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October 4th, 2009

Sunday October 4th, 2009 Page County Cave Survey Trip Report

Nathan Farrar

I left Keith Wheeland’s house at 7am after not enough sleep from a good night
hanging out with BCCS folk, and headed to Luray to meet up with Scott Wahlquist, Bill
Murray, Jeff Jahn, and Chris Woodley at 9am. I stopped at a 7/11 on the way up I81 to
fill up the tank and get breakfast and coffee…lesson learned – 7/11 donuts are horrible. I
arrived at the Luray park and ride right before 9 to see Jeff’s blue Subaru already there.
We chatted for a few minutes before Bill drove up with Scott in the car. Scott had a
bigger 7/11 coffee cup than I did L. We waited on Chris until about 20 after the hour,
when I turned my phone on (it had been off since there isn’t service out in the boonies of
Virginia) and called him. The first thing he said – “Did you get my message?” NOPE! He
had messaged me that he couldn’t make it because he hadn’t had time to decon his gear.
After hanging up with him… I got his message “I can’t come – please let me know you
got this.” So I texted back that I did J

We headed over to the cave and parked by the sign like usual. As we were
changing into our cave clothes, a truck drove up from the treatment plant. Scared it was
security that weren’t aware we were coming, I went over to talk to her, but she was very
nice and just stopped to tell us good morning and that she wished she could join us in the
cave. We got dressed and headed on in.

Scott went to the lead near the entrance with some digging tools to remove the
couple large rocks that were blocking the way, and the other three of us went down to
D19 to start surveying around the right perimeter of the large room we had begun
surveying on the previous trip. I was sketching, Bill was foreshot, and Jeff was setting
stations. Three shots into the survey, we found a low crawlspace and tight passage that
probably connected to a passage we could see straight through the crawlspace. Bill and
Jeff decided it was too tight for them, so I tried to fit in. It was too tight, so I came back
out and took off my sweater and tried again. I get my chest through and shouted back to
them (they were now picking out the next couple stations) that I had made it through!
Then my belt got caught… I was stuck pretty good, but after I shoved all I could, I turned
myself around and came out another entrance to the crawlspace from the same side. I
also tried enlargening the tight passage but couldn’t make it. We would need Scott to use
his digging tools to enlargen the crawlspace, so we continued surveying.

While at E5, Bill decided that the station should be termed “the shit station”, so in
fact, we shot from E4 to TSS to E6. Don’t check the Compass file on this, just trust me.

We finished surveying around the small room (relative how large I thought it was
when we were in there last month – I had developed a totally different idea of how this
new area looked in my head), and then went off the D20 survey in the next room and did

the right perimeter of that room to meet up with the left wall survey at D23. At this point,
Jeff had to leave (he had free tickets to that evening’s NFL game in Pittsburgh!), and I
needed my lunch break. Scott had finished the dig near the entrance, and only gained the
cave 10ish feet, so he brought the crowbar to the crawlspace by E3 and begun to dig out
the dirt floor to make it accessible. I went over to see what he was doing while Bill ate
lunch and found him in there quite snug digging. I offered to take over, so he tried to
come out and got stuck for a little bit. While he was working himself out of the
crawlspace, I had stripped to my polypros. Once he was out, I wiggled myself in, and
only had to use the crowbar for a minute or two before I fit myself into the passage on the
other side. The “great American underwear connection 2009” (as Scott termed it) had
just been made!!!! I sat up, didn’t look around, and told Scott to come through so we
could check it out together. He told me to go ahead and see if it was worth him trying to
get through again, so I glanced around… footprints and kneepad scrapes… we were in a
crawlspace we had approached from the Big Room side. Talk about a disappointment. So
I took the crowbar and went (in my skippies) back around the long, easy way to my
clothes, which Scott was nice enough to bring up to my pack by D18.

We headed over to where Bill was eating lunch, by E9 where we had left off. Bill
commented that it was pretty sad how we’d been in the cave for a few hours and had only
gotten to the 9th station. I commented that this was “…….very true.” However, the speed
of surveying picked up and we short work of another 13 stations. I was still sketching,
Bill took over setting station, and Scott did foreshot. We made another loop off a passage
by E9 that connected back up to E5 (sorry, TSS) that we had missed before (probably
because we didn’t want to crawl in the S). While sketching around E9, I was making a
remark about the amazing amount of scratch marks in the cave (there really are marks of
all sizes, bear to mice, on every muddy surface… which happens to be around 99% of the
cave) and decided the cave had been formed via scratchogenisis, undoubtably. And so
Scott lectured on the details of the speleogenesis that is scratchogenisis (which was way
over my head, but dealt with lions and pumas being the original instigators, and then
raccoons and such scratching out the cave’s finer parts later).

While sketching in more of the cave’s many soda straws, I noted how much the
symbol for soda straws looks like a longer “too tight” symbol, so how could anyone tell
the difference between soda straws and a lead that was “totally too tight”? I’m going to
have to bring this up with UIS. In fact, the drain by E15, as we decided, fit all criteria to
be a TTT, but I just marked it as a “TBL” – totally bad lead.

At E16, the passage split into an upper and lower level, split when a large
breakdown piece fell. The upper level was chocked in the direction we were coming from
by a large breakdown pile (largest in the cave, for what that’s worth). We finished
surveying this upper area with a few shots, and returned to the lower passage… and

surveyed it to the end!! ZIRKLES ENDED!! I finished up the sketch and we headed out.

We decided to do a quick survey on the land surface from A1 to the river level.
We were happy men making those 50 foot shots while covered in mud in the middle of a
police firearms training range J

We switched out of our clothes and headed to our usual dinner spot – Uncle
Buck’s (which is open on Sundays). Did you guys know that “Uncle Buck’s meat is hard
to beat?” (think about it) Yeah, that’s one of their logos….

So, the FINAL Zirkle’s cave statistics are as follows:

Total survey length = 1741.0 ft

# of Loops = 12

Total # of Shots = 107

Deepest point from entrance = 72.8 ft (3.8 vertical from surveyed base level!)

Average shot length = 16.3 ft

Longest shot length = 40.1 ft

Thank you everyone that helped with the survey of this cave; Cooley’s cave is next!!