Sunday, February 12, 2017

Caving in Texas

 After I taught two three-day small party cave rescue classes, I had a day off. I usually don't when I go to cave rescue seminars, so I intended to fully enjoy it. What would be the best way to do that? Go caving, of course! Fortunately the past park superintendent was up to being our guide for the day. We started off with Gorman Falls Cave, which had been used several times earlier in the week, but I hadn't had a chance to go in. Here is Casey ready to lead the way down the first drop. It's three short rappels into a steamy cave.

Then you reach the stream below. I went upstream as far as I could to the sump, then downstream. This well shaft goes down to the stream, and I guess they drilled the well before they realized the cave was here. The cave was quite warm, and it felt good. It was a fun cave. Air has to be pumped into the cave before you go into it because it has high carbon dioxide levels, as do many of the Texas caves. It's good to go with someone who knows, as bad air could make your day a little problematic.

Next we headed to a cliff edge and found a spot between the pencil cactus and the prickly pear to rappel over the edge.

We swung into a cool cave that was highly decorated. I thought it was neat to see the old water line so distinctly.

Liz and John wanted a photo of them together on rope as they rappelled to the bottom of the cliff. They're getting married later this year.

At the bottom we walked a short way and got a view of the backside of Gorman Falls. The travertine that's built up along the cliff face is fantastic, and the green moss covering it gives it a great surreal look.

We had gotten permission and a key to go visit Gorman Cave, so we headed there next. There's a nice interpretive sign outside the entrance.

Kelby was our guide, and he explained how this used to be the most-visited cave in Colorado Bend State Park (which has 400+ caves!).  However, this cave has turned out to be a very important maternity colony. It also has bad air.

I immediately liked the cave, as most of it was walking passage. This wasn't how Texas caves were described to me! We followed the sinuous stream passage, stepping over pools of water and admiring a variety of formations. This was a neat speleothem right in the middle of the passage.

We passed the old gate, that had been back farther in the cave. We could smell and feel the change in air as we went through a thermocline. My pulse rate increased a tiny bit, but I didn't feel many other effects from the increased CO2.

We eventually got to crawling passage and found lots of little bones on the floor. What was going on? It turned out there were hundreds of dead bats. There was no sign of human interaction (the most typical reason that bats die). We put on our sleuthing caps and realized that last summer there had been massive floods in Texas. We found where the cave had sumped, and these poor bats had been trapped and died either from starvation or bad air.

Then it was time to head back to the lodge and hear all about the mock rescues that had happened that day. And to eat and celebrate! We had great facilities at Barefoot Fishing Camp.

 Volunteers prepared meals, and for this last night, we were treated to prime rib and bacon-wrapped asparagus. I don't eat this well at home! All the meals were fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Celebrations ensued, and the next morning, when it was time to pack up and head home, it was a little slow-going.
I had a super time in Texas and thank everyone who made all the arrangements and made it happen. I was a little afraid that some Texas cavers might have read my mystery novel, An Un-Conventional Murder, and take offense at the fun I poke at Texas cavers. But nobody mentioned it. So maybe I'm safe to visit Texas again! :)

1 comment:

Amanda B said...

Looks like a great time in Texas! Glad you made it safely in and out of the state.

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