see some mist moving around on the hills.

Once you get up there, you're at the entrance sinkhole. You slide/climb down about 8 feet, with a nylon rope being there to help out. The entrance sink hole is fairly large, with a good bit of water dripping down and moss growing on a lot of the rocks at the bottom. At the back of the sink, you head down into the cave through what at first is a low crawl.

It opens up fairly quickly into what I was told was some old saltpeter works. There's a small stream channel twisting through the mud and the ceiling gets low a few times before you get to another short crawl which opens up into the first good-sized room, which has a small dome at the top. On the right side of this room, there's a huge chunk of rock that at some point in the past broke in half, leaving a crack that you can crawl through to take a shortcut to the deeper parts of the cave. This rock is about the size of a trailer, so it's pretty impressive to think about it breaking in half at some point.

After that is a crawl down a big pile of breakdown. It's not that big of a deal normally, but almost all of the breakdown in this cave is covered in mud, so you have to be extra careful. I still banged up my shins and my forearms a lot, and my ankles and knees took some extra punishment as well. All of them are talking to me today.

Then you come to a nice open area with a fairly clean floor that you can walk around. Since this is such a popular cave, someone got the bright idea to build a fire ring here. I'm not sure what the attraction is about building a fire so deep in a cave, but it doesn't appear to have smoked things up too badly.

After milling about in this area for bit, we headed deeper into the cave. At one point there was a low crawl that everyone went through. I saw a slighter taller space to the left that I decided to go through to spare myself a bit. Unfortunately, I had to slide off this into mud. I didn't think it was that deep, but it ended up going about half way up my calf. Nice. Now my boots weighed about two pounds more each.

We slogged on over some more muddy breakdown, where my newly muddied boots caused me to slip and slide even more. That's where most of the bruises on my shins came about. Eventually we arrived in the largest room of the cave, known as the Cascade Dome. It featured twin domes which had some water coming down. Apparently there's a route to the top of them, which James and a few others explored a bit, but didn't attempt to go to the top.

After resting there for a while, we pushed on back some more. Joey and I ended up in the area known as the Garden of Eden and we waited there for the rest of the group. This area features some dried up rimstone dams and a small pool of water known as Madonna's Pool. It has some nice decorations as well, and what appeared to be bivalve fossils in the ceiling. Someone had also crafted a miniature Stonehenge out of mud and left in on a shelf here.

After we met up with the rest of the group, a failed attempt at rocking an abandoned pack was discovered. We also played around for a bit with the strangest discovery of the day. Someone had left a stuffed marionette cat in the cave, wrapped in a baby blanket. This prompted stories about the "ghost baby" the rest of the trip, and we left the marionette hanging by the register on the way out to intrigue the next group of cavers.

By the time we were headed out, I was just about bushed. I had to stop and rest several times, but finally climbing out of that sink hole was awesome. This time is wasn't my legs that were so tired and sore, it was my shoulders and arms. I guess all the walking for the last few weeks paid off, so now I need to do some more push-ups.

This was supposed to be a clean-up trip, and all 12 of us had garbage bags, but only 4 bags ended up being hauled out. There was also very little visible graffiti, so someone has apparently been doing a lot of work on the cave lately. It was definitely worth the trip, and I'll definitely be going back at some point to see the parts I missed on this trip.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Defatassification Update #1

In what's sure to bring a tear to the eyes of Jefferson and Wilfred, I "brokeback" under 300 pounds today. Today's D.B.A.N. was 298.7, for a total of 16 pounds lost in the last 10 days. With the exception of a family reunion incident last Saturday, I've been very good about keeping my portion size down, along with keeping the carb count low.

I've also been doing a lot of walking. So far in June I've gone over 10k steps on 7 different days, including every day this week. I should be able to bring that up to at least twenty 10k+ days in July. Yesterday after work I hit the Stones River Greenway for 3 miles, since Marissa and the kids weren't at home. The dam trailhead is on the way home from work, so it's not too hard to stop and even do 20 minutes worth and it's not nearly as boring as walking through the neighborhood. There's also a nice little blackberry patch that has been ripening this week, so I treat myself to a few of those on the way in and out.

One of the key things that helps me make sure I get at least 10k steps in a day is to get as many as I can before I get home every day. If I still need six thousand steps at night, it's harder to motivate myself to get out and hit the sidewalk than it is if I only need four thousand. Getting about two thousand steps at lunch is a good way to make sure I get home with at least 5k. It's been getting hot and humid at lunch time lately, so yesterday I drove two miles and walked all around the K-Mart for about 20 minutes. I would drive to Opry Mills, but that's about a 10 mile round trip and there's no need to waste that much gas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vacation Wrapup

We got back late Monday afternoon from our trip to Florida. I'm not going to try to write it all up in a coherent story, since I'm on Day 2 of Low Carbs and my brain is not working so well right now. I'm just going to throw it all out there in a series of musings in what is hopefully approximate chronological order.

1. Atlanta is hot.
2. Atlanta traffic still sucks. I-85 at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and it's still wall to wall cars.
3. The Westin hotel in downtown Atlanta is still missing a lot of windows from the tornado back in March. It's sort of creepy to see that. I didn't see any other signs of tornado damage on the way through.
4. Buckhead has some really large buildings now that weren't there the last time I was in the area.
5. Atlanta had the most expensive gasoline I saw on the trip. The highest was $4.09, but fortunately I didn't have to pay that. The most I paid was $3.98 at the Florida/Alabama state line, so I still haven't had to buy gas for over four bucks yet in my life. I'm sure that's only a matter of time, however.
6. I played Wii for the first time at my friend Dave's house. It's pretty cool. We're going to consider getting one for Christmas. Wii Bowling and Mario Kart were both a lot of fun.
7. I had intended to do a lot of walking on the beach that week, but I ended up mostly sitting on the deck drinking beer with Uncle Gene.
8. My Uncle Johnny and his nephew caught a 7 foot Hammerhead shark while we were there off the pier. Pretty impressive looking. They cooked it up the next day and it wasn't too bad. I'd probably still rather just look at them swimming though.
9. I finished two books out of the four I took with me.
10. I failed to find good fried oysters in my two attempts. They tasted ok, but they were smaller than the tip of my thumb. I tried a few raw oysters that were much better.
11. Dobb's BBQ in Dothan was just terrible. I paid 12 bucks for a platter and it had two small scoops of pork and beef BBQ, along with 3 tiny ribs that had gristle all over them. Marissa got a BBQ sandwich that only cost 3.99 and it had almost as much meat on it. The only thing worth recommending was the hot sauce, but it's not worth going back for.
12. We spent a few hours at Gulf World in Panama City Beach on the day we drove back. It was pretty cool, but at 25 bucks a person I don't think it was quite worth it. The dolphins were the best part, and this was actually the first time I'd ever been to a dolphin show. I guess they need that much per person to pay for keeping them. I can see going there every few trips, but it's not a "can't miss" type place.
13. Panama City Beach has totally let itself get too big by the way. There are condo buildings there that are larger than almost any building you can find in Nashville or Birmingham. I can't imagine wanting to go to the beach and being surrounded by that many people. Mexico Beach, on the other hand, was practically deserted. There were about 15 to 20 families on the stretch of beach we were on, and even the pier was rarely crowded.
14. The Birmingham Zoo is a lot nicer than I remembered it being. We spent about 5 hours there this past Sunday with the whole Hatcher family. They have a better animal variety than the Nashville Zoo, plus they still have the train, which Jack of course loved.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Another 10k Day

I did another 10,000 steps yesterday to make it two days in a row. I actually did a little over 10.7k steps. It nearly wiped me out though. I went out last night about 9:30 still needing to do about 3500 more steps. I wobbled back into the house about 45 minutes later, walking past Marissa who was sitting on the couch.

"I think I may have overdone it," I told her as I headed to the kitchen to take some Aleve. I laid down a few minutes later and I was out like a light for the rest of the night. Fortunately I got to sleep a little later since Victoria is out of school for the summer. I feel pretty good today, although my legs are still a little sore.

I made myself walk at lunch today, even though it's way too hot. It's just so much easier to hit 10k in a day if you make it home from work and don't still have to do like 7,000 steps that night. Plus there's a nice hill at work which is much better for getting the heart rate up and getting me ready for more caving and hiking. I have a goal in mind of doing the Ranger Falls hike again this fall over in the Savage Gulf area. It's been almost 7 years since Kevin and I made that death hike out of that valley and I've got an itch to see it again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

10k Again

For the first time in a while, I finally put 10k+ steps on the pedometer yesterday. It took me about two weeks to work up to it again. I'm not currently dieting, since there's no point in starting one just before I go on vacation for a week, but I'm planning on keeping the walking up while I'm down on the beach. The diet will wait until after I get back.

Of course I waited until it got hot outside to start all of this. It was still 81 degrees last night when I started my long nightly walk, but at least there was a decent breeze. It looks like it's going to be cooler next week at the beach than it is here in Nashville.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hatch Haiku

Vacation Comes Soon
I Strive to Exit Early
Employment Pesters

Sandy Beach Awaits:
Siren Calls of the Gas Pump
Quicken My Cash Loss

The Son Waits to Go
The Sand and Water Await
Imprints of His Toes

Future Castles Rise
In the Surf of Youthful Dreams
Where We Will Build Them