Saturday, May 19, 2007

[trip] Bennett Cave Survey Part 3

This month at Tucker County, we had only one survey team in Bennett Cave. Brian Masney, Josh Flaugher, and I (Dave Riggs) first surveyed the remainder of the downstream trunk passage. It meanders a bit, and the main stream juts in and out from under the wall a couple times. The ceiling gets very low - about 12 - 18 inches - and you must crawl for a few feet in the wide, shallow stream to pass it... but then it opens back up to 12 foot high trunk passage with high sediment walls. This big passage abruptly ends at a big sump pool with very slowly swirling water, depth unknown. Given the massive mounds of sediment around the pool, I suspect that even in low water (the water was relatively high today) the sump is impassable by lunged cavers. We did encounter two very large frogs here at the sump pool, hence it's dubbed name, the "Frog Pond".

We then headed back upstream to the waterfall room to knock out the lower two leads. We started from the red painted station on the ceiling under the waterfall and surveyed the left passage. This low, winding passage starts out small but opens up to crawling height shortly. Dry at first, a small stream is encountered, then old cans and bottles, a large salamander, followed by... a beautiful 15 foot high domepit. Brian did a sketchy climbup and checked a lead to the right, which he said was too tight. The water was coming from the left, and his view made it appear that attempting to push the low, wet lead would be torturous (so we didn't even try). My ability to survey backwards through this lead earned a name in my honor (which will not be uttered here).

Finally, we surveyed the right lead under the waterfall. This lead is never higher than 3 feet, but is extremely wide. It is fed by two infeeders, a too tight stream on the left, and a waterfall over frightening sandstone breakdown and surface debris from the ceiling on the right. I suspect that this right passage is fed directly from the surface stream above, while the left lead is fed from further upstream, closer to (or directly from) the garbage-filled FRO.

Bennett Cave lineplot as of May 2007

We netted about 400 feet of survey, the last of the major survey effort with the exception of the passage above the big waterfall. Several very small sections need mopped up, but these are trivial. If we can muster two survey groups next month, we should be able to complete the survey of Bennett Cave.

After meeting up with Doug McCarty and Kevin Keplinger, who had just finished surveying the small new cave on the Bennett property (which while only 35 foot long, apparently got them soaked with dripping water), we headed to CJ's for pizza. Brian and I then drove to Dolly Sods, which supposedly got a large amount of snow the previous night. We didn't find any snow, but the wind was absolutely incredible! I tested out my new Hennessy Hammock, which did an excellent job of keeping me dry in the rain and wind. In the morning, Brian and I hiked around 8 beautiful miles in excellent weather.

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