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June 5th, 2010

Saturday June 5, 2010 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Scott Wahlquist and I met in Crozet at 7:15am to carpool to Luray for the day’s survey. I was
disorganized, and had to pull my cleaned gear from the back, along with near gear from the rear seats,
along with snacks and batteries from the front…. kids these days, as Chris Woodley would say. My car
had failed state inspection (big red sticker on my window now!), so Scott offered to drive. On the way to
Luray, I told Scott about all the black bears that had been in my dreams the previous THREE nights, so it
was more likely than not we’d run into one during the day.

We passed Janet Tinkham on the way to the Cooleys Cave property as she was turning into
Micky D’s to get some coffee. We arrived at the Cooleys Cave property at 9:05am, and Jeff Jahn was
there getting ready. Scott geared up too, and we headed to the dig site from our April survey to see how
all the recent rain (a lot of it) had affected the dig. I just wore my flippy-floppys into the growth. Inside
the dig, they found a fist-sized conduit in the mud leading back towards the entrance (opposite the
direction our digging had headed). So… we have a lot more mud to dig out if we follow that conduit, and
we’d end up needing to at least install a handline to get down. One day…

By the time we got back to the cars, Janet was there. She showed us her new small shovel –
almost as impressive as Jeff’s new hunk-o-metal/hammer. I’m going to have a hard time breaking this
hamme. We discussed our options of where to go next (Foltz’ caves, Island Ford Rd caves, or the Miller’s
property). We decided on the Miller’s property, but I showed Jeff the map of Foltz Cave (1 or 2?), and he
identified it as Foltz 1, but that it was missing some passage, so it looks like we’ll have to resurvey it.

We arrived at the Miller’s property by 10am, and Marceline Miller met us outside the
farmhouse – very nice lady. Her husband, Bernie, soon came to chat, mentioning all the sinkholes, a
couple springs, a sinking stream, and a couple caves he knew about on his property. And then he offered
to drive us around to each of them! He was most interested in finding and surveying a cave around 340,
where the state was planning to take his property to expand the road… something he wasn’t happy
about. Jeff hopped into the passenger seat of Bernie’s 4-wheel drive truck, and the rest of us hopped in
the back. Bernie was surprised that we didn’t mind riding in the back because he had a mess back
there… WE’RE CAVERS BERNIE! I was still in my flippy-floppys, but I did toss my boots into the back with
all the best intentions to put them on.

We first looked at a depression along the road where Bernie said he thought black bears (like
the ones in my dreams) were staying. It was very overgrown, so it took us a while to see all of the
depression, which appeared very promising, but we found no openings. Bummer.

Bernie next took us to look at a rock-filled sink in the power-line clearing on his property.
Everyone but myself saw a bobcat run into the woods when we pulled up. The sink was so full of rocks,
that if anything is there, it’d take a lot of dedication to get to it. Just down the hill from this sinkhole is a
small spring. We found other, smaller, depressions around the sinkhole, but again, no openings. As we
got back to the truck to ride to the next stop on our karst fieldtrip, Scott was missing. Jeff called for him
but got no response. Five minutes later, Jeff walked to the edge of the woods and shouted again, getting
a response from Scott this time that he was on his way back to the truck. When he came back, he told us
that he had walked the stream along the road at the base of the hill (where Bernie had said there was a
cave), and had found it. He had scooped the whole thing, estimating 60ft of passage. Something to
survey later in the day!

The next stop was the day’s highlight for me – the sink of a blind valley. On the way to sink, we
passed a spotted fawn, laying next to a rock pile and not moving a muscle. We walked all around the
sink, but found no openings. The bottom of the sink was like being in a short hallway, with tall dirt and
rock walls on either side. The sink drains a large area, and there surely must be something there, but
where to dig? This would be a great location to visit when it’s raining, to see where the water sinks.
Ridge walking the area would also be much easier in the winter without all the plant growth – it
especially made things difficult for my still unprotected, scratched to hell feet.

We headed back to the farm house for some water. While drinking from the farmers well, we
talked about cattle farming. He explained how he had only been at it for a few years, and that this past
winter had really hurt him – many cows had died, and keeping all the many roads through the farmed
cleared of snow took up absolutely all of his time. He also explained how much time fencing takes up… I
didn’t know farmers sword-fought!

For the final stop on Bernie Miller’s Karst Hunters Field Trip, he took us to a spot along his
driveway that we had seen on the way in, where all the water from an ephemeral stream sinks before
reaching the culvert under 340. Again, no openings, but that water has to go somewhere! Although, at
this point, there probably isn’t any point in digging.

We thanked Bernie repeatedly for spending most of his day showing us around his property, and
then hopped back in the cars to head to the cave Scott had found.

Janet parked her car right across from the cave, only knowing she was in the general area.
Because of where we parked, we wasted no time in locating the cave, and quickly surveyed it (with
boots on!). I sketched, Scott set stations and did backsights, and Jeff did foresights. Janet took pictures
of us surveying and found the cave in her notes as being “Sours Cave”, with a description that well
matched the cave, except for a “pit of water” in the back. The water did get a few feet deep in the sump
in the back, but it was no “pit”. The total surveyed length was 69.1 feet, with 9.6 feet of depth from the

As I did the running profile on the way out of the cave, Janet GPSed the entrance, Scott walked
the stream looking for other caves, and Jeff looked in the immediate area around Sours Cave. Jeff found
a blowing hole(!) with some other smaller holes and slots in float above the blowing hole. Digging in the
blowing hole would be a time-consuming ordeal (at least two day’s worth to get as far as we could see),
but may be worth it? Scott thinks the air flow may have been due to convection currents originating in
the holes above the blowing hole. It’s worth returning to with incense to try tracing the air.

Jeff headed on home after this, but the rest of us headed to another property for some more
fun! Janet led the way to Mike Sours’ property to show us a couple collapse features in a depression
where an entire pond had drained. Again, there’s probably something down there, but there would be a
lot of soil and rocks to remove, digging straight down, to make it probably not worth it. As we were
driving off the property, Mike Sours’ cousin came down the driveway and chatted with Janet (who
knows everyone and how they’re related).

Janet then took us (driving on a grass path not favorable for Scott’s 2-wheel drive truck) to Wes
and Little Porter’s house. The Porters are keepers of unique sparrows that glide like the larger birds
(hawks and eagles) more often than flapping its wings, like most small birds do. They had two dozen
birdhouses just in their front yard and constantly had birds (keyword) gliding around in the air above.
Little explained how she had contracted a lung disease, most likely from the bird guano (I believe this is
correct usage of the word) when cleaning out the bird houses, which had taken a couple years in the
nation’s best hospitals to cure. In any case, Little was very happy to tell us about her cave and take us
down to it (again, driving on the grass path). She warned that she figured this was where her black bears
(like the ones in my dreams) stay , which eat seed off of her porch nightly.

Little and Janet stood by the road chatting while Scott and I looked in the woods for the cave.
We found a hunter’s cabin Little had mentioned (would have made a perfect field house). I found the
cave nearby, but Scott was off elsewhere looking. Janet found me, while Little went back to her house
to change, and finally Scott found us. He said that he had found another cave in a sink. When he went to
show us the other sink, he got completely turned around and we took a while finding it. We decided to
head back to the cars to change into our gear and planned on surveying both caves.

While walking towards the cave, Janet told us of another cave, just across the street, so I
asked her to walk us to it. This one was also on Mike Sours property, so we knew trespassing wasn’t a
problem. Janet GPSed the entrance while Scott checked it out. He said it reeked, and was just a room.
We’ll probably survey it quickly next month.

We then headed back to “Littles Cave” and started surveying it. Janet GPSed this entrance too,
while Scott and I started surveying. She took some snapshots of us surveying then said her goodbyes
and headed home to pack for a trip to Atlanta, GA. Just inside the cave is a tight crawlway to the
left, that didn’t seem to widen when Scott was wiggeling down it, but Janet’s “IT DOES OPEN UP!”
encouraged him enough to get through. Indeed, it did open up into a nice breakdown room. The cave
was surveyed as being 222.6 feet long and 32.2 feet deep. No bears! Scott headed out while I was
finished up some cross sections, got the strike and dip of the cave, and checked out the other cave he
had found. It turned out the other didn’t go but a body’s length before getting too tight – still something
to document better on our return trip.

Scott and I were back in the car and headed to Uncle Bucks for dinner by 7:45pm. Their meat
sure is hard to beat! (although the honey mustard could be better…)

So, two caves surveyed, three caves GPSed, a couple digs with good potential were located, and
two more (although short) caves to better document. I’m sure we’ll also be going back to the Miller’s
property for some more ridge walking in the fall/winter.