January 09, 2020

Losing over 2400 feet of elevation loss over a mile of distance might not sound so bad but after you have experienced the Grand Canyon and it’s tributaries that feed into the big ditch, the formidable nature humbles the best of us and demands a kind of “ ad hoc” agility that expands our very mental composure.

 Now add 30 lbs of expensive and  delicate diving gear to your pack. 

The team of four that supported this dive effort included a brute and strong set of experienced cavers: Chad Dubberson, Jamie Goodwin, Astro roaisre, and Jeff Harrison. 

This project would not have been possible without their selfless and dedicated effort to exploration, contribution, and resolve. In my eyes, these gentlemen are the true face of cave exploration. 

Eyes wide open as my team behind me grappled and carefully stepped down the square like dimensional rock of the toroweap limestone formation. Right from the beginning we could look down over one thousand feet of elevation loss. 

I can see our route starting to form as we downclimbed the brittle blocks of limestone.

 We came to a point where a traverse was required and became a bit sketchy with awkwardly weighted and wobbly legs so I rigged a couple traverse lines and used natural anchors which provided zero impact to the environment. 

We were able to get down to a steep rocky wash and continue our descent down past the Coconino layer and onto the red supai sandstone layer. 

We found another fifth class climb and we lowered packs down to a rock platform below. From here, following the trail down became more of a bighorn trail rather than a guess and hope kind of trail. 

Taking this faint but somewhat apparent trail continued to meander around cliffs and large boulder and down the final approach to the red wall layer and the Little Colorado River. 

 By now, we can hear the faint sound of white noise from the rivers reverberation upon the shoreline walls. The water, was indeed clear but was lacking the electric rich baby blue color you get when you go further down the river. 

Soon after, we were on top of the red wall and  fifty to one hundred of elevation loss more, we would be on the shoreline of the Little Colorado River. 

Gripping the semi smooth limestone that makes up the red wall layer,   I down climb and my palms begin to sweat in  the anticipation of what’s about to be found under the boiling resurgence of the  Blue spring. 

A few members of the team selected a path to keep their feet dry and forge their way to the beach with a combination of rock hoping and weed whacking to the somewhat thing and water saturated beach. 

Just beyond the calm shoreline, the water is clear but has a blue tint that becomes more electric the further back you look towards the wall. 

The depth increases from three feet on a rather large submerge gravel hill to fifteen feet of depth where almost half of the water is released from the subterranean unknown. 

Unpacking the gear the beach turned into a yard sale as I organized what would be needed for the next couple hours. 

The crew settled in along the beach as they prepared for a beautiful relaxing day at the beach.  Jeff brought down his own literature which gladly did not foreshadow what captivated Jeff’s attention about cave diving accidents. Nothing much could be done anyway. If I never came back out they knew who they had to call on the inreach. 

Keen on knowing just what the submerged features look like, I headed out for a quick swim and held my breath and I made my first dive down into the blue spring resurgence. Water slight particulate with silt became clear and the outline of a UFO saucer on the lower wall became clear. 
This entrance was not only bigger than I anticipated but it is an actual cave entrance and not some crack that was too tight or a breakdown pile, this is a bonified cave entrance.   I quickly came back up to give the good news and prepare my diving gear. The water felt a bit warmer the lower I got and became gin clear. 

Once I got my faber steel fifties with four thousand pounds per square inch in each tank set up I checked my regulators and gauges.  The regulators were working properly but the pressure gauge was telling me a different story. I was reading half of the gas that I initially had in the tanks. Since depth was not a concern, at least for now, I headed over to a staging point and set up my side mount for the first dive into the Blue Spring. 

Jamie became my camera man and I came up with the idea to trolley him across the river on my back which started to work until I got into some quick sand and started sinking resulting in the denial of his only wish to stay dry. thankfully it was sunny outside and he was able to dry off. 
Camera man set, crew at hand, and ideal conditions around us, the dive is a go. Two thousand four hundred down terrible roads, months of planning, company site shutdown so I had time to get permits, homies willing to help and sacrifice so much just so I can dive the LCR blue spring resurgence. For exploration and the curiosity in the pursuit of truth my helmet weighs down my neck, tanks become lighter, buoyancy leaves my BCD, and the sound of bubbles commence as I leave the surface and sink down to the resurgence. 

Only fifteen feet of depth and I am level with the cave entrance. I peer into entrance and before I could head straight in I feel jolt to the side of my head. I grab forward and my hand is thrown back out like being pushed away without resisting. Was that a rock that hit me? Actually no, there was nothing ahead of me except water leaving the cave. I give it another go and peer into the entrance as my head is immediately held upwards with nothing to hold onto I get pushed back ten to fifteen feet into the gravel bowl outside of the cave. Water pressure and a lot of it! Over two hundred cubic feet per second of water pressure actually with a dimensional entrance of five feet by eight feet.  I have never felt water pressure so intense before from a submerged cave.

 The closest I have come to that was in Bennet Springs, Missouri. I try high and low, every time I am forced out and pushed back into the gravel bowl without any chance. I take up my bearings again and look at the walls to the side of the entrance. These walls indeed look more manageable to grapple and enter deeper into the cave. I can see the cave turning left about thirty feet inside the cave so if I can climb the walls horizontally I might be able to get back there. 

 Sure enough this was the only way in for me as the gas depleted grappling the walls, I was able to inch further into the cave. The sixty seven degree water and gin clear visibility allowed me to view the heavily scalloped walls and chert like nodules still holding on to the red wall limestone. The walls and passage ceiling was very sharp and fine tuned from fast water polishing and sharpening fins to blades and corners to incut sharpened table saws. I kept making my way deeper and surveyed as i penetrated deeper.

I got to the left bearing passage and it was a gradual but apparent left that I was making as the passage started to expand in size! The passage dimensions expanded by width and height while holding a consistent depth. When ever I got into the main current I was sent out of the cave in a fast and fierce tumble. As long as I did not get into the current I was able to stabilize myself with this “ lesser” current next to the wall and penetrate further into the cave. 

I was able to get one hundred and twenty feet into the cave and survey as I went. At the point where I stopped, I was a bit exerted and continuing would put me back more in higher flow status.

 Although the ceiling height was 12 feet and the width was 18 feet, the cave kept going and appears to get even bigger! I suspect that the water pressure would disperse the further I got back in and make exploration a bit “easier”. 

 I exited the cave and ended the dive for this resurgence.  The crew was happy that I came out but explaining what was going on down there was a bit difficult. It’s hard to imagine head sized rock tumbling out and even being shot out of the cave.

 It’s hard to imagine what it feels like when your face mask it being tugged and filling with water as you survey your way into the cave. It’s hard to describe that this cave is getting bigger and what this could mean for future exploration.  The little Colorado River’s blue spring resurgence was finally explored and a successful dive was made to explore the cave where almost half of the LCR water surfaces.  

Following this dive I went to visit two more springs with the little gas that I had left. The crew was not interested in heading down stream due to the super slippery rocks so I sacked my kit and headed down the Little Colorado River. 

I was able to survey two other springs. Both of these springs has less but similar water pressure challenges, yet I was ableTo get back about fifty feet into one spring and one hundred feet into another springs. These springs are on the other side of the river and about a quarter to a half mile in distance from the blue spring resurgence. 

This kind of clear water and pressure at this distance was indeed interesting to experience. In the last spring I found trash one hundred feet back. This is quite the distance for trash to get back if I came from the entrance of the cave spring. Could it have come fromA town or a sinkhole fifty miles away? Could it have come from another cave system where this water is coming from? 

Back at the blue spring resurgence beach, some of the crew have started their hike back out with a load of gear and taking their time up the steep ascent. The rest of us grabbed a respectable portion of weight and cleared out the beach to start our ascent. Slowly we hiked up the loose trail, feet slipped on occasion with somewhat geometrically round rocks off balancing our progression. 

breathing deep and stepping up slowly, pack ackwardly shifting as in balanced weight leans into gravity exposing our less desired downward fall. I made sure I stashed water at a half way point so we re filled here and took a break using our halfway point as a milestone accomplishment. Short live as it might be, it gave us the rest to take on the last bit which was around one thousand feet of elevation gain In a half mile or less.  Grappling our way from the supai and onto the coconino layer, the rock was crumbly and sloping in less than favorable ways. At times we would gain a bit of relief with widening real estate and other times we would be grabbing at what we could to continue onwards and upwards. 

Sweat rolling down our faces and stomachs growling for steak dinners I had waiting for everyone at the rim, we made it to the rope and each traversed around and successfully made it back to the rim with no incident and zero modification to the environment. Actually the only impact we had was our foot prints on the trail. 

Catching the painted sky sunset as the light faded into the west horizon while looking back down over the rim to the river rewarded our efforts with a celebration of exploration success, accomplishment and questions answered as to what is beyond the Little Colorado Resurgence.

Refer to the National Speleological Society for more information.

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