Recreational Trip

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Recreational Trip

A cave pool

Location SE New Mexico
Author Sawyer Key
Date October 27-29, 2017

October 27- 29 2017 Recreational Trip to Hidden and Cottonwood Caves

On Friday evening, October 27, 2017, William and Tammy Tucker helped us gather our borrowed rappelling gear for the trip. Upon checking all gear and loading up, our group of five members left for Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico for the weekend.

The trip members included: Cody Meredith, Michael Allen, Sawyer Key, Tammy Tucker, and William Tucker.

We arrived at the camping site well after dark and were welcomed to the forest with a steep temperature drop. Much to my surprise, the group???s two vehicles made the rocky, steep climb up to camp without any visible damage. We quickly made camp for the night to escape the chill and woke up the next morning around 9:30 am. After loading up our gear, we began our hike to Hidden Cave. This cave truly lived up to its name, for it took us an hour or so to find the opening. The brush had changed substantially since our trip leader???s last hike down the trail at least a couple of years ago, making it very difficult to find. During our search for the vertical entrance, we happened upon Hidden Chimney Cave. After this discovery, we continued back to the road in order to regain our bearings. It was Cody???s sharp eye that found the small red cairn that marked the overgrown trail and Tammy???s sense of direction that helped us stay on said trail. In the end, William found the cave opening and we excitedly began to don our harnesses and gear. Go teamwork!

The descent into the cave went without a hitch and Michael and I quickly got over our initial fear thanks to William and Tammy's training. Once we were all safely perched on the shelf, the group walked down into the upper section of Hidden Cave first and explored the large rooms for the better part of the afternoon. In a room adjacent to the sloping entrance of the cave is where we stopped for lunch and a quick talk about the different formations we had seen. The group then began the short descent into the lower section of the cave, paying careful attention to avoid harming a sturdy stalactite that had formed adjacent to the overhang. This section of the cave proved to be just as spectacular as the last. In this side of Hidden Cave, we spotted two brown, tiny bats resting in a low spot on the cave wall. Ascending out of the cave took place in two parts and the first of these sections was difficult due to overhang. It took the group a while to ascend out of the cave and by the time we were ready to hike back the sun had set.

We took a twenty-minute break upon arriving at camp and then proceeding to the second destination, Cottonwood Cave. Thankfully, the trail to this cave was foolproof to follow, although the path itself was steep and narrow. The opening to this cave was much larger than I had expected and Michael and I were quickly awestruck by the massiveness of the formations within the Big Room. We followed the designated trail through Cottonwood until I began to have a low blood sugar and turned back to the entrance with Michael. Cody and William continued on the trail a few minutes longer and we all hiked back to the car together with Tammy leading us.

This trip was a great first experience with rappelling and the recreational caving went without a hitch thanks to our trip leaders!