Now I have a lot of gear, from climbing to backpacking and hiking. but caving is not something I've done much of. Despite having been on a Technical Search and Rescue Team in New Mexico (one that specialized in cave rescue as well as cliffs and stuff), I really never got into any caves. Well, I did go into Carlsbad Caverns once, but that was so tourist friendly that it didn't feel like Caving at all. That's not to say I didn't think I could handle some pretty challenging stuff. I can scramble over rocks with the best of them, and I'm pretty comfortable descending and ascending ropes. After talking with GISpuma a bit more though, we decided to not do any sections of the cave requiring rope work. We'd just explore what could be done without technical gear. I did go out and buy a cheap pair of kneepads though, because from what I could find on the internet, we would be in a lot of low passages.
I got most of my information about the cave from a website called CAPS, where there were detailed maps of various portions of the cave. The cave system looked pretty darn big to me, with a dozen different offshoots and some very tricky looking passages. As the day of our trip drew nearer, I got more and more excited, and also a little worried about what I was getting into. You can find all sorts of commentary on the internet about cool cave trips, and also accidents that have happened there. And I was beginning to get a sense that serious Cavers shied away from this cave and considered it trashy even. To make matters worse, a huge weather system, nay, hurricane, was just off the Carolina coast and was bringing a good amount of rain to the area at about the same time we'd be going underground. I didn't have a good sense of if this would make the cave more dangerous, but my gut was that it would. After a few email exchanges with GISpuma, we decided to still go for it, but to be extra cautious about passages with water in them. This meant not trying to get to the popular waterfall feature in the cave. I was ok with that.
On the day of our trip, I got up early and drove in the dark and rain into Georgia. Aside from the airport, this was my first time visiting the state, which was kind of cool. I left extra early to allow myself some time to explore Rock Town, which not only is a very cool climbing spot, but also contains one of the oldest geocaches in the area, GC76, placed back on October 2000. Ok, so it is only 15 years old, it's not like an amazing time capsule or anything, but geocachers get somewhat excited about finding "old" geocaches like this one. And I am not immune to that. I had a nice 2 mile trail run in the rain, then made my way back to the parking coordinates for Petty John Cave. GISpuma pulled up a little after 1030am and we were soon kitted up and ready to go down into the ground.
|Blurry "Before" Picture at the entrance|
While not knowing where we were exactly caused us to slow down, and take out the map frequently for consultation, it also added to the sense of exploration, not really knowing what we were going to come up to next. We ended up squeezing our way through the Z-bends and came out on what appeared to be the outlet of the pancake squeeze. The clues for the geocache were not making any sense, and we debated crawling back through the pancake squeeze right then. But the lure of more cave further on won out, we opted to continue exploring for a while and try to figure out the geocache clues on our way back.
|GISpuma in the Z-bends|
|Caver or Spelunker?|
Once we got to the Raccoon Room, the cave passages beyond were much easier to follow. Not as many side branches, or confusing junctions, just muddy crawl-ways and cool cave formations.
|One of the nice formations past the Raccoon Room|
|Nice Formation of a small pool. I especially like the drip captured|
The only real challenging passage was a short crawl called the Freeway, which was only slightly taller than a foot high, and very muddy. But it was still easier than the Z-Bends which we had done earlier, since it was mostly linear. Another interesting room we came to was the Bridge Room which had a very deep pit in it where we could hear the stream below. The Bridge Room was also a junction with some passages that led north and would make a potential loop route. However, we decided to press on to the Over 'N Under Room, which was only a short ways beyond.
|GISpuma on the far side of the pit of the Bridge Rom|
|Cave formations in passage leading up to the Over 'N Under Room|
|The Register at the Over 'N Under Room|
|How is this guy not covered in mud like us?|
|GISpuma coming through the Pancake Squeeze|
|Myself coming out into the Flat Room, another belly crawl|
|POsing at one side of the Z-bends|
|Interesting floor ramp formation on the way up to the Entrance Room|
|How is GISpuma not completely covered in mud?|