Category Archives: Limestone Caves

Typical cave systems are dissolved or eroded out of the rock by water.

Wet Boot Ballet

We got a trip to Little Brush in, and I have been very slow in getting it up. Life was busy, caving took precedence over writing initially, and then several variations of the plague rolled through our house in rapid succession. I think we’re all going to live, so this post finally gets updated. Thanks to the magic of back dating, most of you haven’t even noticed. I apologize for the lack of pictures, I honestly only took my camera out a few times, and most of those didn’t turn out.

When we showed up at the final turn off the paved road, there was one vehicle just off the road parked on a couple inches of packed snow. So we knew we were not going to be alone in the cave that day. We looked at the packed snow leading away down the road, and all the drivers decided they were game to give it a try and save some walking. We made it up to the closer parking area, and were surprised by a crowd of vehicles. It quickly became apparent we had stumbled into a family Christmas tree harvesting tradition. The tree family was friendly and chatted for a few minutes while we were loading up packs. They were well aware of the cave, but most of them said they had only been a short distance in and had no desire to go any further. They wished us well, and we headed into the cave.

Most of the group had never been in the cave before. I gave a couple quick pointers of what we would encounter early on, and then opted to bring up the rear of the group since I had seen the entrance series several times.  We had a short delay early on, as an under-prepared youth group came slowly back through some of the log jams on their way out, then we made our downstream uneventfully.

The entrance series had more log jams, and more crawling than I had remembered the prior season. There is still a slight redirect over toward the maze area compared to a couple years ago, but route finding was not particularly difficult down to the Window Room. The log jams were just as awkward as always, and caused more crawling than I like. Survivable, but irritating on the way back out. This trip we splashed our way through the Glowing Stream area, puttered around in the big rooms for a while, and bounced and splashed down a ways further. Jeremiah and I had rubber boots we were trying out, and after splashing through the pools we both decided they were worth every penny of the $13 we had invested in them. Below is a poorly lit video of Jeremiah not quite making the move he wanted to avoid sinking his boots one last time on the way out.

We found our way into the White Stream area, and were running up toward required bailout time. Some participants had to get back to the Wasatch front that night, which is a short 3-4 hour drive. We noticed some lights up ahead, and decided to at least see who else was that far along in their adventure. I was actually guessing there was a reasonable chance we would know them, because there are only so many crazy cavers in this part of the world. We found that they were “new to us” folks from a neighboring state, taking pictures on a practice run for later expedition level trips elsewhere. After exchanging some basic info, and exchanging pot shots about caving outfits and who was using carbide, we started the long grind back to the surface.

I had tested out some gear on this trip, which have their own short write ups that will be posted eventually also. The knee high rubber boots were awesome, my newish bag did great on a serious trip, and the elbow pads are my new single best recommendation for people after they get the basic necessities squared away.

2012 Pole Creek Sink

This is a very large, well known sinkhole. There is an active mine claim in the area as well, so don’t collect anything if you visit. At this point in a low runoff year, a small stream runs down the side of the sink and ultimately dissapears into the ground. The spring the water comes back out of is known, and quite a ways away. I just wish the top end wasn’t full of rocks and dirt, I would like to visit the rest of the system in the middle.

We poked around just a little, and found that there was still ice in the mine shaft. Someone is convinced there is a reason to mine here, but I’m not seeing a good reason. Oh well, some people think I have strange hobbies also.

2012 Walk right on in, if the water is low

Need a stand-up, easy walking cave? This is one that is good for all of that, with a minor issue. Most years, you have to wade through a deep cold puddle right at the entrance area to get to the main passage.  This year we lucked out with the low spring runoff, and were able to simply waltz right into the cave, no wading required. (Do not try to enter the cave too early in the spring, at high runoff the sump pool comes up higher and the water flows out of the cave entrance.)

This cave is a fascinating segment of trunk passage that we cruised up and down. The main upstream passage ends at a large sump, or area where the passage goes underwater. There has been much discussion of why and how this is the case, which is outside the scope of this trip report.

On the downstream end, you end up doing a little crawling to find another small sump. There are a few small side passages and crawls you can wiggle through, but they generally all reconnect or dead end in a muddy mess.

There is about 800-900 feet of accessible cave passage, and as long as you are careful not to slip on the mud, generally a fun place to visit. Make sure and check into the runoff conditions if possible, cold silty water pouring out of the cave would certainly shorten the fun. And in high runoff conditions, you can see that the cave fills to the roof with water.

2011 Last chance to get out of the house?

Late October in Utah, and the weather starts to heavily impact my inspiration to be out and about. The forecast for the weekend looked absolutely beautiful, and there was no way I could stay inside all weekend long, no matter how many projects were waiting.

I checked with a few of my regular troublemakers, and was absolutely striking out. Lee came to my rescue by being available on Saturday, and willing to just randomly wander around Logan Canyon for a while. I had a potential lead that snow had been keeping me from checking off completely in the past, so a destination was set. I shuffled my weekend projects and goals around a little, and a loosely concocted plan jumbled its way into existence.

Saturday morning was a slow start, even by my own low standards. I had been out to a show the night before with friends, and had warned Lee it would be best to make sure I was out of bed before he started driving to meet me. My eyes had been open at least two full minutes before I received a text message asking if I was up. I dragged myself into the shower, knowing I had an hour to work with.  After showering I very slowly strung together some basic hiking gear. For a trip intending to walk around and maybe take pictures, this should take 5 minutes or less. After 15-20 minutes, I decided I may not be as awake and energetic as I would like to be. Luckily Lee had his own delays getting to the house, and since we didn’t have much of an itinerary, I puttered along until I had everything loaded up and ready.

On the drive from Salt Lake up to Logan, the wonders of modern technology might have intervened to save my life. Lee had a desire to try a breakfast sandwich from a fast food chain that was being advertised. His GPS not only gave us a location along our route, but also a phone number to confirm they were still serving said sandwiches at 10:30. (Like I said, slow start.) At the time I didn’t realize those sandwiches were the most real food I was going to eat for the next eight or nine hours. We anticipated actually walking for maybe 4 hours–eventually I will learn this is never going to be true.

By noon we had stopped and borrowed some forgotten orange items from relatives, covered the drive, and located our parking spot on the side of the road. (The opening day of the deer hunt seemed like a reasonable time to at least consider safety.) Lee wasn’t impressed by the overly steep start to get up along a ridge. I reassured him Steph had done this part of the journey before, and we weren’t in a big hurry. We slowly meandered up the hill, enjoying the perfect temperatures and beautiful fall day. There were still some pockets of spectacular colorful leaves on the trees, and we contemplated some of the various types of bedrock as we sat on outcrops for photo/breathing  opportunities.

Fall colors high in Logan Canyon

About the time we reached the high point of our planned trip, we made the mistake of looking at the cliffs above us. There were wet spots on the rock, and it seemed that someone should investigate this new development. Two summers of pattern searching have instilled a bad habit in me of making sure to check things while I’m close, so I don’t have to return if it isn’t warranted. Mostly this is a bad habit because sometimes I really don’t want to climb another couple hundred feet up the hill. But of course we went ahead and climbed up to investigate.

Along the way we discovered a small spring and several seeps being forced out of the hill by a non-porous bedrock layer. There were several small solution features, but nothing big enough to consider calling it a cave. We continued to check along the cliff band until an obvious stopping spot. Along the way we spotted some very obvious holes in the cliff areas we were headed to originally. Not only were the holes exciting and inspiring, more importantly they were all downhill from our current location!

Downhill turned out to be almost as exciting as working along the cliff band. It was steep terrain covered by leaves, and occasionally damp and muddy from seeps. We were both glad for gloves and hats partially protecting us as we zigged and zagged down the hillside. Along the way we stumbled across several more solution features, and found the dark spot I had seen a year or two prior that had started this whole event. It turned out to be a large fracture system with piled boulders that created a perfect shadowed entrance to a five foot long overhang. It was dissapointing it didn’t do more, but nice to finally take it off the list of back burner items to visit someday.

Original hope, up close

Further down a gully between the cliffs was another feature I had seen in April that I wanted to check out. It had looked like a small cave entrance with dirt and vegetation that could be dug out of the way. I headed to the left side wall to hit my lead, and Lee kept working the right side. I found my feature and was momentarily ecstatic. There were deposits of spar over an inch thick visible. Further investigation proved my “dirt” was actually solid bedrock. And the spar deposits seemed to originate from a hole smaller than my fist. Wonderful feature, but definitely not a cave I would be getting into.

Spar in a feature

About this time Lee was yelling something to me about whether I wanted to check out any of the holes near him.  I hadn’t looked back his way for a few minutes while I was checking on my hole. I asked him where they were, since there wasn’t anything obvious from my spot sitting by the spar. I stood up and took a couple steps back his way to get a different view through the trees, and it became apparent which holes he was asking about.

Black and "cavey" looking

Glorious black round hole! My crashing adrenaline rush from the spar moments before went through the roof. Four to six feet wide for certain. Absolutely looks like it is going directly into the bedrock. And I need to get some of the crazy people rounded up before I come back to try and visit it. I suppose I will consider having a lead that intersting looking a good problem to have.

At this point we had to decide our exit strategy for the day. As fun as it would be to keep checking the cliffs, we were going to run out of daylight soon. Back up over the ridge would require some time to get up the hill with reasonable rest breaks. Downhill to the river would take far fewer rest breaks. But down to the river could be an issue if we were trapped between the water and the cliffs. We knew we could wade the river this time of year, but the two of us have a long history of going out of our way to keep our feet dry. It would be a shame to have to wander down the road back to the vehicle in dripping jeans!

We decided to chance going downhill, and work along by the river. As we stumbled through the scree piles below the cliff, Lee was even dissapointed we were missing sections of the cliff that could be checked with more time. He’s not even the one who necessarily cares about finding caves, he was just along for the excuse to get out for the day! He had observed during the day that looking for something greatly reduces the number of miles you have to cover to fill a day, and there was some satisfaction in knowing you had seen everything there was to see in an area before moving along. We occasionally looked back over our shoulder as we worked our way along the river, and found we definitely had another excuse to putter around some when we came back for the high lead. The twilight made it tough to tell if the hole went back very far, but it certainly looks promising for now.

The hole can’t be seen very well from the road, but I think the ledge system below it is visible. So hopefully I can check it with binoculars and see if it can be traversed. If necessary to get there from above, the rappel would be even more exciting than the round high lead we found earlier. Maybe more exciting than I want to deal with myself.

We lucked out, and could get back over some low cliffs without getting our feet wet in the river. We had just enough daylight left to drive up the canyon and try to spot everywhere we had been during the day, and then enjoy the fall leaves on the way down the canyon. I was mulling over what we could call our discovery if it panned out into a nameable cave. “Get out of the house” cave seemed too long to be functional. Lee asked if “OutHouse Cave” was an available name. I haven’t heard of another one offhand, so that may end up sticking. We’ll have to prove it is a cave worthy of such an elaborate namesake first of course… :-)

2011 Jewel Cave, South Dakota

This was part of a larger driving vacation well outside of Utah, but the second longest known cave in the world is not to be passed up when it is conveniently along your route. Over 150 miles of documented passage have been mapped in Jewel Cave as of the time of this post. The fine folks mapping out the cave are still adding miles per year, and are primarily limited now simply because of the lack of easy access points to the far reaches of the cave. Mapping and exploration trips now often require several days of camping in the cave, simply because it takes most of a day to get out to the known edges to explore. (A great caving description of Jewel Cave from a few years ago by someone who is now a Utah based caver.)

Another fun fact is that this cave has been outfitted with the tallest elevator in South Dakota at 234 feet, which beats my normal access route into caves.  The ½ mile loop that we toured is hard to even find in the sprawling maps you look at on the wall in the visitor center. There is only one known natural entrance, and now an elevator entrance about a mile away. It is incredible to think that something this large has only been proven to connect to the surface in one place.

Having experienced the convenience, I now believe most caves should be outfitted with elevators, and aluminum walkways before I visit. It would greatly stimulate the economy with job creation, and make travel through the caves much easier and safer. I am fairly certain if more Utah caves had elevators and walkways, our local caves would become considerably larger as well.

Overall the tour was great. We had signed up for the “scenic tour” and lucked out by being before the main tourist season. Even on a Saturday only really had about 15 people in the whole tour group.  So we had a little time to look around and ask questions between major stopping points.  I resisted the urge to go look around corners, knowing that I could spend days wandering around and never see it all.

The items I found fascinating as a caver used to wild caves:

  1. The elevator — After spending many hours of my life climbing thousands of feet to get to cave entrances, I have long argued caves should come with a parking lot and elevator. The fact that they had decided to install these 30-40 years ago is incredible. Most of us that ridgewalk can only dream of finding a cave worthy of tours, let alone elevators.
  2. Aluminum walkways — The sheer amount of aluminum used to make the walkways, stairs, and railings along the tour route was breathtaking in places. When you start out in the target room, you are standing on a massive platform that will easily hold entire tour groups. Comparable to a good sized set of aluminum bleachers in area. As you look over the railings while listening to the initial spiel, you realize there are small stairways and pathways down in the darkness below you. And you proceed to take a tour along aluminum walkways and stairs that even left my wife commenting on how much time and effort it would have taken to build. Then you factor in the concrete…
  3. Formations — The walls are absolutely coated in spar. As you are walking, you eventually notice that the small broken chunks of rock they lined the concrete path with are actually chunks of spar encrusted bedrock. There isn’t anywhere I remember on the tour that you aren’t able to stop and look around and see some sort of formation.  Beautiful soda straws, stalactites and stalagmites are the other things you will see. Some boxwork can be seen on the tour, as well as some small rimstone dams, and even flowstone draperies.

Overall the cave is well worth visiting if you are in the area. Anyone with even a remote interest in caves would enjoy themselves. It is a spacious tour, with only a handful of places you need to duck and watch your head. Most of the time you are on pathways in large rooms and passageways. I hope to come back and spend some time on wild tours or other projects in the future. At the very least plan to bring your own little light with you and you will see many more of the hidden corners and details. And recognize how big the rooms are, most cameras don’t have enough of a flash to light up a room.

2011 Looking down into Onyx Canyon

I was talked into the this trip a few weeks earlier, and eventually psyched myself up for it. I know this sounds like a strange comment from someone who enjoys caving. Let me explain.
Little Brush is on my agenda of caves I want to visit several more times, and get to know better. It is currently the cave with the longest amount of mapped passageway in the state, so it can be seen many times and still have new areas to visit. It has one particular drawback though. It is not accessible during the warm summer months.
The cave entrance is in the bottom of a riverbed. During spring runoff there are large volumes of water that go into the cave, and it would be suicidal to venture very far in. During the summer there is less overall flow, but an unpredictability factor as well. The reservoir upstream occasionally releases water for irrigation down in the farmland below the mountain range. Since there are a few small and narrow areas to negotiate near the entrance, this could leave a bad case of being trapped in the cave waiting for water levels to drop. Or worse, being in the wrong place and swept downstream is an even worse case scenario.
So the generally accepted time range for visiting the cave is somewhere roughly from October through February. After the irrigation season, but before the spring runoff begins to pick up. Even in this range there are risks and spikes in waterflow, so paying attention to the weather and other factors is still a must.
Now that you have a little background of the cave, it may become more apparent some of the drawbacks to visiting. You are entering a cold, wet, high elevation cave in mid-winter. After spending several hours in the cave, you often come back out and trudge back to your vehicle through deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Many cavers have stories of brushes with hypothermia from these trips. So it takes a little mental effort to get excited about preparing and executing a trip.
This trip was originally planned as a visit to the deeper reaches of the cave. Unfortunately we had a few people that had to cancel a few days before the trip. But we had plenty of other folks to make up one big group, or two small groups if needed. So we converged on the cave from our various starting points and departure times. (I left home with my carpoolers somewhere around 6:30, which was nearly physically painful but a record departure time.) After we reached the parking area there were a few short introductions between the couple combining groups who hadn’t met before. Then we began our hike through the snow to reach the cave entrance. Everyone made it down the steep entrance ravine fairly uneventfully, previous visitors had packed a reasonable base trail under the couple inches of fresher snow.
Once under the overhang of the massive cave entrance, everyone finished getting gear and lights on.  I made one last brief foray out to take care of nature’s call, and discovered how useful the packed trail had been. After floundering through waist deep snow for a few minutes, I made my way back to the bare stream bottom in the cave in time to bring up the rear of the group headed downstream.
Being in a river bottom, this cave collects debris of various kinds. The most noticeable is the large tree logs that have washed in. They are expected early in the cave, but can actually be found deep inside the cave as well. It is hard to fathom how 30′ logs manage to get that deep, as you twist and contort in places to get a shorter human frame to fit. the power of water is amazing!  We also encounter various signs of human debris. Large railroad ties, tires, metal culvert pipe sections, chain link fencing, and others make up the large items. Smaller debris includes beer cans, food wrappers, empty plastic water bottles, even occasionally batteries and worn out glowsticks.  Most of the human debris has washed in with the river currents in the spring, but it is apparent visitors have left items behind inside the cave directly as well.
As you descend from the entrance the volume of the cave rapidly decreases from being large enough to hold my house, to small enough I need to duck and work around between the logs. Eventually sections are reached where the stream gravel rises toward the roof level, and crawling commences. There are long sections where crawling is interspersed randomly with higher ceilings and easier walking. And then the puddles start.

Conveniently placed logs

In late winter the main passageway into the cave is dry, due to the water upstream being frozen as snow. But there are some deeper pools in the bedrock that hold water year round, and the circulating winter air blowing over them keeps it chilled to freezing temperatures. In deep winter they can be frozen solid, but in March they have started to thaw. The last few years these initial pools have begun at the Window Room, and continue down to the Corner Pool, which are some recognizable landmarks.

Corner Pool

We monkeyed our way around the pools, staying reasonably dry. The new visitors received the grand tour and explanations of how the cave system worked as we went. And then after a while we found ourselves in a flat out belly crawl. We worked our way down single file for a ways, and had last larger area to congregate in while a couple people tried to continue. After twenty minutes of them scrabbling around and moving rocks and dirt, they reported back our route was plugged beyond what we were going to dig out that day. We were disappointed, since we had planned on going deep into the cave that day. (Afterward we discovered that we had someone missed a key turnoff a few hundred feet earlier, and weren’t in the passage we thought we were going to go through. Caves can be confusing, even when you know what to look for.)

Sam squeezing through

We decided to head back a short distance to the Onyx Passage turnoff. Only Dave had been down it before, and it had been several years. So we proceed on our new journey. What we hadn’t realized was how much crawling there would be in this journey from that point on.  The Onyx Passage was never tightly plugged until just the last hundred feet. But it never opened up enough to stand up. Hundreds of feet of relentless crawling, with a bag that would occasionally get hung up on the ceiling, wall, etc. I was looking forward to coming out into Onyx Canyon and getting to stretch and move around a little.
At the end of the Onyx Passage, we encountered an interesting couple of right angle turns with logs jammed in them. After a little contortion and wiggling we all popped through into a tall narrow crack of a room with beautiful eroded flowstone on the walls. There was only one route out that was human sized, and it was up a 45 degree slope covered in large loose cobbles.  We worked on our angled chimneying techniques to get up the slope while still in a narrow crack. And found ourselves looking out into Onyx Canyon at last!

Eroded flowstone in Onyx Passage

Upon further inspection, we found that we were looking into the canyon, but also at least 30 feet off the floor.  Something had plugged up the water flow, and redirected it upward to spill into the canyon. Leaving us on a high ledge, with no safe route down to the canyon floor.  We could hear water splashing off in the darkness, but there was no safe option to even attach a rope, even if our random assortment of webbing and handlines would have reached the floor.
We took some pictures, and I sadly headed back into the seemingly never ending crawl. We covered ground fairly quickly, but I also noticed that all the crawling was wearing me out faster than I expected.  Too many months of only sitting in an office were taking their toll apparently.  We eventually got back to the sections where I could stand up and straighten my back, which was much appreciated. The general consensus was folks were getting tired on our journey back out, so we didn’t take many more detours.
Those that hadn’t been to the cave before checked out the ice formations in the entrance area, and wallowed through the snow to look into the Toothbrush entrance briefly. Jeremiah ended up regaining some energy on the walk back to the car, and jumping into the snow to see how deep it was. Which eventually lead to him losing a shoe under about 3-4 feet of snow. We did manage to get a short video of him throwing snow over his shoulder in a hole while digging it back out.
We grabbed a burger in Vernal, and let various family know we were headed home that night. I have become far too familiar with the drive from Vernal back to the Wasatch Front over the years. And true to form, I had the joy of driving through a short round of white-out blizzard coming over the pass from Strawberry to Heber. I joke that it never fails, but these winter trips do run about 80-90% odds for me every time. We’ll see if the tradition continues next winter. In the meantime, you can enjoy the full set of decent pictures of the trip.

Quick trip for new grotto member

I have been falling behind on posting reports the last few months, trying to repent. –BX

Jeremy was hoping to get out on a caving trip this month, was disappointed we hadn’t planned anything big at the July Grotto meeting due to the holiday. He mentioned he was interested in learning more about how mapping works, since he had previously made some sketches of caves he had found but never used instruments, etc. I checked my schedule, and we headed for Turret Cave on Sunday morning.

I managed to destroy most of my credibility as “trip Leader” in very short order on Sunday. I showed up with instruments, tape, and a ruler/cheap 50 cent protractor, but no paper/pencils. Jeremy provided some paper and pencils since my other supplies managed to stay on my desk at home, and in Ben’s gear from a trip the previous weekend.

We headed up the hill, and I quickly remembered why I normally visit this area in very late fall and early spring–it was warm! Jeremy pointed out some fossils on the way, and identified some of the lizards that aren’t normally running around in February.

We reached Turret Cave, and Jeremy checked it out while I was pulling out gear. For those unfamiliar with the cave, it is a short 20′ section of passage that passes completely through a narrow fin of rock. You enter at ground level on the West side of the fin, and come out about 20-30′ in the air on the East side. We made short work of the 3 shots for the survey, with Jason writing the survey data and Jeremy running the sketchbook.

After we decided that process was as complete as we were going to get with the tools at hand, we headed further into the canyon to look at some other nearby caves. Excavation Cave no longer has the register I had placed in it, but it does appear an animal had spent the winter there. (Jeremy decided probably raccoon.) We also gathered a couple crickets.

Checked out Cricket cave on the way past, and went a little further up canyon to see what we could find. There are a couple potential holes in the cliff if anyone is looking for an activity on a cool morning.

I pointed out some of the other known small caves across the canyon for Jeremy, but had to end the trip before we looked at them to try and show up on time for a BBQ back in Salt Lake.

On the way out of the canyon we ran into a local resident walking his dog and started talking about climbing routes that are evident in a couple places. He also provided a lead of a small 50-100′ cave a short distance to the north in a drainage that ends at the limestone in a “small box canyon” that should be checked on.

2006 Tripod lessons with Schurtz

Somehow I talked my way into what was basically a Shurtz family trip for this event. It was the first time in quite a while that I felt like the slow person who was out of shape and slowing everyone else down. But it was an absolute blast!

We started out with an assignment to deal with some parts missing from the gate. There is a metal bar to keep people from having to negotiate the 90 degree corner while travelling both directions. It was rumored to be at the bottom of the shaft, so Dave arrived with materials to make do.

Dave showed us the basics of making a tripod in a few minutes. We added a few extra safety features, and tested it out. Partial slow motion failure ensued. We had a good laugh, and added a couple nails to keep the ropes from being able to slide along the smooth 2×4’s. If we would have started with anything with a rough surface the initial design would have been golden.

Everybody double checked gear, and made last surface stops. Around this time we found the “missing” bar stashed in some trees and bushes 100′ away. Since the tripod was already set up and ready to go, we went ahead and left the bar to deal with on our return.

We dropped down to cave level, and decided we would skip anything requiring further vertical gear for that day. We left some gear behind and began to travel pretty light, with basic necessities like water.  A couple of them had spent considerable time in the cave over the years, so Dave took some time to point out some of the important features and junctions for those who hadn’t. There were a couple potential leads a couple of them wanted to check out, and Dave trailed along and humored my picture taking while pointing out the places to be extra careful. There are parts of this cave where you do your best to reuse the same footprints and handholds everyone before you have used, to avoid additional damage.

We eventually looped back to a part of the cave I was familiar with, coming up into it from below! I was starting to understand why there were requirements that you have been on several trips to the cave before you should be considered qualified to lead trips. It is rare that I have no idea how parts of a cave interconnect, but this was one of those times. It didn’t help my cause that everyone I was following either had levitation abilities, or a shorter genetic link to spider monkeys.

Our return to the surface was relatively uneventful. Once up top we took the tripod apart, and attached the bar back to the chains below the gate so it wouldn’t disappear again. I had a great time on the trip, and got a taste of what it is like to be the slow person holding the group up. That was a very different experience for me, since years of hiking had trained me to take lots of pictures to slow me down for others with shorter legs.

2006 Jeremiah’s First Vertical

This trip was a chance to show Jeremiah and Lee a little taste of Tony Grove caving. Having relatives in the Logan area, and spending most of my undergrad years at Utah State, we had spent some time in the area over the years. And until I started spending time with the cavers in 2005, we had no idea how much we were missing out on.

On the way up the hill we wandered a bit and found some sinkholes and other features of note. Our main goal this trip was Thundershower Cave. It was a simple enough entrance that I felt comfortable we could get Jeremiah in and out of it, even if we had to just haul him out. He had been practicing with me on a tree and my grandparent’s hay barn, so we were pretty sure he would get out under his own power. (Consistent readers may recall this was the cave I made my first ascent in as well.)

We reached the cave, and dropped into the icy cold below. None of these high alpine caves are particularly warm to begin with, but there is something about starting out on a giant snow pile that doesn’t help you feel any warmer. Lee opted to take some time topside to read a book, or maybe nap?  Jeremiah and I dropped down the main route to the bottom of the cave, taking a little time for some pictures along the way. Once we returned to the surface Jeremiah made his way out under his own power, to my relief. (He was a skinny little kid, but hauling dead weight is never fun.)

This still remains one of favorite little caves. A beautiful hike across alpine meadows and hillsides to reach the entrance. One of the most picturesque entrances for silhouette pictures I have come across. A series of neat formations in an icy cold cave. But still small enough you can zip in and out in a few hours, and enjoy the warmth as you come back out to the surface again.

After the cave we held true to a Baxter tradition of refusing to waste any daylight. We hit a few more of the sinks I knew about in the area, and basically took the long way back to the car. Beautiful day for a hike, and I had someone else willing to share carrying the rope, so why not?

You will also notice a few pictures of Providence Cave mixed in. I took Austin to see Providence the next morning. We just cruised the cave, didn’t stop for many pictures.

2006 Whipping into a caving frenzy

This cave is well into Nevada, and requires some planning if being visited from Utah. But the extra effort of thinking through your nights is well worth it. An interesting desert cave, with some reflecting pools and a massive formation deep inside.

The cave begins with a rappel through a double opening pit. In this case we discovered some buzzard chicks still in the nest on one side. Neat to see, but a little ominous to think about this being the “ideal” nest location above where we were headed. We rappelled into the cave anyway, and proceeded to enjoy ourselves immensely.

After traveling through some massive breakdown boulders we found ourselves among formations. In some areas you have to be careful where you put your head to avoid them. In others there are neat little pools of water and some rimstone dams that create little reflecting pools. And one of the real reasons people know this cave is the massive column deep inside. It is at least 30′ high, but subject to wild exagerations of up to 80′ in many places. It is a little like going from a regular forest and then to the Redwood and Sequoia forests, your brain can’t quite wrap itself around the change in scale.

After seeing the cave, we had some daylight left. We took a detour past a warm spring near Sunnyside to clean up a bit. Warm water, and a beautiful setting in the midst of endless desert. We also discovered what happens to a metal table at a rest stop when someone backs into it, and a disturbing lack of checking the spelling on a roadsign in the western Utah desert highways.