Caving, Again (part 2)

May 1995

by Tim Ireland

with Kyle McKenzie

Well, there were a couple of comments to me after my first caving article. The majority of these seemed to centre on the fact that besides the teaser no caves were really mentioned. I blame this on Kyle, but then again, I blame most things on Kyle.

... the steering suddenly became quite a bit more difficult than it was before, and I managed to get the car off the road without killing us. Wow, what a rush. We hopped out of the car to examine the damage and found out that yes, indeed, the tire was totally gone. I did see that my tires used to have a lot of steel inside, because this was not outside.

It was time to undo our great packing job. I was suddenly quite glad that Becky (Rebecca) had not talked us into leaving the spare behind. The smurf mobile caught up to us at this point, and I asked for assistance. Little did I know that I seemed to be the only one that knew how to change a tire. With a little coaching we finally got things straightened out. This left us in the middle of nowhere with a doughnut on the car, no large towns around, and nothing open in them if there were. We decided to press on.

Kyle planned a short route for us and we were once more on our way. The countryside looked very similar to Ontario at that time, dark. Eventually we ended up in Lewisburg, West Virginia, home of the closest store to where we were going. We did a quick shopping spree. We were all pleasantly reminded that the Americans have different feelings upon the sale of alcohol, so we had to go back for another cart. The lure of Zima was upon us. Kyle and Keith had mentioned Zima many times, and the mystery that was associated with it grew every time.

We eventually got done shopping and got everyone and everything loaded back into the car for the final half hour to the cabin. The town that the cabin (and the cave system) is closest to is Renick. If you buy a large map of West Virginia there is a chance that it may even be on it. The cabin was protected in several ways. The first was an elusive driveway. We nearly went flying past it, but by this time fog was rolling in, making flying impossible. The second barrier that we had to get past was a huge gate. Fortunately Kyle remembered the combination to the piece of wire holding it closed. The next obstacle that we faced was the twisty road from the nether-regions. Riding this road was like being on a carnival ride. The driveway takes about fifteen minutes from end to end and there is no place that you can pass someone. At one point there is a marker. This is the halfway point. Kyle was mentioning that if you met someone going the other way before you reached this point, you would be forced to drive backwards in order to let the other person out.

We finally came to a clearing, at which point Kyle announced that we were there. He went up and switched on several lights. On one side of the path to the cabin there was a duck pond in which there were several ducks resting. I tried to be as quiet as possible to not disturb them. After getting all our stuff inside we got out our sleeping bags and crashed. (There was NO alcohol consumed... okay, well, maybe a little, well, a little more than that, hey, we were tired from all the driving...)

The very next morning we woke up around the crack of 10:00. I discovered that Eric is an early riser, and had been up for hours. I think I was the next one up, and I got down in time to chat with one of the locals. He came by on his way to wherever it was he was going...

"Y'all them cavin' fellers?"

This man knew his stuff. We were indeed them cavin' people... There was no denying it.

"I wouldn't do that stuff. Won't catch me underground."

The fellow was loads of information. Apparently there were "T" showers, so if we were going to do any wet stuff, perhaps it would be a good idea to do it the first day.

Eventually we were all up, and after an attempt at coffee and breakfast we began suiting up. Batteries were checked, light bulbs were checked, Kyle packed his compass, I packed my lamp, Rebecca packed her ropes, Keith and Lutz packed their gear, and Eric started strapping on his battery packs. I had never seen so many batteries for one light. My main caving light consists of a head light that has about 40 hours of battery power. The battery is about the size of a wallet. Eric had a battery that looked like it was off a bike, and a battery pack that was the size of a small ghetto-blaster. We were impressed.

The cave (Kyle said) was just on the next hill. I was thinking that it was maybe five minutes to the next hill. I then realized that hills in West Virginia are a lot bigger than they are here in Ontario. I wonder what they feed them...

We got a really great look at the cabin for the first time. It seemed that the ducks I was so concerned about the night before were not about to leave, well, not until they managed to turn from wood into flesh. I had been fooled by decoys!

The hike toward the cave began. We asked Kyle what direction the cave was in, and he vaguely pointed off to the north. "Follow the trail," he said with a bit of a grin on his face. We crossed the meadow and headed towards the forest. The path we followed crossed a stream several times, and continued up and down several ravines and gullies. It was at this moment that I noticed that our European spelunkers were wearing boots (or wellies, as Becky would say). Puddles were not slowing them down, in fact Rebecca seemed to be strangely attracted to the water.

About twenty minutes later we reached the cave entrance. We stood outside looking in to the huge gaping chasm that led directly into the heart of the earth itself. We paused here and gazed in wonder at the sights we would see inside. We were going where few people have ever been, and who knows how many had stood at that very spot and contemplated the unknown.

After doing our final battery checks and placing necessities such as car keys in a safe place, we ventured inside. Being in a cave (YES, WE ARE FINALLY IN A CAVE, THIS ARTICLE ON CAVING IS NOW COMPLETE...)

Whoops, where was I, sorry, caught up in a moment there...

Being in a cave is a really neat experience. It is quite difficult to explain to those of you who have never spelunked before. There are times when I am outside of a cave and it is quiet, and there are times when it has been dark, but neither compare in intensity to the quiet and darkness felt within a cave.

I went in and allowed my eyes to slowly adjust to the light. To do this, I like to get far enough into the cave so that no light from the outside can be seen. I sat there for a couple of minutes allowing my eyes to adjust and then found when I turned my light on that it seemed more intense. I was doing just this when I heard Eric mention he was getting ready to do a light test.

The next thing I knew the entire cavern was filled with light. It was as if someone had ripped open the Earth and sunlight was able to penetrate into the bowels of the Earth for the first time. Eric's light passed its first test. (But could it swim?)...

To be continued ...

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© 1995
last updated September 3, 1998