August HGRP, 2011

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August HGRP
Location High Guads
Author William Tucker
Date August 27, 2011

On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Tammy and I were attending the HGRP event on 3 Mile Hill. Tammy was assigned to a team going to Pink Panther. I was assigned to lead a team to survey a remote cave.

My team included: Derek Smith, Cordelia Ross and Scott Anderson. We left Texas Camp at 10:30 AM to drive to where we would begin our hike. This was a long drive; but, I had no trouble going straight to the parking area. Jason Walz, from the Forest Service had given me two pieces of information to help us find the cave. First was a set of questionable GPS coordinates for the cave entrance. I was told that these coordinates were in degrees, minutes, seconds; but, after attempting to enter them in my GPS, one of the seconds was 61. This is not possible, so I guessed that it was actually degrees and fractional degrees and the result seemed reasonable. The second bit of information was a printed copy of a photograph of the cave entrance taken from some distance away with a profile sketch of the ridge. I now believe that this photograph was taken from a helicopter based on the angle of view and some information on the cave's discovery.

After arriving at the parking area, I noticed that someone has moved some logs and a new extension to the road is being formed. There is a ring midden and possibly other cultural artifacts that are potentially threatened by this. A good sign indicating that no vehicle travel is allowed beyond that point would help.

We set off on a fairly straight course headed for the cave with all of our necessary gear. It was hot and there was no trail and our course was steep. The topo does not seem to indicate much of a better way, though. We hiked down to the bottom of the first drainage thinking that the photograph was looking at the opposite ridge. The sketch did not seem to match exactly and we could find nothing that looked like the photograph; but, there was a dark spot which could be a cave opening and it seemed to match the direction that the GPS was leading us in, so we climbed on.

As we neared the top of the second ridge, it was apparent that the GPS was telling us to go to the next canyon. We climbed over the ridge and proceeded down the other side following the GPS. Finally, the GPS started tell us that we were within 40 feet of the entrance and it started bouncing around a bit telling us first that it was below us, then above, then left. I knew we were close; but, it did not seem to be there. We split up and began searching the area. Just as I was about to give up and start up to check out a cliff face just above me, I walked around a large rock that others had already passed and there it was. I had to take back all of the bad things I was thinking about the source of those GPS coordinates.

It was hot and we were worn out from the difficult hike. We looked around for a good tie off point for the rope and the best we could find was a well embedded rock some distance from the entrance. It was not tall but had a lip all the way around it next to the ground. I padded the rope and made sure it was well placed under that lip.

We began the survey at the brass cap and with one long shot down to a noticeable stalagmite in the center of the main room, we were inside the cave. After waiting for my eyes to adjust, I was awestruck as I began to recognize what I was looking at. The walls and ceiling are covered with large dogtooth spar crystals. Most of those that receive some indirect sunlight through the entrance were covered with green algae.

We set about 8 stations in what little time we had and I sketched. Derek was lead tape, Cordelia was foresights and Scott did inventory with a great deal of help. We did see one bat high on the ceiling in a small dome and took great care not to disturb it.

The survey went very well; but, it is apparent that the thought of surveying this cave in one day was too optimistic. It will take several trips to finish the survey just based on the amount of cave that can be seen once inside. There are indications of a lower level, too; so, who knows?

We were worried about trying to make the hike back in the dark so we left about an hour before. We finished the last few hundred yards in the dark and drove back to Texas camp arriving there at 10:15 PM. I have since digitized the survey and inventory information gathered on this trip and transmitted those to Jennifer Foote to give to the Forest Service. 47 hours of volunteer time were donated in this effort and just over 152 feet of survey data was gathered from 8 stations.

I recommend that other survey trips to this site be based closer to the cave and not Texas camp to avoid the loss of valuable time driving. With an early start, a good day's worth of survey can be performed from a closer camp.

This is a beautiful cave and the register seems to indicate that others have attempted to survey it before on single trips without following up on the effort. The hike is difficult and I would not recommend trying to make that hike two days in a row.

I would like to see this survey completed and, if given the opportunity, I would like to continue work on it on future trips. The right combination of survey skills and opportunity can make that happen.

Thanks to HGRP and the USFS for the chance to survey this fine cave and thanks to my team mates for a great trip.