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Crossroads, June 22nd, 2010

Crossroads recreational trip report for June 22nd, 2010 by Callie Bouchard

Participants: Sara Heiser, Bill Murray, Nathan Farrar, and Callie Bouchard

We all met in Crozet in the parking lot of the Great Valu (which I
believe is only properly pronounced so it rhymes with Baloo).  After a
very short time we came to the conclusion that we were the only grotto
members coming out that day and we headed off to Crossroads cave in
Bath county.  This was the first cave I had ever been in and had
actually been in the cave a total of three times before, but in every
instance with groups that became lost at one point or another.  My
memory of the cave was that the entrance and everything immediately
around it was a labyrinth of intersecting passages and junctions which
made it very difficult at times to find the way out.  Unfortunately,
this turned out to be true yet again for this trip.

We arrived before 11am and it was already turning out to be a
sweltering hot and humid day.  A perfect day to be caving!  Since I
had been there last, a gravel parking area had been installed by the
new(ish) owners (which I believe Nathan said was the Virginia Cave
Survey).  Nice to park on, but not quite as nice to stand on change
clothes.  We all geared up and I took one last picture of us all in
front of the cave entrance before going in around 11:15am

Getting out of the heat was definitely a relief as we walked down into
a large sloping entrance room with floor made almost entirely of
rockfall.  A couple of easy climbs down and we were down into our
first passage.  Almost immediately we were presented a multitude of
choices to walk or crawl in many directions.  I glanced around trying
(ultimately fruitlessly) to remember the shape of the passages and the
way out.  We took what appeared to be the most heavily traveled route
which ended up being marked by a series of playing cards!  The four,
five, and six of spades were found as we crawled and climbed.  At some
point I was told the queen of spades was also seen, but the other
cards apparently had been picked up or swept away (assuming they were
ever left in the first place).

Bill was mostly leading the way at this point and eventually announced
we had reached the “Duck Waddles” that were very aptly named as we all
waddled through the low passage.  What followed were a maze of high
joint controlled passages.  At some point, I even got to a place in
the cave I remembered well enough to take the lead.  I was pleasantly
surprised to find that a traverse around a pit that had terrified me
years earlier gave me only a slight pause.  With a little more
exploration and backtracking we eventually we climbed and chimneyed up
to the top of one of these passages in order to get to the active
stream in the southwest section of the cave.  Before going down,
however, we decided to take a lunch break since we had been moving
pretty continuously for about an hour.  I didn’t pay complete
attention to what every ate since I was concentrating on my delicious
Bodo’s turkey sandwich (nom nom), but I know Nathan had a chicken
biscuit of some sort since it had separated in his pack and had to be
reassembled before he could enjoy it.

Fed and feeling good, we found a place we could all chimney down to
the stream.  There a brief debate about whether any of us would be
able follow it without getting wet, but the first 90 degree turn was
so tight and the water so deep, we quickly all gave up and wet to our
waist.  It quickly got a little wider and the stream a little
shallower.  I really enjoy this kind of passage but I could see how
someone with claustrophobia might have an issue!   After a few minutes
we came upon two adjacent passages which led into the maze before Fat
Man’s Misery and our first crisis of the day.

It took a little fumbling and exploration but we did come upon the
tiny little slot that had defeated many the caver.  Sara, feeling
brave, pushed to the front to give it a look.  Her first words “Is
this a joke?” probably summed up most people’s first reaction.
Luckily for me, I remembered that this little passage was easier than
it looked so I offered to go first.  With some experimentation of arm
position (settling on both arms out front) and some squirm, and pushed
through it without too much trouble.  Sara was contemplating the odds
of getting stuck in the middle (which I assured her was unlikely with
people on both sides of the passage to help her), when the thought of
reclimbing all we had just done finally pushed her on.  Once she found
the right position and got her shoulders through, she quickly slid
down the slope on the other side at my feet, and declared that she
felt like she had gone through a second birth!  After two more blessed
events, we were off again.

It didn’t take long before we found ourselves at the top of high
canyon with only an exposed climb down. Nathan took the role of a
scout and climbed down and went to look for an easier way down.  After
maybe 30-40 minutes of confusion and yelling through impassable
cracks, Nathan found us another route and we were on our way again.

This being my first real cave trip in almost two years, I was really
starting feel a little worse of wear at this point.  We were nearing
where the entrance should have sometime after 3pm and I was ready for
some hearty food and a rest.  We had made pretty good time, and done
the major loop of the cave in around in around four hours.  In a
perfect world, we would have emerged into the blistering afternoon
heat and been on our way.

It didn’t quite work out like that.

To put it simply, we got lost.  We knew we were near, but the map was,
to put it charitably, less than useful.  For at least two hours we
couldn’t even figure out where we were on the map.  Once we were able
to do that, we realized that the map lacked the detail to tell us
which of the passages near the entrance actually connected to it.  So,
we spent the next two hours after that pushing into every hole that
was close to where the map said the entrance was.  Nathan even tried
his hand at digging his way through the top of one passage.

Finally though, Nathan went up a climb and recognized where he was.
He yelled back to us and we (but probably mostly me) bounded up to
escape.  Once out, I again took couple of pictures as proof of our
ordeal and then we barely managed to change and get back into the car
before a downpour started.  A lucky end to our trip!

Since it was after 8pm at this point, we stopped at a local restaurant
and we all enjoyed some very nice but greasy burgers and fries.