Sunday, June 22, 2008

[trip] Spelunking in the Stinks of Gandy

On my way home from Kentucky, I stayed the night near Elkins to do my first ever trip into WV's famous Sinks of Gandy on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, nobody showed up at the designated meeting time except Bob Griffith, so he and I did a two-man trip to the Sinks.

We piled into my car and headed in the general direction of where the cave should be... it turns out that Bob had only visited the Sinks once, and it was over ten years ago. Luckily we found it without issue, geared up in shorts and t-shirts (after all, how hard could the Sinks really be?), and walked down to the cave entrance.

The entrance is truly iconic, Gandy Creek is swallowed completely as it silently meanders its way right into the gaping hillside. The surrounding land is pure West Virginia; rolling hills of cow pasture as far as the eye can see. An overnight thunderstorm apparently rinsed the cow pasture clean, and the water entering the cave had pools of disappointingly-colored froth floating by to show for it. Yuck.

Dave Riggs standing in front of the Sinks of Gandy. Note the disgusting brown water! Photo by Bob Griffith.

The water was just over ankle-height on the way in, with sunlight illuminating the way for several tens of yards, and birds flying in and out, swooping and dive-bombing inside the sizable passage. We sludged through waist-deep, icy cold water, going in much further into the cave than I had expected, and I could already feel the chill of the cave. We took a sandy side route when the water nearly sumped, passing by stagnant, disgusting pools of water, and noting flood debris completely covering the walls and ceilings. The air was still, and the cave was full of thick fog, which even two StenLights had trouble cutting through.

We made our way back into the main stream passage, and the water started getting deeper and deeper... first waist deep, then chest deep, then dropping even deeper ahead. We checked a side lead with elephant tracks, which led to a dead end - obviously a commonly made mistake, judging by the trench in the floor from the traffic. We knew that we had to be near the exit, but couldn't see any light, and weren't about to wade out into nasty water over our heads. We looked around for the bypass to the exit, but didn't have any luck, and since we were both feeling quite chilled at this point, decided to head back the way we'd came in - defeated by a "novice" cave! When we made it back out into sunlight, there was a notable brown ring around my chest: the high water mark of the filthy Gandy Creek.

Looking out the entrance as Gandy Creek flows in. Photo by Bob Griffith.

Bob and I had a great time in the Sinks, and now that we've gotten a few hints on how to find the path to the exit, hope to go back when the water is warmer and cleaner to do the full trip. Afterward, we joined Alan Carpenter for the Mon Grotto adopt-a-highway in front of Bowden Cave.

1 comment:

Shirley said...

"At a low stage of the water a few persons have succeeded in making their way from entrance to exit."

GLAD to see photos of this place I do genealogy research and read that take on it at