Thursday, May 26, 2011

Indian Burial Cave

In going back through my photos, I realized I hadn't posted about a couple fun days in April. If you've been following this blog, you know that I like caves a little.

Or maybe more than a little.

If you're not sure, do a search on this blog for caves (or click the cave label at the bottom of this post), and you will see some of the other things I've written about caves.

I've been caving for 17 years now (that's making me feel old!), and I like teaching other folks how to cave safely and with cave conservation in mind. One of our archeologists had been asked to do an archeological survey in a vertical cave, but she didn't know how to rappel and climb rope, so she asked for a lesson. We were happy to comply, as none of our little caving group had done much on rope recently.

We started with practice outside. I always recommend practice out of the cave first--it's so much easier to see what to do when you have full light and not just the beam from a little headlamp. We spent a couple hours practicing climbing rope, changing over to rappel, and rappeling down.

Later that week, we went to a nearby cave, Indian Burial Cave. It's a gated cave and requires a permit to enter.

We did some rigging practice before we went into the cave and talked about ways to rig so you are ready for a rescue.

Then Meg volunteered to go down first. She rappelled into the cave and we heard her call back,
"There's a snake down here!"

Someone asked, "Dead or alive?"


Nothing like wildlife to make the trip a little more interesting! I found several dead snakes in the cave. I imagine that they're attracted to the pleasant temperature of the cave and then get on walls that are a little too steep and just fall in.

Meg pointed in the direction of the live snake, and I found it trying to hide. Poor thing, it will soon join the other carcasses. The silver lining is that they provide food for the cave-adapted organisms. In fact, before the gate, there probably was a lot more that fell into the cave and provided food for the severely nutrient-limited underground ecosystem.

Also right near the entrance drop was a sign. It says:
Paleontological Research in progress
Funded by the National Geographic Society 
and the Geological Society of America
Your cooperation is appreciated.

Numerous animal and human remains have been found in the cave.

I was more interested in the live wildlife. This caterpillar was climbing on a rock. I don't know if it will find enough food to survive.

The darkling beetle was wandering around.

A few flies hung out, too.

Then it was time to head deeper into the cave and take some photos.

Hi, Meg! She is wearing good caving equipment: helmet, lights, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves.

The most notable formation in the cave are these folia, a shelf like feature that is really pretty.

More folia.
Then it was time to head out of the cave. We went one at a time, with two ascenders that gripped the rope. We all used the frog system, which is a sit-stand system. You alternate sitting and standing, moving one ascender with each movement. In that manner, you can move up the rope about a foot and a half at a time.

It wasn't a very long cave trip, but it was a fun one. It's always a good day when I can go into a cave--and get out safely!

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