Author Topic: Makita Drill - New little cave in little cave land  (Read 745 times)

Offline Kenilworth

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Makita Drill - New little cave in little cave land
« on: May 08, 2016, 04:43:20 am »
 Freedom from anything always creates a reciprocal dependence on and responsibility toward something else. So we have to choose, like Bob said, always. Then there are things we can never escape, the big laws. As strong as gravity I felt the pull of the forested hills and uncovered rocks around our camp. Accepting this pull, I freed myself from a sign that said: No Trespassing. Later, higher on the hill, I saw the eaves of a house. So in gaining the freedom to see around the next bend I lost the freedom to whistle while I walked. But around the next and the next were only the round gentle bowls; no openings or sinks or risings. I was back to camp by 8:00. My brother was there with three cups of bought coffee, since it had rained in the night and a fire would have taken a long time to build. My wife was up too, and we took quietly of the coffee.

 Then we talked about the place. We were 300 miles from home, where we had never been before the previous day, and we knew almost nothing about the geology. We were here only because of a supposed new cave reported by a landowner. This had turned out to be nothing but an animal burrow. Still, we knew that there were more than 50 caves in the county, some several thousand feet long, and I had in the car a bit of paper that said of a cave a few miles away:

The cave opens into a trunk passage. The passage is walking height and 10 feet wide. A side passage, that was not explored, drops down 10 feet to what may be a lower level. Ahead the passage gets smaller until it becomes a 2-foot wide by 1.5-foot high crawl - that has wind. Nice cave and dry. B---- Z---, 1993

 I telephoned the owner and got no answer. It was a Saturday and still too early in the day to try ourselves against this obstacle.

 So we went back into the woods, this time on the other side of the valley. We spread across the hill, I at the topmost contour. Here were a few chunks of limestone, amid thin tree cover and a quasi-scree of marbly conglomerate. A warm breeze was faintly sour. Away behind was the hum and growl of a highway. Things were finishing their dripping in the growing heat. The little patches of nettle and grass gave off great clouds of pollen in the wake of my passing. A little box turtle progressed steadily uphill. We progressed steadily southwest. Finally, my brother called out from below. He had found a large exposure of limestone, a stream at its base, and we followed it gently downward with more and more enthusiasm, for there are no caves reported in this woods, and look! A headwall through the trees! The stream sank into an opening three feet by five. We brought out lights from our pockets and followed. Soon inside, the water percolated through the gravel of the floor and a low, muddy, tilted passage continued. After perhaps 40 feet, we were stopped by a blockage of mud and flood debris. Our joy at this discovery was due more to the previous day’s disappointment than to the merits of the cave. Indeed, not even a cave, since the Tennessee Cave Survey defines a cave as being 50 feet long, 40 feet deep, or having any single pitch of 30 feet. Still, we were a little dirty, happy, and by now it was surely late enough to visit our sleepy landowner.

 I knocked and waited a long while before a little girl answered the door. She was probably four or five years old. When I asked if her daddy was awake she only smiled and waved and said, “Come inside.” I waited on the steps a while longer until her mother appeared. The house was still waking up, so I retreated for a while and the man got up and got dressed and came out to talk. He was surprisingly welcoming and was pleased when I gave him the 1993 survey of his cave. Soon we were headed with his blessing to the dark green of the hillside.

 The cave was as described, though the “possible lower level” was nothing navigable or even potentially interesting. The crawl that had stopped the original survey crew continued to shrink in size until we could discern a larger chamber beyond the crux of the thing; a constriction 1.5 feet wide and .5 feet high. The floor was clay, so it was an easy thing remove a couple of inches worth. My brother went through first and reported an ongoing passage. I followed, and began to survey while he looked ahead a bit. He came back with news of larger rooms ahead, so my wife, with some difficulty, joined us. Within fifteen minutes of our entering the cave, we were joined in exploring virgin passage that had been so plainly suggested for more than 20 years.

 We surveyed for an hour, then decided that we should talk to the owner before continuing. For all he knew the cave was 60 feet long and probably he would wonder about us eventually. So we wriggled back out and told about what we had seen and what we planned to do. We ate some lunch, and went back to work. After five more hours, the survey was finished.

 Roane County, Tennessee is by no means a prime caving region. In a state with ten thousand caves and several counties containing many multi-mile caves, it is in fact a waste of time from the standpoint of the typical recreational caver. For an explorer who can find pleasure in assembling small bits of a muted and humble puzzle, it appears to me to have much potential for reward. Looking back now at Tennessee Cave Survey data, I see large areas of intense karst with no reported caves. Many of the reported caves from this area have been incompletely explored or could be dig sites. Aside from the general overpopulation of Roane and the surrounding counties, this is exactly the sort of place that I prefer to hunt for caves and map caves in. The freedom that comes of solitude and independence requires sacrificing the pursuit of the huge, intoxicating discoveries that many cave-hunters dream of, because more than a cave finder, I want to understand and document as completely as my knowledge allows. To exhaustively study a small cave over the course of a few hours or a few days means more to me than to charge down the halls of a monster and to never really know it. But I will not be the person to do the work of caving here. There are too many other such places I am already committed to, and the land is vast, and my time is short. Eventually another person will see the opportunity, and will enjoy, I reckon, lots and lots of success.

My maps are hand-drawn and of relatively low quality at their best. This one is at a much lower resolution than normal to allow it to fit onto the forum, but it gives a vague sense of the cave I've just written about.