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January 3rd, 2009

Saturday January 3, 2009 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

I woke up at 5 in the morning to head out of Blacksburg by 6 to get to New Market by 9. I
made the usual stop at Sheetz to buy a lunch and fill up for the drive, and then hit the road. Traffic was
great and I got to New Market with half an hour to go. Following the signs to the Johnny Appleseed
Restaurant, I ended up in the Burger King parking lot and had to make a loop to go through the light
again and retry my luck making the turn. Then I parked in the wrong gravel parking lot on the short
road leading to the restaurant. Jeff pulled up to the “correct” gravel parking lot, and after staring at his
Subaru for five minutes searching for the bat sticker, I found it conveniently placed with the sun’s glare.
When I found it, I drove over – crossing a two meter grass patch to pretend I was off-roading.

Jeff and I talked for a few minutes about the survey’s prospective projects before Janet showed
up. Now we just had to do the usual wait for Josh and Scott. They arrived barely late with Bill in the
back. Josh was already dressed in his red coveralls – a true caver! Everyone introduced themselves and
Janet outlined the day’s plans. The C’ville Grotto members were to survey Good’s Cave and the Front
Royal pair were to search for a cave dubbed “Jeremy’s Run” up the road.

Note for Janet – after getting home and checking the database, Jeremy’s run has been mapped
to 240 feet…but the number of entrances isn’t recorded. I bet the cave was pretty difficult to find
without any entrances.

As if Janet hadn’t done enough already to aid this survey, she provided me with a copy of the
Page County book of the Cave Locator Series and a road map of Page County. This whole weekend’s
project (and probably a good number of future ones) would not have come near happening without her
help, and I extend my sincere thanks for her help and I’m very glad that we’ll get to work together in
Page (and Warren if she ever needs me).

We decided that we’d change meeting locations in Page to a park-and-ride in Luray, so we left
New Market and drove over the mountain so Janet could show us the lot and we could carpool from
there. We stopped at a gas station along the way to the cave to buy lunches, and continued on the cave.
We pulled off the road right above the Taylor’s property. Josh, Scott, and Bill got ready while Janet, Jeff,
and I went down to talk to the landowners. After playing with the over-energetic year old puppy, Biscuit,
we heading back to the cars. Just as we got back up to the cars, Jeff saw Peter Taylor in the backyard,
and we headed back down to talk. He was “making his rounds” to feed his multitude of cats. His wife
came out and talked to us for a little while. They were both very nice. His wife did inform us that the
cave did already have a map and that she’d look through her papers to try to find it. She told us that her
son-in-law had been in and taken pictures for them. Nevertheless, we decided to proceed with the plans
to survey the cave.

After getting suited up, Janet and Jeff showed us across the river and up to the cave’s entrance.

We found evidence of a band of raiders that lived in the cave and ran at the sound of a parade of mighty
cavers – they left fire remains, a container of apple juice, and two backpacks full of cash and drugs! Or at
least that’s the story we derived…We did find the fire remains, apple juice, and two backpacks, but the
backpacks contained the most random survival “gear” imaginable. Although our fear of the cave being
full of bandits was almost overwhelming, being the men we are, we began the survey. Bill gps’d the
entrance as Josh picked out the first stations. Josh was to do this and keep inventory; Scott was to
sketch; I was to do foreshots; and Bill was to do the backshots.

We all got wet crossing under a joint while making the 5th shot, but being wet didn’t prove to be
that much of a hassle. We came out to eat lunch in the sunshine just as the sun was going down –
making it colder outside than in. We ate quickly and headed back in. The cave was explicitly joint-
controlled, and the majority of it seemed to be in vertically up-turned strata. In the tallest room (out of
the water!), the vertical contact really stands out. Bill risked his neck wiggling up a tight canyon in this
room to find a tight hole that seemed to be the output of a sinkhole – it was full of seedlings. The left
wall of this canyon was covered in animal scratches, but we couldn’t agree on what creature had the
provided claw spacing. The room also had its fair share of bats and their droppings. The droppings were
full of seeds that Bill identified. We continued surveying into the dome complex from room to room
until we had surveyed everything passable. On the way back, Josh checked out the one remaining lead –
a belly crawl in the creek, but we decided that it wasn’t smart to do that before heading out in the
possibly freezing cold. We’ll pick up the survey where we left off next survey, and if Jeff’s estimation of a
length of at least 800 feet in the cave proves to be correct, half the cave lies beyond that crawl.

Coming out the cave sure was cold enough. As we ran up the hill to my car, Biscuit freaked out
and brought out Peter with his over-sized flashlight. I updated him on our progress, and told him we’d
need to come back. He told me that we’re welcome back anytime to finish up the survey. I headed back
to the car to get out of my completely soaked gym socks. I turned the car on to let it heat up…but that
only went so far. I checked my phone, but I was out of range of service, thus I didn’t have a call from
Janet, so I didn’t have her number to call her back to verify we were out. I drove the guys back to Luray
to pick up Josh’s car and we drove to a restaurant (where else than Mexican?) we saw on the way in.
Besides not having Josh’s first two choices in beer, it turned out to be pretty good place. After the filling
meal, we headed out in our different directions.

I avoided a herd of deer, and two swerving cars on my way home, but jamming to Dave
Matthews kept me aware and I got back to the townhouse in Blacksburg by 1 in the morning. It had
been a successful first Page County Cave Survey trip! We actually had worked in a real cave and not just
a hole in the ground! Thank you to everyone that came out.