The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 22  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005
Ben had already dropped a few rocks, and now he dropped some more; we listened as the crashed on the bottom, and then set off mini-avalanches that took seconds to settle. Next he continued down the crawlway, until he came to another window, at the same level as the one from which I gazed. I tried to take some pictures, but without a powerful flash it was hopeless. I blindly aimed the camera upward into the dome, again to no avail. I followed Ben around the pit, and we took a look at the breakdown pile he’d found: tons of slanted, shattered, barely-balanced rock, and a big blackness beyond. Ben poked through it first, stood up, and – “WOW.”  He barked, and his voice was lost in the air of a big void! I found a mostly-stable hole to crawl through, and we stood admiring an enormous breakdown chamber, stretching away in both directions, its ceiling thirty feet above us. In cautious delight we picked our way down into the center of the room, stepping carefully between super-sharp chunks of unstable rock. I was leading the way when the passage character changed abruptly: Where the floor had been limestone breakdown, it became the mud we were so familiar with. Peering ahead, I saw something very, very unexpected – “Ben, there are FOOTPRINTS!”

     Suddenly very confused and a bit disappointed, we gazed about, trying to calculate the path of the person who had scampered around, apparently trying to climb up slippery rocks and then sliding off of them. We definitely did not get the impression that this intrepid past explorer wanted to leave the cave undisturbed, although he had left nothing but a LOT of footprints. I traced the prints around a big chunk of mud and peered down at a body-sized hole in the floor. Ben popped down through the hole, and on the other side were more footprints. 

He had difficulty pulling himself back up, since the hole was tight and well above the floor below, with no good footholds to push against.

We immediately began to speculate (to no avail): Where the heck were we? We had definitely been in virgin passage until this point, so what had we connected into? Who had been here, and how long ago? Had they ever surveyed here? We saw no survey stations. WHY would someone scoop such a huge room and not survey it, or even write something down about it? As we made our way back towards the other end of the room, we began picking out footprints there, as well, that we hadn’t noticed (or made) on our way in.

We sulked around for a little while, trying to decide what to do and feeling disappointed, and then headed back to our lunch spot to continue the survey. We were quick about it (that is, my sketch is rather lacking in detail, because there wasn’t a lot of it in the passage), and managed to stretch the tape to its fullest extent (100.4 feet!) while we shot across the pit in the floor. Our survey ended on the far side of the breakdown we’d crawled through, that is, barely inside the big room. We noted a few side leads, and then backtracked and went to the Kitchen Sink.
Ben wanted to push leads in the breakdown chamber he’d checked on our last trip with Tony. We carefully crossed the spar pool, admired the Faberge Egg and ssslloowwlly crept across the cascading flowstone and spar that lined the passage beyond. The breakdown chamber that before had seemed large to Ben seemed much smaller after the day’s discovery, but he stuffed his body into holes on each side of it, trying to get around the breakdown in hopes of finding more passage on the other side. There was a good deal of air in the area, but we couldn’t figure out just where it was going.