bplist00__WebMainResource_ _WebResourceTextEncodingName_WebResourceData^WebResourceURL_WebResourceMIMETypeUUTF-8O?_Near Normal Grotto

September 2001 NearNormal News



Jim Jacobs

    Hi, gang!  Well, I hope that you are ALL busilywriting up your caving bios to send to Troy Simpson!  It’s time we all gotsort of a running start at the special issue of the NNN, which will come out inNovember.  We will be, after all, ten years old!  That’s prettyamazing, isn’t it?  Troy has graciously volunteered to help to coordinatethe activities related to our anniversary.  I’ll be checking with Troy tomake sure we get bios from everyone.  Be warned!  If you forget, Imay just have to “ghost-write” your bio for you.  Let’s see…(rubs hischin)…”after Kevin R. escaped from the circus, he had to hide in a cave for awhile to avoid capture, and he got to like it…” Yeah!  That’s theticket!  Uh, well, maybe you ought to write your own…just to get SOME ofthe facts straight.  Please also get some good photos to Brian for thatissue.  We’d really like to go all out.  Possibly have a color frontcover.

    Those who weren’t able to attend the picnic on August 17missed some good food and good times!  We even discovered and mapped acave!  (See Troy’s article, this issue).  It’s a good thing that welike Kentucky Fried Chicken.  There was a log of the Colonel’s favoriterecipe on hand.  But there was also plenty of variety, and no one wentaway hungry.  It’s a dead certainty that the picnic has become an annualevent for the NNG.

    Speaking of Troy, (and aren’t we all) he has also favoredus with a fine article on his trip to River Cave, in Cave RiverValley.   He and his rubber raft had a grand time!   

    Thanks again to Marc Tiritilli for coordinating oursecond vertical practice of the summer at the ISU rappelling tower.  Ididn’t take any videos this time (to the relief of all), but there may be somestill pictures available.  I didn’t really take the threats seriously, Ijust forgot to bring it.  Honest! (???) 

    It never ceases to amaze me when I’m reminded of thelevel of knowledge and expertise that exists in this group.  Watching theactivities at one of our vertical practices really brings it home.  We’vegot a great bunch!  And now that we have access to the tower as a group,we’ll be able to do this much more often.

    Kevin Rasmus is still discussing a trip to Sullivan’sCave in October.  I hope the trip comes together.  I’m really lookingforward to it, since I’ve never been there. But luckily, I have read RalphSawyer’s article (this issue).  (Smooth segue, eh?)

    Ever wonder what would happen if there were a largechemical spill around Mammoth Cave?  It looks as though we’re going tofind out.  According to the Bowling Green Daily News, a truck haulingnearly 3,800 gallons of diesel fuel went off the road (I-65) near Mammoth CaveNational Park, and the fuel “disappeared down a crack”.  It will likelyshow up in Green River, if it hasn’t already done so by the time you read thisarticle.  You can keep up with the story by accessing (http://www.bgdailynews.com/

    In honor of the Indiana Karst Conservancy’s purchase ofBuddha Cave, we are reprinting from the September 1993 issue of the NNN, an article written by John R. Marquart detailingtrips he took to Buddha and two other Indiana Caves.

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Troy J. Simpson


Hi Everybody!!

    I have made myself available to assistin coordinating w/Jim, the special NNG 10th anniversary issue of the NearNormal News that will be published

in November.  First and foremost, any additionalideas to make this a great issue would be greatly appreciated.  Secondly,as a way to celebrate

the members that comprise this great grotto, we havedecided to include brief bios on who we are.  We are a group of diverseexperiences and to be

honest, wouldn't it be great to know that someone elsestarted as a "flashlight caver?"

    Tentatively we will be publishing anupdated history of the NNG, the bios, and some "classic" grottoarticles.  I will be coordinating the "Bios"

section, so send those responses to me.  If you havea suggestion for a question I may have left out, feel free to let me know(Don't be shy Steve!!).

    I would like to have as many aspossible and returned A.S.A.P.  The self imposed deadline is SEPTEMBER 14,2001.  That should give plenty of time

to put something together.  The questionnaire ispasted after my "signature."Thanks Again to All of YourContributions!!!


Troy J. Simpson

(the guy that likes to mix things up!!!)  o[;)

Near Normal Grotto Spotlight

"10 Questions for 10 Years"

For the 10th Anniversary Issue of the Near Normal News wewill be including a segment that features short "bios" of the membersof the NNG.  This is a chance to get to know who makes up the Near NormalGrotto.  Please take a moment to answer the following questions to beincluded in the November issue of the NNN. Thanks!!


   NNG Member Since:

2. Town of Residence:

3. Occupation (s):

4. What was your first cave?

5. What was your first "wild" cave trip like?

6. How did you get involved in caving?

7. What is your current caving headgear?

8. What is your favorite piece of caving gear?  Why?

9. What is one thing you'd like to do, caving wise, inthe upcoming year?

10. If you could be a cave critter, what would you be andwhy?

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Cave Trips to Buddha, Donnehue, and Donaldson Caves, Indiana

John R. Marquart

           The weekend of July 24-25 Jim and Marty Jacobs, John Marquart, Tim Shaffer, andKen (Tim's step-dad) explored several caves in Lawrence County, Indiana. We metat Spring Mill State Park, where we camped in luxury for the weekend (flushtoilets, hot showers, and excellent food supplied by Jim and Ken).

           Saturday, we explored Buddha Cave, a show-case quality cave. The friendlylandowners greeted us cordially and told us that it was fine for us to visitthe cave as long as we didn't hurt the cave or ourselves. A short walk acrosstheir cow pasture took us to a gaping entrance which was all but hidden by thissummer's abundant vegetation. A shallow stream flowed into the large entranceroom and soon disappeared into the floor. From inside the entrance made abeautiful backdrop with sunlight streaming in through the greenery. The roomended abruptly at the sinking stream, but by making a slippery climb to theceiling along a narrow ledge to the left we entered a dry (for now) upper levelpassage. The passage meandered for a few hundred feet of mixed duckwalking, crawling,and upright walking to a crevice drop of 30 feet into the lower stream passagethat had sunk into the floor of the entrance room. A second stream entered thefissure wall ten feet below us and dropped noisily to the floor as a 20 footwaterfall.

           I rigged a 30-foot cable ladder and a rope on some handy stalagmites and weeach proceeded to rappel to the bottom. Immediately, we were greeted bypristine formations which were very shiny wet with abundant water. Even thisclose to the entrance, there was not a sign of human disturbance in sharpcontrast to so many Indiana caves. Upstream the ceiling lowered to a bathtubcrawl. Under the low roof we see that in about 30 feet it may have opened upsomewhat. Our goal was, however, to follow downstream where the cave continuesas a major solution passage. I was already struck by the surprise that thewater level was at the lowest that I had ever seen since I first visited Buddhain 1988. This year my son, Bob, and I visited Buddha twice to check it out fora potential NNG trip. In January we found that the waterfall was a thunderingtorrent and the lower passage was full of water well over our heads. Wecanceled plans to do the drop. In June the situation was more favorable and wedid explore the lower passage and get in some picture taking. See the photos ofBob at the entrance and in the lower passages. There was still much more waterthen than we now found. The upstream bathtub was a total sump. Buddha is veryfickle when it comes to its water level. Large logs frequently drift into theupper level, 30 feet above the normal stream. It clearly floods to its ceiling!This accounts for the extreme cleanliness of the formations in this show-casecave. Anyone planning a trip is cautioned to be careful! It floods quickly andalso drains quickly through a resurgence from Christian Cave into the WhiteRiver. Low water in Indiana, while much of Illinois and Missouri are at floodstage, emphasized an extreme contrast. Apparently, Indiana had escaped the floodingrains and was even on the verge of drought. Great caving was in store!

           With all of us at the bottom of the fissure, we heard voices above us in theupper level. I started a cautious dialogue with them and ask them to leave ourrope and ladder alone. They seemed to be good cavers, who came to check out thecave with no intention of doing the drop and said, "No problem. Don'tworry." I was sure hoping so, since it would be something else to try afree climb out of here.

           Downstream we scaled six foot of rimstone dams right under the gently falling20 foot waterfall. The cave continued as beautiful walking passage with anoccasional duckwalk, thrown in for good measure. The formations are exquisite.Glossy wet, fluted columns rise for 20 or more feet in shimmering white and anarray of light to dark browns. The flow stone coated walls are equallyspectacular in multicolors with some even colored jet black. Roughly 1000 feetmore took us to a low wet stoop/crawl. A month ago Bob and I halted here as weencountered a near sump, but it was now very easily passable with only modestwetness. The cave went on for what has been mapped as over half a mile ofspectacularly decorated passage. Finally, we reached a point beyond which anymore progress would have required a very wet, low crawl that would probablyultimately sump out. We turned back to again enjoy the beauty and to prepare todo the climb out, which was to be a new experience in climbing for Marty, Tim,and Ken.

           Back at the fissure to the upper section, Jim rigged Marty with his frog-systemand intended to follow up beside her on the cable ladder self-belaying himselfon the climb rope. After a short while, Jim decided to go on up to the top anddirect Marty from there. He left the ladder with the exclamation, "Offladder - Thank God". Free hanging cable ladders are like bucking broncos.Definitely, don't climb without a belay of some kind! Marty made the climbfrog-style and then faced the worse of it all, the crack and lip at the top.She learned the misery of terminating such climbs. Next up was Tim on one of myMitchell systems. At the top, Jim helped him find a way over the lip. The cableladder supplied a nice assist with a place to put his feet to get weight off therope. Then it was Ken's turn. Finally, I got to climb out, a bit hypothermic,from inactivity at the bottom.

           At the entrance room, the climb down the narrow, muddy ledge proved more riskythan the climb up had been and we used a double rope handline for some extrasecurity. We exited into the cow pasture at sunset to end an excellent sixhours of caving. We traveled back to Spring Mill to feast on Jim's deliciouswok dinner. End of a perfect day!

           Sunday, the culvert entrance to Donnehue Cave gave us a conveniently short andeasy trip and which was new to all of us except for myself. We parked andwalked the short distance down a concrete drainage to the steel pipe leadinginto the cave. The solution passage is mostly walking or duckwalk and, likemost solution passages, is sparse in formations. At a junction in the cave asmall hole near the ceiling leads to the decorated upper passage. Here we met agroup from Purdue who where planning to complete a loop-trip through the upperpassage which led back to the culvert entrance. They had tried it before, buthad an injury on the way and retreated out their way in. Before we ascended tothe upper section, the advantage of low water was again apparent. On earliertrips the stream had disappeared here under a wall as a sump, but it was nowpassable to go under the ledge. Jim, Tim, and Ken followed it for a ways andreported that it opened up into upper rooms. This needs checking out on futuretrips. We wished the Purdue group good luck when they separated from us into afissure in the upper level as we proceeded on to "Main Street", thedecorated part of Donnehue Cave. When "Main Street" got low and muddywe headed back out to the culvert to end a short three hour trip.

           Back at Spring Mill, our feast this time was on Ken's tasty chili. Afterbreaking camp, we decided to get a quickie look at some of Spring Mill's caves.First, we drove to Twin Caves, where the stream has a resurgence from one cliffwith a gaping entrance and disappears into an opposite cliff. The park hasdammed the stream and runs boats for tourist trips into the upstreamsection.  Next we went to Donaldson Cave with its perfect postcardentrance. A major stream made its resurgence at the end of a deep box canyonwith beautiful limestone and sandstone cliffs and nearly tropical vegetation("tropical" by Illinois standards). I highly recommend the short hiketo it. Donaldson consists of one large room and is the only cave open to thepublic. The stream from Twin Caves drops over a waterfall inside Donaldson Cavebefore exiting into the canyon.

           Our last venture at Spring Mill State Park was to check with the Park Serviceto see how we could get permits for future grotto trips into their caves: Twin,Bronson, and Hamer. The park rangers gave us application forms and told us thatwith proper application and a months lead time, we could get into Twin Cavesand Bronson Cave. However, Hamer Cave, is permanently closed to protect itsformations. Damn! I have been in Twin and Bronson years ago, but not Hamer. Itsounds like that's the best one! Anyway, they are all worth a cave trip and ourexperience at camping at Spring Mill State Park was most enjoyable. Goodweekend, good caving, good companionship.

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Topography may prolong dieselcleanup effort

Robyn L. Minor

Bowling Green Daily News (http://www.bgdailynews.com/)

   The region’s karst topography likely willhamper or at least prolong efforts to clean up a diesel spill that closed downInterstate 65 on Thursday.

   Nearly 3,800 gallons of diesel could seepinto Mill Hole Spring today – a spring on property near Mammoth Cave NationalPark. That spring feeds into the park’s Turnhole Spring and eventually intoGreen River.

   “This is a prime example of how seeminglyunrelated events on the surface can damage the frail cave ecosystem,” parkSuperintendent Ron Switzer said. “As our area becomes more industrialized, thepotential for environmental accidents increases.”

   Switzer was the author of a lengthy letterearlier this year to organizers of the Kentucky TriModal Transpark, urging themto use caution in planning for the 4,000-acre site park near Oakland. Thetranspark would be serviced by road, rail and eventually air transportation.

   The spill Thursday was not in the transparksite. It was just south of Park City, about six miles from Oakland.

   Police reports don’t indicate why driverDavid Hammond of Franklin veered off the road, causing the tanker to overturn.The tank spilled diesel that “immediately disappeared into a crevice and wentunderground,” according to Jim Carroll of MCNP.

   Cleanup crews put absorbent materials on topof the Mill Hole Spring where the diesel is expected to arrive sometime today –earlier rather than later if it rains, Carroll said.

   Carroll said there is no question that someof the cave’s more delicate species, such as the endangered shrimp, will beharmed by the spill.

   “It could be really devastating on them.Diesel grabs onto everything it comes in contact with, so even if they are ableto capture a lot of it, there is some that will be washed out with each rain,”he said.

   It also is likely a small amount of the fuelcould make it into the Green River just above Brownsville’s water intake point.

   But because diesel floats on top and thewater intake is well under the surface, it probably can be captured on thesurface, he said.

   Diesel fuel in the Green River could affectsport fishing and endangered mussels there, Carroll said.

   “The cleanup may take a while because of thetopography there,” said Mark York, a spokesman for the Natural Resources andEnvironment Protection Cabinet. “It is more of a long-term type situation asopposed to a spill that may have occurred along the interstate in another partof the state that does not have karst topography.”

   For now, the trucking company out of ChapelHill, N.C., has hired two consulting firms to handle the cleanup – the cost ofwhich is yet to be determined and primarily will be borne by the truckingcompany, York said.

   “It is too early to tell if there will beany fines levied in the incident,” he said.

    “Right now, our primary concern is toget the situation” controlled.

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July 13, 2001

Called to order by Vice President John Schirle.  Present: Steve Taylor,Kevin Rasmus, Nathan Clark, Val Adam and Andy, Jim Jacobs.

OFFICER REPORTS: Minutes of previous meeting approved as published in theNEWS.  Treasurer’s report delivered by Jim Jacobs.  Treasurer DaveCarson and Angie were off having a baby (flimsy excuse!)  Congrats,kids!  Both the treasurer’s report and the baby were approved by thegroup!

OLD BUSINESS: The picnic will be August 17th.  We’ll eat at7:00, but you may arrive as early at you want, since Jim will be there topreserve “squatter’s rights” on a pavilion and tables.  Bring a main dish,and/or a side, picnic “plastic ware”.  Jim will bring Pepsi

NEW BUSINESS: The Indiana Karst Conservancy has purchased Buddha Cave insouthern Indiana.  Donations are being solicited.  This is good news,as anyone who has been to Buddha will attest.  It may be the mostbeautifully decorated cave I’ve ever visited.  It remains remarkableclean, due in part to the fact that it floods to the ceilingoccasionally.  It’s probably a good idea to stay away during the springmelt, but a visit during dry weather is memorable.  We visited it the yearthat the midwest had such heavy floods.  Strangely enough, southernIndiana was dry as a bone, and we were able to penetrate deeper into the cavethan any time we had been there.  You may check the IKC website fordetails on making donations.


-         Indiana Cave Capers, August10-12, sponsored by the Central Indiana Grotto

-         NSS Convention, July 23-27

-         The vertical practice will be Saturday, August 25th. Marc Tiritilli will coordinate.

-         The newest Speleodigest contains reprints of five NNNarticles.  Way to go, gang!

-         Steve Taylor did somepriliminary scouting for his grant project on fire ants living near caveentrances.

-         Kevin Rasmus took a group of Boy Scouts to Illinois Caverns, andvisited Sullivan’s cave with some friends. 

-         John Schirle did IllinoisCaverns four times in his capacity as church youth leader.

Adjourned – Pizza at Tobin’s


Respectfully submitted,

Jim Jacobs, Secretary

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August 10, 2001

    Called to order at 7:25 pm by Secretary Jim Jacobs

Present: Val Adam, Jim Jacobs, Bill Morrow, Tim Sickbert, Troy J. Simpson,Andy Skattebo, Phil Von DeBur.  It was noted that several NNG er's wereattending the Mammoth Cave Restoration Camp this week.

    Introductions were made as new faces were welcomed to themeeting.  Jim Jacobs read the minutes from the July meeting. Approved.  Jim reported that there was no change in the treasury reportand the balance remains the same as the July meeting. 


·       The 2nd Annual Grotto Picnic is to take place onFriday August 17, 2001 at Forest Park in Bloomington, IL.  Festivitieswill begin at 6:00 pm with dinner at 7:00pm.  Bring a dish to pass anddinnerware.  For directions contact Jim Jacobs.

·       Vertical Practice is scheduled for Saturday, August 25 at the ISURappelling Tower.  Contact Marc Tiritilli for more information.

·       NNG 10th Anniversarycelebration (see New Business)

·       Reminder that IKC has purchasedBuddha Cave and is seeking donations to offset the cost.


·       The Near Normal Grotto turns 10 !!!  Troy J. Simpson leddiscussion on possible ideas for celebrating this big event.  There willbe a special commemorative issue of the Near Normal News at the end of theyear.  This issue will celebrate the history of the grotto, have shortbios of members, possibly reprints of "classic" grotto articles,etc…  Jim noted that it should be reasonable to have color photos and TimSickbert suggested that having a color front and back page would really helpthe NEWS stand out.  Troy has volunteered to help coordinate thecollecting of articles and submissions.  He will also be sending out abrief "Bio" questionaire to all members to fill out for theissue.  ALL NNG er's are encouraged to be a part of this historicevent!!

·       There is a trip planned for Illinois Caverns the day after theGrotto picnic.  John Schirle is organizing the logistics.  ContactJohn for more details.


Troy shared his little 24-hour escape trip to Cave River Valley the daybefore the meeting.  He and friends from Watseka, squeezed in four cavesduring their little adventure.  They started at Donaldson Cave at SpringMill S.P., then proceeded to CRV to explore River Cave, with detours intoEndless and Bear Den.  Phil Von DeBur also shared his last cave experiencethis past April.  Tim Sickbert, not to be outdone, shared that it had been3 years since his last trip underground!!  We all look forward to hearingthe reports from the Mammoth cavers!!!


·       Cave Capers in Mitchell, IN August10-12

·       Grotto Picnic, August 17, 6:00 pm,Dinner at 7:00pm

·       Grotto trip to Illinois Caverns, August 18.  Contact JohnSchirle for more information.

·       Vertical Practice, August 25 atthe ISU Rappelling Tower. Contact Marc Tiritilli for more information.

Val Adam expressed her desire to eat and moved for meetingadjournment.  Meeting adjourned at 8:39 pm and Tobin's Pizza was enjoyedby all!

Respectfully Submitted by:

Troy J. Simpson

Administrative Assistant Trainee

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a.k.a. "PicnicCaverns"

Troy J. Simpson

Once again the annual Near Normal Grotto picnic is markedby historic events, which will live long in Grotto lore.  This time lastyear I was unable to reach the picnic due to the shredding of the"Geology-Mobile's" fan belt outside of the Melvin, IL.  I laterlearn that those who were present enjoyed the thrills of tornado andthunderstorm warnings.  I anticipated with excitement what adventure mightlie before me this time.  After an enjoyable potluck dinner, Steve Taylornoticed a slight depression near picnic shelter where our festivities weretaking place.  Grotto members quickly went over to see what the commotionwas, as Steve shouted,” I’ve found a small blowing hole and it appears togo!"

    "Alas!!" I though,"perhaps a cave in Central Illinois!!"  Steve pointed out asmall opening in the sedimentary substrate.  Noting that we were on publicgrounds, eagerly, we quickly rounded up lights, compass, and notebooks torecord and chart this undiscovered country.

    Steve Taylor was designated as chiefsurveyor, I would assist in surveying and recording, and Grotto members took onthe task of describing the features of the cave. 

    The entrance was surrounded by ahomogeneous matrix, which appeared to be highly ferrous in nature. Emblazoned on the surface of the material was what we believed to be the nameof an earlier visitor to the cave, "Quimby" and the date "Apr.1895."  Beyond the entrance the cave was vertical in nature droppingto a depth of 4 feet.  It was noted that vertical gear would not benecessarily needed and that a previous visitor's ladder might suffice forexploration.  The cave walls were made up of a highly consolidatedlimestone conglomerate matrix with no fossils present.  Surprisingly, nograffiti was present on the passage walls.  The cave floor consisted oforganic and sedimentary fill, estimated to be several inches inthickness.  The fill also appeared to be highly bioturbated and result ofa high-energy environment.

    Steve suggested that I journey intothe cave to conduct further, more detailed collections.  A scent of “badair” was detected and it was decided it was best to do all further surveys anddata collection from the entrance of the cave, much to the displeasure ofgrotto members.

    An intermittent stream channel wasnoticed traversing the cave passage.  The stream channel trended southwestto northeast and is highly joint-controlled.  The stream channel emergedfrom an 8-inch diameter passage into the main passage and then continued downinto another 8-inch passage.  The channel was currently dry, but due tothe presence of flood debris it is believed that the main passage frequentlyfloods during inclement weather conditions.

    There was great abundance of flora andfauna present.  The sedimentary fill contained what appeared to be astrange fibrous material that is presumably organic in nature.  Severalunidentified, white bulbous figures where also spotted amongst the sedimentaryfill.  Araenid spiders were found to be living near the entrance of thecave, preying on unsuspecting insects that ventured too close to thecave.  Psychodide flies were also identified living and feeding on organicmaterial that had been dropped on the sedimentary fill.  Themicro-ecosystem appears to rely on outside intervention to maintain the balanceof the food hierarchy.

    Without further exploration, it willbe difficult to track the impact of this new discovery and how environmentalfactors will influence the development of the system.  No future planshave been set to continue study of this cave.  Until the “bad air” dilemmahas been solved, it has been decided to hold off on further study.

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A Journey IntoRiver Cave

Troy J. Simpson

   The school year was soon upon me and I realized that the summerwent by with nary a cave ventured into.  This is a not a good thingconsidering a good number of my fellow grottomates were down in cave heavenknown as Mammoth Restoration Camp and I really didn’t want to show up to theFriday grotto meeting without some good yarn to spin.  I decided that Iwas going to Indiana for a little caving on Thursday.  Be aware that I’mmaking this decision on Wednesday night and yes, it is a good 3 and half hoursto the nearest cave.  After making a few phone calls, I finally found ataker for my little fix.  In less than twelve hours we would be on ourway.

   Thursday morning arrived not soon enough.  I went to pickup Amy and we made our way to Spring Mill State Park.  This would be Amy’sfirst caving trip and she was excited to finally experience a cave in the“wild.”  After eating lunch outside of the Pioneer Village in Spring Mill,we donned helmets and lights and hiked down to Donaldson Cave for a quickorientation of safe caving and a sharp contrast of environments that we’d seelater on.  Amy soon learned what safe caving is not.  The cave had literallydozens of explorers who had nothing more than a flashlight with them. This didn’t disturb me as much as seeing people with cans of beer casuallywalking around the passages.  We even noticed one group of five peoplewandering through the largest room without any lights at all.  Granted,this is a heavily traveled cave and the risk of serious injury is small, butthis was a very graphic example of the “nots” that can be avoided.

    After this enlightening experience, we were off to CaveRiver Valley and the ultimate decision of what cave to explore.  It didn’ttake long for us to decide.  It is a rare opportunity to explore a cave byboat, so we unpacked the raft and headed up to River Cave.

    The Clifty Creek flows out of River Cave’s scenicentrance and down the valley below.  There is a man-made dam, whichcreates a small pool outside the entrance, ten feet above the creek bed. We positioned the raft in this pool, climbed in, and began our negotiating thestream passage.  The entrance is approximately 8 feet wide by 6 feet highfrom the surface of the stream.  It is known that the water depth here caneasily reach over ten feet.  As we navigate the linear passage andtransition into the darkness, the stream takes a ninety degree left-hand turn. Ahead of us is the former boat dock used during the cave's former commercialdays.  We decide to paddle on.

    The last time I visited River Cave, I was privileged tosee blind cavefish swimming around the passage walls.  Amy took ourwaterproof lantern and shined it in the stream in hopes we would spot theelusive critters.  As we made our way through the first set of rapids, wespot our first critters, a pair of blind crawdads patiently guarding a niche inthe wall.  The raft hits bottom and we make our first of twoportages.  Here are a series of "potholes" that were created bythe swirling of stone filled rushing waters and scouring the nearly perfectlyround cavities.  We finally reach the end of the boating section and aftera short break we begin our walking exploration.

    One of the unique things about River Cave is the lack ofhuman presence.  The rafting section makes it difficult for the casualperson to "walk in" to the cave.  The advantage of this was fewgraffiti marks and absolutely no trash!  As Amy and I walked, weencountered alternating sections of breakdown and stream cut boreholes. There were numerous side passages that broke off along natural joints.  Ihesitated at first to explore these passages.  That is, until Amy decidedthat she wanted to check out where these unknown arteries went.  I nolonger had a "rookie" with me, but a full-fledged caver!

    We were soon upon one of the true natural wonders ofRiver Cave.  Before us was perhaps the longest and straightest passagesurveyed in the United States.  According to survey maps, this passage isover 600 feet in length.  Not even the halogen lamp on Amy's helmetreached the end of this tunnel.  We walked what seemed like forever untilthe passage began to break off its linear course.  A series of duck-walksand we reached a series of ceiling slots.  Here were a number ofsignatures dating to the 1930's and earlier.  We ducked down and noticedthe passage got considerably wetter.  We looked at each other and had thesame thought in mind.  "Let's save that for another time."

    Our return trip proved to be somewhat uneventful. We were occasionally blessed by bat "fly-byes" and continued to seenumerous blind crawdads in the pools of the intermittent stream.  Wereached the boat and headed for the exit, with one detour in mind.  On theway out, we roped up to the old boat dock and walked up into the drypassage.  The floor had been dug out to accommodate the commercialvisitors and the path led into a series of rooms containing elaborate flowstoneand stalagmite formations.  A rare treat that I had missed out on duringmy previous visit.  After a series of photos, it was time to leave thiswonderland.  As we approached the entrance, a thick haze obscured whatlied beyond the twilight.  We reach the entrance pond and the cave seemsto disappear in the mist.  Our little escape trip as ended and it is timeto endure the 4-hour drive back to the prairie paradise.


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Ralph Sawyer

  Youth and adults from Venture Crew 64 returned toSullivan Cave in July.  Our first visit to Sullivan was last January asBoy Scouts in Troop 64 of Metamora; this trip we are part of the BSA'sVenturing program, which includes male and female high school age youth asmembers.

  At the entrance we observed what I believe was aNorthern slimy salamander, then shortly thereafter a Cave salamander. Both were discovered by sharp-eyed Lisa Johnston.  For those who are interested, I make these identifications from  Field Guide to Amphibiansand Reptiles of Illinois, a beautifully photographed and informative book fromthe Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

  On our January journey into Sullivan Cave weexpended an hour finding The Backbreaker passage.  This time we were therein ten minutes.  How does one describe the Backbreaker?  If acrawlway forces you to crawl, should we call the Backbreaker a"bendway"?  A "stoopway"?  A"crouchway"?  Whatever you call it, it is about 1000 feetlong.  When we reached the end, some of us were drenched with sweat. I was afraid that I would become chilled very quickly when we slowed down orrested.  I have decided that for me a summer visit to Sullivan shouldbegin wearing a tee shirt, with a long sleeve shirt and sweater stashed in mypack for later.

  We gained the entrance passage to the MountainRoom very quickly, although we still had some minor confusion just beforeit.  I think we often fail to realize how our position -- crawling,stooping, or walking upright -- affects our rate of progress and therefore ourperception of distance traveled.  Crawling or crouching for 500 feetsimply feels like a much longer distance than the 500 feet of passage throughwhich we stroll upright.  Because of this misperception we arrived at atee junction much sooner than we thought we should, resulting in a wrong turnand an unplanned visit to The Merry Go Round section. After animated discussionwe deduced our location then proceeded to the Mountain Room.  We arrivedat the Mountain Room passage more quickly than we thought we should, but onceagain, this was through walking passage, not crawling.  We rested andsnacked in the Mountain Room.  I would guess an hour had elapsed since ourentry. On our last trip it had taken at least three hours of searching to findthis room.  Now I felt I had this cave figured out.  I took over thelead of the group at this point.  We dropped down through massive blocksof breakdown into the lower passages and began to follow the stream passage. My first action as leader was to take us north when we wanted to go south,bringing us right back up on the other side of the Mountain Room.  Honest,folks, I am a really good orienteer on the surface.  I attempted toexplain to the crew that this was part of the fun of caving, that this is thebest way to learn the cave -- to visit all the places you don't want to gofirst.  We tried again and this time we gained a stream passage. Lisa spotted several of a species of fish, which Caves of Indiana says is Miller's Thumb or Sculpin.  Weprogressed over breakdown and through ankle deep water to the SullivanRiver.  This is a very noisy, wide passage with a high ceiling. Those of us who had managed to keep their feet dry up to this point werefinally forced into the fifty-two degree water by steep banks of slickclay.  Here parts of the limestone streambed have been worn into smallintersecting potholes a few inches across and deep by the circular movement ofsmall pebbles of harder stone.  Lisa spotted surface-type crayfishresiding in several potholes.  We sloshed downstream, the water reachingknee depth.

  One of the interesting features of the cave is manmade.  Armstrong's Folly is a narrow horizontal crawlway, a neat rectanglein cross section, excavated through a thick layer of clay that is capped bylimestone.  Following an air current, Robert "Bugs" Armstrongexcavated the crawlway in the 1960's in an attempt to find more cave.  Onehas to journey to the excavation to realize the immensity of hisendeavor.  The 150' of passage must have been chopped or sliced out of thedense clay with a short handled spade or entrenching shovel from a kneelingposition.  Any excavated clay that could not be stuffed into  rackswould have had to be carted out of the crawlway.  The work would haveprogressed at a rate of inches per hour.  How many trips into the cave didArmstrong make to work on his obsession?  How many cartloads of excavatedclay did he shove ahead of him through the passage?  How many nights didhe lay awake before he finally decided to quit?  And how many nights didhe wonder What if I dig just five more feet?  Ten more feet?

  We continued our journey downstream a shortdistance, sloshing through the chilly water.  Very gradually the waterdeepened.  Some of us wondered aloud about turning back.  I was forgoing on -- at least for a few more minutes -- until it became obvious to methat within a few short steps, I would reach the depth at which most men losetheir resolve in cold water.  My boys were going to get wet.

  Our return journey to the surface proceededrapidly.  I was very comfortable as long as we were moving, but I began tofeel fatigue setting in.  I considered that the area of flesh exposed tocold water doubles when one goes from ankle deep to knee deep; it quadrupleswhen water reaches the tops of the thighs.  At this point of our journeyany accident, no matter how minor, would put every member of our party at riskfor hypothermia.

  After frequent short breaks, we exited the cavewithout incident.  We had toured about 5000 feet of the more than ninemiles of Sullivan cave.  I trudged slowly up the hill to the van.  Iwas out of breath and my legs felt rubbery.  Some day I want to visit themore recently discovered parts of Sullivan Cave, but I know this involvesgetting completely wet.  The thought that sections of the cave may bedenied to me because of my age and physical condition is both sobering andfrustrating.  I gotta go back.  I gotta see as much as I can.  Igotta be careful.


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