Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ridge walking in the Cheat Canyon

On late Friday afternoon, Jan 19th, 2007, Brian Masney, Mary Schmidt and Dave Riggs went to the Cheat Canyon to do some ridge walking for the Druid/New Years Day Cave system. Dave Riggs has been analyzing the line plots between the Druid and New Years Day Cave systems and something does not look right. It shows the end of the New Years Day Caves and Druid Caves several hundred feet away from each other. We decided to do some ridge walking of our own to see if we could figure out where the problem was.

Brian drove his truck down the Druid Road and parked it right above the cave entrance. We went to the main Druid entrance and got an updated GPS coordinate of the cave entrance. We wanted to make sure that was not the issue. Later on, we found out that the new coordinate matched almost exactly with the original coordinate of the cave. We are also confident with the New Years Day Cave coordinate since it is placed correctly on the topo map.

We hiked across the mountain from the Druid entrance and followed the limestone outcrop. There is a side lead in Druid that has less than a mile of passage in it. Several years ago when Greg Springer and company surveyed the side lead, they found a dead end passage where roots were in the ceiling and some surface debris was nearby. Dave used his GIS program to calculate the GPS coordinate of that location. We hiked around that area in the limestone but we did not find anything interesting. We didn't spend much time on that since that wouldn't help us get any closer to the deeper sections of Druid and New Years Day Caves.

Our next goal was to locate a spot where some surface water goes into New Years Day Cave. This is near the far back of the current survey and it was aptly named the Disney Ride by Dave Riggs. You have to crawl through a small slot near the ceiling where the water just pours onto you from the ceiling. Dave used his GIS program to determine where that should have been on the surface. We hiked to that coordinate and it was located in a stream bed with some water flowing in it. We followed the stream bed slightly downhill and we found a spot where all of the water disappeared underground. There was no viable place to dig. According to the GIS program, we would have to go down about 100' to get to New Years Day Cave.

After that, we hiked over towards New Years Day Cave. One of the GIS maps that Dave has is an elevation model of the state that was generated by a satellite. There is a depression in the main stream further downstream from New Years Day Cave. We wanted to check that out. There are a few waterfalls there and you can see some large cliffs on the other side of the hill. Unfortunately, they are on the opposite side of Lick Run compared to Druid. We did not have time to check these out since we had to be back in Morgantown.

Later that night, Dave looked at the data for New Years Day Cave and Druid Caves. Since we had an accurate elevation of the Druid Cave entrance, Dave was able to enter that data in his GIS program. The vertical line plots between the two caves are still in line with each other, with New Years Day Cave slightly higher than Druid. This is what we want.

The horizontal distance between the end of the two surveys is still pretty far off. New Years Day Cave has over 3,300' of surveyed passage and Druid Cave has 2.31 miles of surveyed passage. There are no loops to close and these are very long surveys. The likelihood of error in the two surveys is very high. A slight error in one survey shot would be compounded in later shots. With that in mind, Dave used the updated elevation of the Druid entrance to determine where the 3D cave passage should lie in the hillside. Our current data shows the end of Druid Cave sticking 70' out of the hillside. If the passage is moved to the left, then it shows the cave passage in the hillside where it should be. This puts it very close to New Years Day Cave.

This is good news. I hope that I have the same enthusiasm the next time I am surveying in New Years Day Cave. I am anxious to get back in there so that we can finish this project.

1 comment:

gregS said...

Actually, there were no roots in The Side Lead. However, one passage dead ended with a big fan of mud, breakdown, and rocks that gave every appearance of coming from an intersection with the valley wall. In the same passage there were two places were small drips were feeding quartz sand into the passage, which obviously came from the surface.

There is no air and no bats in The Side Lead, which tells me we won't be finding an entrance to there anytime soon.

Oh, well... at least it is protected from the hordes! :)