August 04, 2015

David Angel and Ron Davis on a Traverse in Jackpot Cave Kentucky
 After our class successfully completed our seminars with the National Cave Rescue Commission, recreational trips into the local caves were offered so students had the opportunity to visit and enjoy some of the wonderful caves in the area.

Gypsum Flower, Jackpot Cave Kentucky

 I was blessed to get on the Jackpot photo trip that Anmar Mirza led with an objective to reach the Celestial Borehole in Jackpot cave.

Anmar Mirza unlocking the entrance to Jackpot Cave Kentucky
 Jackpot cave has been a project that Anmar and his crew have been working on for many years which has rendered extensive mapped passages by the mile and the discovery some of the most beautiful crystal rooms in Kentucky and possibly all of the Midwest.
Entrance to Jackpot Cave with a breezy entrance

 With just a few hours of sleep, we headed out over a diminishing 4x4 road that turned into a prairie ride with some pretty deep mud pockets and swampy sections until we got to the entrance of the cave. We parked the trucks and geared up for the 1/4 mile hike to the entrance of Jackpot.

traversing over canyons in Jackpot Cave, kentucky

 The entrance itself is a 50ft vertical shaft that has been dug open by a bit of influence and sheer will.  The drop was rigged with a rope and a cable ladder for extra redundancy to ensure everyone got down safe. 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 Our group of 6 entered the cave and we continued down the walking passage which had some beautiful rimstone dams and formations on the ceiling. The floor was covered in fine light orange and light yellow sand with dried pools where the sand appeared to be a cream color. The walls and ceiling were fluted where the water appeared to make its way through the Pennsylvanian Period cave millions of years ago. It was a beautiful passage but we were assured that the best is yet to come.
David Angel and  Ron Davis going through a breakdown restriction in  Jackpot Cave Kentucky
I snapped a few photos of the group going through the first breakdown restriction which had some tight squeezes to get through but was manageable with the occational "this way" echoing through the breakdown.  After we passed that restriction we made it over to the first traverse. This traverse was rigged with a double line of rope and we clipped into both ropes using a cowstail as we traversed across the passage wall to the other side.  Down below was a 60ft pit that made for an interesting view along with a trickling waterfall down the passage.
at the Traverse in Jackpot Cave Kentucky
After we passed this section, we continued down in walking passage noticing the marshmallow ceiling of gypsum and other strata colors that appear to stain the walls around us. 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
We continued across another traverse that took us to the first crawling passage that I believe is called the broken patella passage.  This was a crawl in slick mud that continued into a smaller crawl passage with a popcorn ceiling and about a foot and a half of clearance that would occatioanlly grab onto our gear and clothing as we beasted our way through the head turning neck crackling passage. 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
The crawl turned into a tiny slot canyon that had to be stemmed for a bit and eventually we had to drop into a variation of chimneying and a feet first series of acrobatics as we squeezed into the final crawl passage like dancing at a packed nightclub. This crawl was another 200ft of ceiling grabbing inconveniences and a few cobble crawls that enjoyed hitchhiking into our boots as we pushed into the standing passage. 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
After busting out of the crawl, we got to a 20ft exposed climb that was rigged with rope but it was a fairly easy climb with plenty of handholds to grab. 

 I opted to climb but on the return I decided to rap this section as a week-long of NCRC level 1 training, not much sleep, and a hangover were catching up to me.   Once we completed all of these challenges, we popped up into more walking borehole passage!! Woohooo. 

Borehole passage beyond the crawls in Jackpot Cave Kentucky

  We continued our traverse following a trail to ensure we would not break any formations and made our way over to a T confluence and took a break. 

traversing over canyon passage
We passed a few minor traverse lines and enjoyed the walls as they started to show evaporates of gypsum peeling out and sections where gypsum flowers were starting to form. 
A pile of broken Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 Again we were explicitly informed by Anmar that this is still not the good stuff quite yet and it is going to continue to get better! 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 The canyons we passed had gypsum flowers peeling out and there also was this purplish material covering the rock in some places which is thought to be microbes that digest methane?...  Like the Middle island underwater sinkholes of Lake Huron where bacteria metabolizes sulfur, these unknown microbes might take an interest in methane as a source of food.  If this is true, this is just another example of extremaphile organisms that thrive in hostile environments like the snottites in the volcano caves in Costa Rica to the cynabacterial mats of the lake Huron submerged sinkholes.  
purplish organic microbe material, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
We continued on as we started to see the flowers bloom with some incredible size and fibrous structure. Some had very well defined fibrous contours to them and others were a bit more translucent than opaque. 
a more fibrous form of Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
 Some of the Flowers were able to attach sand particles which gave a few of them a characteristic color while others were of a colorless white to a cream color.   
hydus gypsum, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

There were more hydrous forms of crystal including a Epsomite crystal like the one in the north pole of Ellison’s Cave and gypsum hairs that appeared to be more hydrous than other gypsum hairs. Absolutely fascinating!!!!!!. 
hydrus gypsum with epsonite crystal, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 As we continued down the walking passage where the gypsum flowers were, they became more abundant and massive as some formations curled in a spiral like formation and others bloomed like tulips. 
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 Eventually we came to a point where we could stop and take photos of these amazing formations but somewhere in between the crawls that we went through I broke my camera!!!! That really sucked!! BUT thankfully David Angel brought a camera with him and we were able to grab a few pictures with his G15.  
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 We took turns taking some photos and attempted to take a few photos of each other which turned into a bit of a disaster as we couldn’t really get the focus and get off trail.  Plus, I was so tired that when I smiled I looked like a bearded Bruce Jenner with too many plastic surgeries….NO BUENO!  
Gypsum flowers, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky
Eventually we continued our way out of the cave without any issues and drove out a different direction than we came in which was helpful instead of going through the high clearance road we used to get in. We all got back to the lodge and gathered for Mexican in Cave City which was totally baller for our empty stomachs!!  
borehole passage, Jackpot Cave, Kentucky

 I want to thank Anmar for setting up this wonderful trip and taking us through this cave that him and his team have been working on the survey efforts.  I was very impressed with these formations and very impressed that the cave is still being mapped with obvious leads to pursue!!  Thank you once again for a great week and a kick ass caving experience with some wonderful friends.
David Angel and Ron Davis on a Traverse in Jackpot Cave Kentucky

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