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January 2nd, 2011

Page County Cave Survey

January 2, 2011

(Written on March 29, 2011)

Nathan Farrar

Scott Wahlquist, Bill Murray, and I carpooled from Scott’s house to meet Callie at the park and ride in Luray. We chatted for a bit and drove separately to meet Jeff Jahn at the parking area for Paul Otto Cave, just off 340. I showed the group a map I had made of the general location of caves across the county, showing how the band of Ordivician limestones ran across the county, and how only the northern portion of this band had been thoroughly searched for caves. I suspect an organized ridgewalking of the southern portion will return multiple caves. Jeff showed us his working map of Foltz Cave – looking good! We changed and headed onto the property. By Paul Otto Cave (surveyed the month previous), we dropped our packs, and split in search of caves (Paul Otto River Cave was known to be in the area, and we were unsure that the cave we had surveyed the month previous was actually Paul Otto Cave). After a good hour, and quite possibly more, and having only run into Scott once, I heard others calling me back. I had found plenty of sinkholes, but no cave.

After reconvening with the group, I found that Jeff or Bill (?) had found Paul Otto River Cave. Bill, Scott, and I walked down to meet Jeff and Bill at the cave. Jeff came hiking out of the woods near the cave entrance carrying a…. you guessed it - a small, crushed fake Holiday (to be politically correct!) tree. Once, it had been three dimensional, but it was now smushed flat, but we took the full opportunity of taking pictures with it. I didn’t have a working light, and the cave looked short enough that I figured I wouldn’t need it (yeah, yeah… it’s Page Co), but Scott made me put his backup on – I was going to sketch after all. I sketched the plan and took numbers, Scott sketched cross sections and profile, Jeff and Bill read instruments, and Callie took photos. The cave had lots of spiders and crickets, and even a bee. In three shots, it was surveyed to a total of 37ft long and 12 ft deep. The cave was dominated by a central column, and old flowstone was evident by the column.

After wrapping up that survey, we decided to continue ridewalking along the cliff face. Having snowed a lot recently, the edges of the South Fork had a lot of ice – providing an excellent locale for dramatic pictures of Scott and I being arctic explorers. We walked a good ways along the cliff and didn’t find cave. We walked back along the top of the cliffs and ran into Janet Tinkham, who luckily had found her way to us! We decided we’d head back towards the cars and survey a known cave across 340 – Davies Cave.

However, the directions to Davies Cave were misunderstood, and a few of us ended back at the cars waiting for the others… while the others waited for us at the entrance to Davies. Janet came and told us of the situation, setting everything straight. By the time we reached the Davies entrance, they had scouted the ENTIRE (short) cave and chosen good station points. As we unpacked to begin the survey, I found that I had lost my GPS (my advisor’s actually). I was ready to hand off the book to Callie
to sketch the cave when I found I had the GPS on me all along.
About this time, Janet recommended we take a group picture, so Callie sat up her camera and put it on a timer – the resulting picture is undoubtedly the best Page Co group picture to date (the reason Janet now has it hanging above her
desk!). Again, in only three shots, we had finished the survey of the cave – a total of 35 ft long and 11ft deep. The cave quickly narrowed to a crawlway filled with various animal bones and trash. However, there was a neat ceiling change that ran the length of the cave.

Back at the car, we changed and headed back toward Luray, stopping at Mike Sour’s property to do some more ridgewalking (still time left!). Jeff headed on home for the day. On Mike’s property, we found plenty of sinkholes, a couple of which Mike had filled with stumps to keep the cows out – but pulling out the wood did not reveal any cave. After playing in the sinkholes with us, Janet also headed on home. Callie, Bill, Scott, and I walked some more property, finding some neato shelter caves formed in an anticline, and getting their GPS locations. 
After getting these locations, Callie also headed back home, and Bill, Scott, and I walked around some more, finding nothing new. As it was getting dark, we headed back to the cars. I knocked on Mike’s door to let him know of our progress, but no one came to the door, so I left a copy of Turtle Bone Cave (on his property) that Ed had drawn.

We headed back to Luray and had our ritual dinner at Uncle Bucks (I believe I was wearing my Uncle Bucks shirt this go-around!).

Overall, a good survey, with the verification of which cave was Paul Otto, the survey of two caves, and GPS of four locations.

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