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November 7th, 2009

Saturday November 7, 2009 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

I left Charlottesville at my normal (I thought..) time, just after 7 in the morning, on my way to
Luray. I hit all but one red light on 29N (not lying either), and was getting quit frustrated. My GPS unit
was telling me that I wouldn’t get to Luray until 9:30ish, and I wasn’t awake enough to question it, so I
was getting worried. I realized later that the internal clock on the GPS unit hadn’t been updated with the
time change (even though the satellite waves have time signatures, as Jeff later pointed out). In fact, I
arrived at our meeting place at 8:20, 40 minutes early, so I headed up to Zirkle’s Cave to get a GPS
reading, but it turns out that the accuracy on my unit is worse than going to Google Earth and taking a
best guess stab at the location. However, I’m sure the GPS unit will come in handy for caves in the
middle of the woods… rather than 5 feet from the car.

Bill Murray, Scott Wahlquist, and Callie Bouchard showed up a minute after 9, having carpooled
from Scott’s house. We waited another minute or two and Janet Tinkham showed up in a car none of us
recognized. We chatted for little bit, Janet gave me an email from a local who wants us to check out her
property because her well-driller hit a void. Janet also gave all of us black bat Halloween bags with apple
flavored candy corn. Thank you Janet!! I put my gear in Bill’s car and we headed up to Cooley’s Cave to
meet Jeff Jahn. When we got there, two large dogs (part German Shepard) ran to greet us and try their
damndest to get under Bill’s tires. Jeff came from the neighbor’s house – good job with the public
relations Jeff! Before getting dressed, we headed up the road to the barn to check out another
appealing hole in the ground. I checked out the cave, and found that it was just too dark to survey.

We headed back, got dressed, and headed to the cave. I took the GPS reading of Cooley’s Cave
entrance while Scott tied my brand new webbing to a tree to assist in the climb down. A (awesome
amazing (not asshole)) team, consisting of me, Bill, and Callie started off the survey and took two shots
on the way down to the bottom of the entrance climb down - one viewable from the left upper
passage, and the other on the bottom. We all climbed down to the bottom, one by one…. one of us
dropping our sketch book and all three protractors there within…. Team A surveyed the left lower
passage, and Team B (butt??), consisting of Scott, Janet, and Jeff, took off to the right. [Any team B
member, feel free to write a mini trip report for your passage]
Team in room on upper right lead above fissure

The canyon passage was tall (20 ft average) but not wide (2.5 ft average). The ceiling followed
the dip, but the floor was fill, covered in leaves, and had a much steeper slope, 30-40 degrees. Two
windows into the upper passage were viewed. After around 60 feet from the entrance, the bottom of
the passage ended in a choke, but a climb-over was discovered. There were red spiders of a type I’ve
never seen on the left wall there. At A10, just over the climb-over, getting back down to the canyon
floor, Bill shouted back that he couldn’t make the climb back up if he went down, and that it looked like
VIRGINIA. I checked it out, and sure enough! (and, conveniently, I dropped my pencil down it)

Thus, we headed back to B team to see how their survey was going. They were on their way
back from the end of their passage, all surveyed. Both teams had gotten about 120 feet worth of shots. I
showed Scott and Jeff to the drop, and they agreed that we’d need to rig it. We came to the surface, ate
lunch, and chatted for a good hour or so. During this time, Callie went to check out a nearby hole, and
came out of the Cooley entrance (pulling the cable into the cave, just as described in the Halloween
story “Hupman’s Cave” by Tom Lera that I had sent out to the list the week before). Callie made a
through trip and turned Cooley’s into a true “cave system”! After chatting, Janet headed off to a friend’s
for a dinner, and the rest of us began walking around the immediate area looking for additional cave
entrances. Jeff found a hole, and followed it for 50 feet. It’ll have to be GPSed, reported, surveyed, and
tied overland into Cooley’s [next month’s survey]. We also found a few other holes, one in which I found
an old log saw with no teeth missing. I’m planning on cleaning it up, getting a new handle, and maybe
painting a cave scene on it?

We headed back to Cooley’s to do the final upper passage. Just over the entrance hump, the
upper passage opens up into a nice room with the floor being one of the windows to the lower passage.
Three Big Browns were sleeping in the room, so Scott and I continuously annoyed everyone
with “shhhhhhhhhh”s. Across the way, a short slope up led to a window to the surface, and an odd 1 ½
ft by 1 ½ foot passage led off for 15 feet in a different direction than the main joint set the cave formed
in. The passage across the way and to the right of the way we entered, was another slope up to a
window to the surface – this one large enough for Callie to fit through (making the through trip). We
surveyed to the surface so that we could make a loop overland. The passage straight ahead from how
we entered the room led down a slope to the other window to the lower passage. We shot down both
windows to the lower passage to make two survey loops. The second of which was an incredibly difficult
shot for Scott and Callie. All the while Scott and Callie were struggling with the shot, Bill was on the
surface getting two sticks of equal length to use for the overland survey. Jeff headed out to go home
halfway through the survey of the upper passage.

After Scott and Callie got compass and clinometers readings that agree within less than 40
degrees, we headed to the surface, and did the overland survey (A1 to A17) in one shot. After that, we
packed up, headed to the car, changed, and headed into town for dinner. We ate at Uncle Bucks again
(after walking up and down Main Street with no success finding another restaurant). But, as their logo
says, “it’s hard to beat Uncle Buck’s meat”. After eating, we split, I headed to Rick Lambert’s house for
the night, and they headed back to Scott’s to get their cars.

Cooely’s Cave Statistics:

Length – 376.6 ft (not including overland survey)

Depth – 53.2 ft (A7), but it is visibly deeper past the drop

Average Shot – 14.5 ft

Longest Shot – 35.8 ft (team B beat team A L )