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August 1st, 2009

Saturday August 1, 2009 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

Bill Murray, Jeff Jahn, and I met at the Luray park and ride at 9am on Saturday morning.
Or actually, Jeff the punctual was there at 9, I got there 10 after, and to my relief, Bill was
another couple minutes more late. We had everything we needed for a tape and compass
survey besides a good cave protractor, but I found a protractor that I had…. taken from the
USGS with intent to return, lets say. I couldn’t do dinner because I had to get back to
Charlottesville, but as Bill commented, we probably would wrap up the cave well before dinner
time since we only had 4 little areas to finish. It wasn’t so.

We got to Zirkles, got ready, passed by the demon baby safely, and went to the nearest
area that had to be surveyed (off A10), where Scott had (if I remember correctly) checked down
and found a little room that we’d come back and survey, but at the time had decided to stay in
the upper passage and continue making our loop. This room turned out to be slightly bigger
than the “Big Room” from the previous trip. The 3 shot room I was expecting ended up taking 25
shots. We surveyed the room very efficiently – I was pleased with my sketching, and the
foreshots and backshots agreed all expect a couple of times. We decided that Jeff must know
the secret black line shortcut to reading instruments.

This big room was very much like the other one – many large breakdown blocks, lots of
formations (especially soda straws), and appeared untouched. The end of the room appeared to
end at the base of a sinkhole. We found some small mammal bones, including a jaw bone –
probably a modern raccoon. There were a few odd formations formed from periods of
precipitation, then dissolution, and then precipitation again; so much so that we decided that if
this cave were big enough to warrant naming sections, this would be the “monument valley

After finishing up the “monument valley room” we headed over to an area in the big
room where we had to do a loop around the back of a mud/ flowstone mound that we had left
unsurveyed (from A15 to A17) . It turned out to be a little room with a ceiling covered in animal
scratches – some preserved so well that the paw print can be observed. Multiple beds of
different colors throughout the Conococheague(?) formation were visible in the room. There
was a tight little crawl into a very muddy breakdown passage that Jeff thoroughly enjoyed
himself in.

We headed out of the cave around 4, got out of our muddy clothes, and headed over to
Cooley’s Cave so that Jeff could show Bill and I it’s entrance. Each of us in our shorts tromped
through the overgrown woods for a while trying to find it. After no success, Jeff went to ask a
nearby homeowner of its location and the guy said we were very close, but it was just down the
road a little further. After even more searching, it turned out that it wasn’t further down the
road, but further into the woods and that we had parked at the right point in the road. The
entrance was a very appealing pit through some float boulders into bedrock. There was a metal
cable running down from a fallen tree into an upper passage. Below the upper passage was a
lower passage that appeared to follow directly under the upper passage. We did not go down
into the cave so we didn’t get to see if the passage directions diverge. HOPEFULLY, We’ll finish
up Zirkles next trip and get to climb down into Cooleys and start surveying it – it is supposed to
be the longest length – estimated unmapped cave in Page County.

For some Zirkles Cave statistics – We’ve made 961.2 ft of shot lengths (although most of
that sum is composed of splay shots around our two large rooms); the cave is 50.5 feet deep at
its deepest point; we’ve been making 17.3 ft shots on average, with 40.1 ft being our longest;
and COMPASS rates this cave survey as having a difficulty of 20.8!!! (whatever that means).