Caving with Sunglasses
Sinking Cove 29 June 2007 through 3 July 2007
Middle Georgia Grotto
Friday June 29: Ed and sons, Josh (age 16) and Luke (age 12) arrived with enough light left to set up camp. Mary had arrived earlier. Scott and Chris arrived a little later followed shortly by Byron .
Saturday June 30: Ed, Luke, Byron, Scott, Chris and Mary did a redneck trough trip (entrance 1 to entrance 2). The water was way down and could have been avoided more easily than usual except the point was to get wet and cool down, not stay dry. Ed, Scott, Chris and Byron continued by swimming/wading to the Rimstone Room and a little past. Tom and grandson, Travis (age 8), arrived while they were in cave. After re-grouping at camp Tom and Byron loaded up with vertical gear and went in search of the boulder entrance for a possible pull-down trip. Ed, Luke, Travis, Mary, Chris and Scott took rafts back to the Rimstone Room then almost to the Big Room and back. One of the rafts got punctured on the way in and was half-flat when the group returned to the Rimstone Room. Tom and Byron managed to find the Boulder Entrance and the first couple of drops but couldn’t find the way through so they reversed course and hiked back out. Back at camp Jay and Shelley had arrived along with their two sons Thomas (age 8?) and Jack (age 6?).
Sunday July 1: Ed awoke early and went on a hike to pick blackberries. After blackberry pancakes Ed took Jay and family on a redneck through trip and met Tom, Luke, Travis and Byron at the rafts at entrance 2. Jay and family took a quick tour of the Rimstone Room and departed. Tom, Byron, Travis, Luke and Ed continued through the cave to Entrance 9 (waterfall). We were not familiar with the best route so stuck mainly to the stream passage, which we later found out was probably not the best route. At one point Byron was forging ahead to check the conditions while Ed and Tom tried to get Luke and Travis through a deep portion and keep them mostly dry. Ed was trying to keep his head above water while all 80 pounds of Luke tried to get on top of Ed’s head muttering “it’s cold, it’s cold” over and over. Tom had a nearly identical experience with Travis. After a few moments of this we realized that we had to get the kids out of the cold water and back tracked a few feet to a point we could climb up. We finally managed to get to dry passage and made our way through. We got to a point we knew was very close to entrance 7, our desired exit point. Ed stayed with Luke and Travis while Tom and Byron went to find the route. After about 15 minutes Ed started worrying about the cold wet boys (neither complaining yet) and hypothermia. He walked about 20 feet to a junction and noticed warm air coming from a slot to the right. Ed took a quick 150 foot scoot up the slot which revealed day light and green plants. Ed returned with Luke and Travis and got them out of the cave and in the warmth. After Tom and Byron returned we exited the cave and climbed out of the entrance sink-hole, then out of the sink-hole (Wolf Cove) containing the cave entrance sink-hole. A cool walk in a light summer rain brought the group, tired but feeling good, back to camp.
While the above group was busy surviving in the cave more people arrived back at camp: Anne , son’s Anthony (age 6), Adam (age 15) and Adam’s friends Matt and Jordan; Bob with children Ty (age 6) and Laynie (age 9); Braden (age 7) and Christopher (age 5) ; John, Ellie and Ellies granddaughter Isabella (age 5?). Luke led a raft trip to the Rimstone room and a little beyond for John, Ellie, Isabella, Braden, Christopher, Anthony, Bob, Ty and Laynie. Braden and Ellie fell but neither suffered grievous injury. They made it past the big flowing stone on the left then returned.
Monday July 2: Everyone jumped into three vehicles and we drove to Custard Hollow Cave. The road was in the best shape we’ve seen it. Ed cleared a few oil pan busters from the road on the way. Anne and Josh opted to wait outside the entrance and relax while Anthony, Luke, Bob, Laynie, Ty, Braden, Christopher, Tom, Travis, Matt, Jordan and Adam entered the cave. Bob had dug deep into his caving past and was using a carbide lamp. A good bit into the entrance Adam commented that you could see a lot better once you took off sunglasses. Bob turned around with Travis, Laynie, Ty, Anthony and Braden at a bundle of 2×4’s at the 2,700 foot point. Matt, Jordan and Adam were exploring leads. Tom, Luke and Ed spent some time looking for the “obscure channel” in the ceiling which leads to the illusive 3,000 feet of dry bore hole. There is a great “slide” just past the 2,700 foot point where you can slide down about 15 feet on your behind. We explored as far past the point where we should have seen the “obscure channel” until Luke got bored and Ed’s knees began to protest from the low sand crawls. We found a 1952 signature in carbide black in one low spot about 1 mile into the cave. On the return Ed climbed into an “obscure channel” in the ceiling which was behind the stack of 2×4’s and went about 100 feet with good air flow the entire way. Since Luke was getting bored sitting there Ed went back and gave Tom the directions then he and Luke exited. On the way out they ran into Adam, Matt and Jordan and gave them instructions for finding Tom. They caught up with Tom at the “obscure channel.” Matt and Jordan returned to the entrance while Tom and Adam forged ahead. After a few hundred feet they found bore-hole and went left a few hundred feet before that petered out and they reversed direction for another 1,000 feet. They decided to leave the rest for another day and returned.
After most of the group had settled in back at camp Kim arrived with son Pat (age 15) and daughter Lindsay (age 17). Pat and Lindsay went for a short hike. Later Ed observed Adam running into camp and grabbing a bunch of knotted, frayed rope that didn’t look like it could hold itself together, much less anything else. Adam finally admitted that they had gotten their vehicle stuck on a mound just past the parking area for Custard Hollow cave. He had just run the entire two miles. We grabbed some real rope and pulleys and Tom, Bob, Ed, Adam, Pat and Josh went to get them unstuck. We ran into two people from Deep South Outdoors (DSO) camped at the parking area who had a 4-wheeler with a winch. While the rest were getting ready to push and were rigging the 4-wheeler to an anchor Ed got in and put the vehicle in 4L and drove back off the hump. Now that they know about 4L they will really be stuck next time.
Back at camp Ed took Josh, Anne, Kim, Pat, Lindsay, Luke, Adam, Jordan and Matt on a raft trip to the Rimstone Room. Later we sat around the fire making s’mores and singing kum-ba-yah (not really).
Tuesday July 3: Broke camp. Made numerous passes picking up small pieces of garbage. Tom removed broken glass and aluminum from fire rings left by previous groups. Removed flagging from along the road that we had put up on the way in to mark the route for others.