April 29, 2013

The Initial plan was to travel to Buddha cave for a dive to push the lower stream passage from where the stream emerges inside the cave but the weather was against us and we had to cancel the push due to rain blowing out the water viz.  We were able to secure last minute access for Lamplighter Cave, Frozen Waterfall Cave, and Flowstone (bear den) Cave.  Noboru Sakabe, Laura Oliver, Chris Parks, Kevin Romanak, and I got to the property and we checked in with the landowner’s son to introduce ourselves.  I had a conversation with the landowners prior to going but wanted to make sure I was able to have some face to face interaction with them too.   We geared up and started our route into the woods to locate the first cave, Frozen Waterfall Cave.  We came up on a sinkhole feature and figured this was the entrance to the cave.  Kevin entered the mouth of the cave realizing that he has been here before in the past.  Kevin saw a raccoon in here last time but went in again to reconfirm that while I was at the entrance. 
 Entering into the Karst Feature

We noticed a foul smell inside this cave and I realized that there was a deer carcass rotting next to us.  Chris and Kevin removed the carcass and Kevin made yet another attempt to enter the cave. The rotting deer carcass smell permeated the air as Kevin quickly exited the cave confirming that it did not go anywhere.  Not only were we at the wrong location, but the deer smell made our stop a less than favorable experience so we quickly got out of the area. 
We continued the search for Frozen Waterfall Cave and about 5 minutes into the hike, we were able to locate the cave.  Frozen waterfall Cave has a 10 ft. drop so we rigged a hand line with webbing to help with the decent.  We all made it inside without trouble and started down the canyon passage.  This cave is small but has some very interesting canyon passage that has been sculpted and carved by water.  We got to the “Frozen Waterfall” which was a flowstone that actually looks like a frozen waterfall. 

Frozen Waterfall
 The calcite actually molded itself around the rock underneath creating a frozen waterfall looking feature.  We scaled the flowstone to come up to more drapery decorations and descended down a wooden ladder to the bottom of the canyon. 

We continued down the slotted canyon passage until we got to the restriction end of the cave.  I attempted to continue on and chimney the narrow slot but as the walls were closing in on me, I was looking forward at the passage I was trying to get to and it looked too small for me to fit so I turned.
As we exited the cave, I continued to take pictures of the passage around us and continued to the passage entrance which had another direction to go into. 

passage in Frozen Waterfall Cave

There were some nice formations in this passage and a squeeze to another section that quickly ended.  As we exited the cave, Kevin’s clothes smelled like he wrapped them around Chinese seafood carryout left in a hot trunk of a car for a week after rolling around in the deer carcass pit but thankfully we were about to find ourselves in lots of water so Kevin can wash the stank away in Flowstone Cave.
The Last Section of Frozen Waterfall cave
This cave has a nice entrance with a stream flowing out and a small waterfall at the cavern light limit. 

Entrance to Flowstone Cave
 The water was clear and flowing just above our feet as we entered and continued down the passage.  The walls had smooth rounded off cream colored flowstone and drapery formations with sections of varnished minerals in places where the water made its way through the rock. 


We found ourselves turning to the side in some of the canyons, dipping under flowstones, and crawling over small waterfalls to make it to the last restriction.  This was a squeeze!! Kevin and Noboru were able to Gumby themselves through this small hole where all the water was splashing its way through. 

Almost to the Restriction
 While I was waiting for everyone to push through this restriction, I noticed fossils cemented into the rock at shoulder level!  So from the time these fossils were deposited till now about 5 feet of rock was eaten away.  I couldn’t tell how long ago the fossils were deposited but I just find that so interesting that they have been locked in time for so long. 

 Chris and Laura opted not to make the squeeze (good call!!!) so I attempted to push through this thing. I took off my helmet, stuck my head through, and could not get enough space to push myself in.  I backed up and stuck my arms, than head through, which gave me more room to push...and push....and push.  I was making sure I was able to back out if needed so I continuously would backup a little just to make sure I didn’t get stuck in a tight restriction with 54 degree water rushing at me in the back of a water cave.  After squirming for a bit I was half way through and found that the best way to get through was to breathe in and out to make just enough room to complete the squeeze with the water of the cave flowing under and t around me.  I made it through! The passage quickly slotted up again with a waterfall profiling the slot canyon.  I decided to turn back as Noboru and Kevin chimneyed up into a small room where the waterfall was and reported they saw a small hole where all the water was coming from.  I went feet first, back through the restriction and was able to get through without any problems.  Noboru and Kevin came out and we all exited the cave.  This was a great cave to visit and one of my all-time favs for Indiana!! 

Exiting the passage

We made our traverse back to find lamplighter which we were able to find in about a half hour from flowstone cave.  Lamplighters has a slot entrance and a exit point which I was very interested in completing but we heard that this cave might be sumped out and a trip to the exit would not be possible. 
Entrance to Lamplighter Cave
We entered the cave and there were two directions to go.  We checked out the downstream section that went into some breakdown and finally went into a meandering waterfall that dropped into a sump insurgence hole.  I wish I would have brought my mask to take a peak underwater.  There was a good amount of water flowing in and it seemed to be at the same level as Flowstone Cave so I am going to guess that the water resurges into flowstone from lamplighter Cave but I cannot confirm that.
lamplighter's Passage
We made it back to the confluence of the stream/entrance passage and continued up stream.  The water passage was a bit more sculpted than Flowstone Cave but not as much as Frozen Waterfall.  We made it to the water crawl passage and Kevin continued inside the water to see if we were able to push through without it sumping out.  My dry bag has a dry suit zipper on it and the teeth of the zipper collected dirt throughout the day which made the zipper hard to close, so I had to leave my camera back with Chris and Laura. 
Last picture before entering the water crawl

They exited the cave and Kevin, Noboru, and I continued to slog through the water crawl passage making it into the remaining walking stream passage.  We made a brisk walk through and found that the cave branched off in a few sections.  We made the decision to continue to follow the water upstream and noticed fresh footprints, a rusted out kitchen pot, and other debris along the way.  This might be a sign that we are getting close but there wasn’t any other way to know. We kept walking up the stream passage noticing the shelved cut rock to our sides as we meandered until the river turned right and a large walk way was in front of us.   We continued up this dry section until we saw a faint hint of light illuminating the rock.  We made it through!  It is always a nice feeling to make a through trip. We got out of the cave, smelled the flowers, and walked down the street to greet the rest of the group and thank the landowners for a wonderful time.
Sunday Morning we woke up to pouring rain and a phone call from Chris saying that Birdless Pit is cancelled but we have another place to go.  We met up with Sam Frushour, Danyele Cottrell, Tymme Laun, and Kevin Romanak.  Chris Parks had to stay back due to work so we went to our location and entered a nice small triple drop of about 10-15 into a beautiful cave system. 

There were some various levels to this system which had some nice formations, breakdown sections, and interesting crawls into some tight watery places.   I want to thank everyone that put this trip together which made for a fantastic birthday weekend for me.   You guys are awesome and we will see you soon!

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