Tag Archives: Solution Cave

Typical cave that everyone thinks of, dissolved out of the rock.

2012 Capturing a Sinking Stream

We decided to see if the cave was still plugged up with debris, or if it had washed open with the 2011 high runoff. There is a massive log that jammed up the entrance in the big runoff of 2005, and doesn’t allow people to reach the historical rock collapse from decades ago.

Today we poked around, looked at the water sinking in the stream bed on the left entrance and right before the log in the right side, and pushed a few sticks around. The big log is still as jammed as ever, and there is no way to get over the top of it. The thing is at least 24 inches in diameter and would take a chainsaw to make a dent in it quickly. Probably not worth that effort unless we knew the rock collapse inside the cave were clear, which wasn’t the case for decades before things plugged up. I’ll let the bugs and mold keep doing their work for a while longer and go after some easier projects. We did find the entrance was still holding some ice and snow in late June.

We don’t give up easily when there is a known cave to get into. Jeremiah jammed as far as he could down the left entrance, deciding it was a no-go. And I found a little hole before the log that had washed clean of dirt. After dragging out some rocks and sticks, I took this picture by holding my arm down the hole. It appears the water keeps going, but it would be an endless dig to fit a person. This “passage” is only a few inches high, the stick is probably about the size of your finger. Given this location is five or ten feet upstream of the log that we can see is twenty plus feet long, we decided to move onto other options for our day. We’ll keep checking back later.

The 2011 runoff did bring down a sign from upstream somewhere, and lodged it in the brush along the drainage. Interesting to see how far that makes it in the future.

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 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.

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.

2006 Candle lit Formations Galore

This was my first visit to this cave. It requires a 90′ free hang rappel, then you have to get into a side passage before you get off rope to avoid going another 100′ straight down. Not a good place to be learning basics of rappelling, and best to visit after you have had some considerable practice first.

The cave itself is billed as Utah’s piece of Lechuguilla Cave. It is formed bottom up, and full of fascinating formations and unique features that aren’t normally found in other Utah Caves.  There are thick deposits in some places, and in others the formations are so thick and delicate you are scared to breathe hard. In order to protect the cave there are some established routes to follow, and it is best to go with someone who has visited the cave several times to avoid getting turned around in some of the labyrinth sections. And they are able to point out some of the fun items to see like the bubblegum pink popcorn and candycane striped passageways.

We had a good time this trip, right up until we were back on the surface and discovered one of the vehicles had taken some more serious damage than initially thought on the way to the cave. Some temporary repairs were made, and we rushed back to civilization.

2006 Old Man’s Cave with Wasatch Grotto

Old Man’s Cave is an interesting place to visit near Great Basin National Park. The cave is a maternity colony for bats in the summer. So you can only get in during the winter months. And the logistic’s are a little tough, since you have to get the key from Ely, which is a long way out of the way from the Utah side. Pre-planning and coordination are usually key elements.

This trip someone else had done all the hard work for me to get the key and permission to visit. Steph and I made a weekend out of it, staying at the exclusive Border Inn. (At the time there was not working TV or cell phone reception, that is how remote this part of the world it.) Steph opted to hang out in the room and get some things while I went caving on day 1, the next day we went through Lehman’s Cave for Steph’s first visit to Great Basin National Park.

Our first challenge for the trip to Old Man’s was getting the gate open. After fiddling for a while, Jim and Paul looked up to find one of the kids offering to help from the inside. It turns out the bat friendly gate stops an adult, but if your head is small enough you go right through. Good laugh for everybody, particularly when the gate was opened shortly afterward.

The main part of the cave is big walking passageway, with interesting domes and other solution features. A couple of us pushed almost every corner we could, while the main family friendly group headed up the main passage. We wandered all the way to the back in no particular hurry, and took plenty of pictures along the way. There are some neat big formations in the cave, but most of the little items have been damaged in some way over the years. Makes a great beginner cave in the winter, and I don’t have any problem giving it up to the bats in the summer.

Lehman’s Cave is a must see if you are in the area. Filled with formations, it is fascinating even if only from the allowed tourist trails. One of the unique things about it is the large number of shields throughout the cave.

I have the picture of Larry as the feature picture on this post. Mostly because it is one of my favorite pictures I have of a Utah Caver still using carbide. It had absolutely nothing to do with Larry’s age, he didn’t become an old man until a few years later than this… :-)

2006 Stanley’s

This was the first half of an absolutely jam-packed day of caving. We had a large group and multiple vehicles. I believe it was also the first time I took Jeremiah on a big group trip.

The day started with my first visit to Stanley’s Cave. This is a popular beginner friendly cave because it doesn’t require technical equipment like ropes. It does have on tricky little downclimb that is a bit tough for short people or kids. We had an adult top and bottom since we were dealing with a few kids on this particular trip.

You will notice the cave also has a large amount of graffiti. This is one of the problems that comes up with caves that are known, and don’t have a multiple mile hike to reach them. People bring whatever they can find to enlighten future generations with their name and current crush. I’m a little torn about graffiti. When it is new, it is trashy and an eyesore. But when it starts to get older it suddenly becomes “historic.” Somewhat of a double standard in my mind.

2005 Dropping the funnel of doom

This is one of the newest discovered caves in the state. The entrance area was in a known sinkhole near another large cave. Heavy spring runoff in 2005 caused to cave entrance to wash open, and once the water levels went down exploring could commence.

This trip was one of the earliest large group trips into the cave, and one of the first documented attempts at using aluminum ladders for cave exploration that I can find.  More notably for me, this was my first experience with being the first person into virgin cave passage. Since the cave had to wash open, and then we needed a ladder to get up into a couple of the leads I tried, I was absolutely certain I was the first person in. And for a couple of them, I was the only person into them until the cave was thoroughly remapped in 2010. It wasn’t the prettiest passage.  As you can see from the pictures, this high lead was absolutely coated in mud several inches thick. It left much to be desired for visual interest, and little reason to inspire others to return to see it later. But in its mud covered glory it was all mine for a few years.