Friday, March 09, 2007

[trip] Druid Cave Dye Retrieval

To take advantage of the 50-degree heatwave today, Brian Masney and I decided that we'd head into Druid Cave to recover the dye traps place there just two weeks ago. We met at about 2:30pm on Friday afternoon, then carpooled in Brian's truck to the Cheat Canyon. Morgantown was very recently hit with a sudden blast of snow, so we were worried about the amount remaining in the canyon despite the temporary warm temperatures.

Brian drove his truck down the start of the Druid road, and we slid down the entire length of the first hill - yikes! Brian hopped out, quickly installed chains on his front tires, then tested things out by running back up and down the hill - a huge improvement! Despite several inches of snow, he drove us all the way down to the cave without incident.

We geared up and made it to the Druid Cave entrance at about 4pm. We were "greeted" by an odd bat, who flew out the main entrance and did some laps around the area for a bit, before we'd even entered the cave. The two of us headed into the cave, rigged the main drop, and rappelled the first drop with the welcome help of a webbing etrier.

Not wanting to make an expedition of the trip, we wasted no time in moving through the cave. We barreled through the high & dry canyon passage, then rappelled the second drop. Both armed with foot ascenders, we made short work of the waterfall ascent (which did not seem to have increased in flow at all, even with a large amount of snow melt this week) and the climb-ups.

At the walking stream passage, Brian stayed behind to try and photograph the sleeping bats, while I headed forward to the Big Nasty to retrieve the dye traps. I made sure not to handle the dye traps themselves, but rather only the strings, and I individually double-bagged and labeled each one. They were hauled out of the cave in a hard plastic container. Like the previous waterfall, the Big Nasty did not appear to have a higher water level than it did two weeks prior.

The trip back out was business-like and without incident. Except for the "special" bat when we arrived, none of the others were disturbed by our visit. Amazingly, we managed to do the entire trip in just under 2.5 hours, catching a glimpse of daylight as we exited the cave. Brian hauled us back up and out of the canyon, and we were back in town and eating a great dinner at Black Bear by 8:15pm.

We plan to hike back into the canyon this Sunday to pull the rest of the dye traps and investigate some interesting new karst features that were discovered recently.

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