September 30, 2014

Bill Grnwld, Bill King, Jojo, Ken Penguin, Gina Scheafer, Sooz Main, Brandon Karl, Stacy Anne, Brian Hunsaker, Phil Goldman, Adam Haydock, Tom Cambell, Nicole Miller, Dutch, Al Goodcave, Mark Campbell, Jorge Barerra at the entrance of Coon Cave

from time to time, I like to set up a event that allows other people the opportunity to experience and be apart of something they never have thought they would ever do or knew how to get involved. I remember when I was starting off to look for activities that were fascinating to me based on the experience that I had, I was not able to find many activities that involved Caving and Canyoneering.  There were groups of divers and some rock climbers but I wanted to see more of what is out there on this fascinating planet we live on. Illinois may not be the best place for looking into these kinds of activities but I am a firm believer of creating your success so I started from the ground up.  Along the way, I have been able to meet some incredible people and have someone very special in my life.  We all get to experience some of the most interesting places on the paths we have created so now I get a chance to bring these experiences to people that may not have ever known where to begin to look for something like this or that it even existed in a trip set up to introduce people into caving.
That drive down to Indiana is starting to wear on my soul but I always get a little excited when I see the massive windmill farm a couple hours south of Chicago and Flying J's pizza is arguable the best and the worst pizza money can by...gotta get the meat lovers....the grease hardens before dripping on the plate and there is a defibrillator on standby when consuming this heart attack on dough.  Rounding the turn in Indianapolis and making it down to Bloomington in the wee hours of the night almost feels like a monthly affair for us karst maniacs.  This time we were able to stay on this beautiful property surrounded by sinking ponds and karst topography.  This lot of land had tall thick grass and morning dew thick enough to create a micro weather system in some of our tents as the sun lifted above the treeline. Regardless, 17 of us woke up early to head over to Mitchell to meet up with Bill Grnwld and Mark Campbell to visit Eversole and Coon Caves. Mark and Bill gave us a presentation on the land in the area, basic conservation, and preservation before heading out to coon cave. I wanted to make sure we went to visit coon cave as this will be more of a crawl and everyone is as energized as they will get for the day,  so I figured a muddier, lower crawling cave would work better as the first and than go to the walking stream cave as it is a bit easier and can clean off clothing a bit. One by one, we entered Coon Cave after a group shot and worked our way down a small climb down and through a hands and knees crawl to the first room where you can stand up in.

Jorge, Sooz, Bill, Tom, Brian and others going the first walking passage in Coon Cave

It was almost like a human centipede with all 17 people going through this small crawl cave. It felt like Chicago rush hour traffic with the stop go stop go traffic as we crawled on hands and knees to the flowstone room.
Flowstone Room Coon cave

This was where the formation room was with its small rimstone dam formations and flowstone flowing down the ceiling walls.  We continue on to check out some of the crawls and other small areas until the cave was fully observed by the sweaty super baggy pants wearing cavers.
We back track into the junction room and went down a side passage towards a spider room and on to a small dome room where water has cut its way through the limestone.  The newbie cavers had a blast seeing all of this for the first time which was nice to see. For me, I thought it was interesting to see Phil climb down a mud downclimb, nice!!!!

Soda Straws in Coon Cave Indiana

We traversed back and people were scattered all around the cave.  I got a shot of Brandon and Stacy taking a break in the connection room.
Brandon Karl and Stacy in the connection room of Coon Cave
Afterwards, some of the group made a wrong turn which is the only wrong turn in the cave anyone can ever make.  confusion set in as the learning lesson of being "turned around" was realized and it important to look behind where you came from so you know what it looks like on the way out. We all eventually popped out of the rusty gated fence like ground hogs back into the sunlight.

Exit of Coon Cave
After a lunch break we headed over to Eversole cave which had a nice walking entrance and a mossy perennial stream flowing out of the cave. Slowly the cavers converged at the entrance and proceeded to walk into the cool temps of eversole cave.  The passage is mainly a walking passage with one small duck under and one climb over break down section.

Typical passage in Eversole Cave Indiana
 We did a lights out where we put our hand on the shoulders of the person in front of us and walked through the cave for a few minutes but my zebra's glow in the dark reflector cheated and allowed some light to enter my field of view....After crawling and climbing up three active waterfalls in thunderhole with no lights I get how it works
Salamander in Eversole Cave Indiana
Eventually we made it to the end of the cave where there are two different directions to take which included a small stream crawl or a breakdown crawl.  I wanted to keep the group moving and get to the next cave as I knew that will be the most strenuous of the three so Bill told us a story about how they encountered 3 kids killing bats in a cave back in the70's which turned into a worldwide movement that helped to protect bats in caves and mines around the world.
Afterwards I took a group of cavers that were getting cold out of the cave and we simply exited the cave and got back to the car to change relax and prepare for the final trip which turned out to be a eventful and a big learning experience for a lot of people involved.

Typical Passage in Eversole Cave
I want to thank Tom Campbell and Bill Greenwald for allowing us to access these two caves,  for their hospitality, and for the presentations that they were able to give the group which allowed them to have a knowledgeable and memorable experience.   The experience didn't stop at these two caves.  We Entered the natural entrance to Doghill Cave which tested peoples limitations physically and mentally.  Yes these are beginner trips but these are not the "Wild Tour" trips you might find at some commercial caves, we are in this for real and going through water, mud, low crawls, and working as a team and in the next cave, everyone was about to find out what it is like to work as a team in a more difficult cave.
Team gathering in Eversole Cave Indiana

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