Texas Safari (Girls' Trip) - June 2010

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Texas Safari (Girls' Trip)
Location South Texas: Caverns of Sonora, "Badger Cave", Root Cellar, Chucky's Cave
Author Amy Rhoads
Date June 2010

The second annual Girls??? Trip on June 7-10 was not a trip for the weak of heart, but it was truly a lot of fun.

On July 7, trip leader, Lee Ann Dean, along with Tammy Tucker and Amy Rhoads and about a half-dozen roosters set off on a southbound path toward the ultimate destination of the ranch. On the way, a pit stop to the caverns of Sonora gave VIP, Lee Ann, the opportunity to see a relative and all an opportunity to see one of the most beautiful show caves. Highlights from the Caverns of Sonora include the resident peacock and the cave features. Especially fascinating was the room covered completely with wing-like formations reminiscent of the famous butterfly formation. Also impressive was the bacon-like formation with the fringe and the broken, but still impressive, butterfly formation. Before leaving the cave, the pathway of perfectly rounded smoothed white rock was a simple but beautiful way to depart the cave.

Several more hours on the road brought us to the ranch house where we were greeted by, the wonderful ranch owners, a somewhat devious dog, and a wonderful guesthouse. The second day of the trip featured perfect skies and the opportunity to see some more of the ranch. After a rooster release, a hike down the creek brought us to a large tree, one of which was so large in the trunk that it would have taken all three of us to put our arms around it. Unfortunately, it is being destroyed by moss. Fortunately, it provided shade for Tammy and Amy to learn shooting skills with a 22 pistol. Afterwards, we proceeded to check on the water pipe and then set up in a nearby field to test out our shooting skills with 22 rifles. The soda can target appeared to be too difficult for our first attempt, so Lee Ann???s improvised freezer bag provided the perfect target. After much exertion and some decent shooting, we lounged by the swimming hole and enjoyed some R&R. I spent part of the time allowing the minnows to nibble at my toes. On this day, we were fascinated by various creatures including the lizard, dung beetles, and vultures/hawks.

Affectionately entitled the Texas Safari, the third day brought even more wildlife into the picture. The random llama at the size of the road was an interesting way to start our trek in the ???all-terrain safari vehicle??? to the caves. Through several bump gates and hundreds of goats we made it to our parking destination, with Lee Ann flagging turn off points for the way back. Thanks to Skinny???s GPS, cave locating was much simpler than anticipated and made directions like ???find the red rock??? more clear. Our first cave, affectionately known as ???Badger Cave??? has two dissolution holes beside which one needs to climb down using a hand line. It was here that we first heard the low growling/hissing sound of a furry mammal we believe to be a badger. Once we completed the short descent we were surrounded by thousands of daddy-long-leg spiders that pulsated on the walls. Their legs are so entwined and they are so thick that unless you look you cannot tell where the individual spider joins the group. The cave itself was a wonderful experience. Lee Ann remarked that there was more bat guano than before. Popcorn formations and small columns with disc-like formations where the stalactite and stalagmite meet were two of my favorites.

After attempting to prove what the mammal was, we gave up and continued toward the next cave. Root Cellar was my personal favorite, not only for the large and small cave frogs, but also for the Jack and the Beanstalk like root that follows from the cave entrance and through the walls of the cave. Lee Ann was nice enough to be the first to rappel into the hole that leads into Root Cellar. She cleared most of the pulsating spiders from the hole. Once we were all down she requested that we find the spider whose legs were dangling from her helmet and remove it. ??? We spent some time exploring the single room and some small passageways before continuing to the last of the three caves. Lastly, Chucky???s Cave, provided an interesting rigging experience as we needed to tie the rope around a spider-covered archway and crawl into the spider-covered hole in order to assist. After using the sole of my shoe to remove the brunt of the spiders, we were able to rig successfully. A short rappel past the poison oak brought us into the hub of the cave, which is arranged in a spoke formation, with rooms leading out from the hub. Once in the cave, we once again found another cave frog near the entrance. We also found an interesting white root-like structure that appears to be some kind of fungus. We enjoyed taking pictures of the sumo formation and I challenged myself to shimmy into a smaller hole and crawl approximately 10-feet to where a complete skeleton of what appears to be a deer exists.

After a long, hot day of caving and covered in bat guano which Lee Ann stated was worse in all three caves than it used to be, we ascended out and returned to the guesthouse for a much needed shower.

My personal challenge came not from the caving but from waking up early every day, my persistent cold, the multiple ticks that we found, and the house scorpion that was found inside the house in Lee Ann???s bag. After stepping on it, Lee Ann reassured me that it was dead and that they often live in the attic. With so many animals, three great caves, and the thrill of various challenges this trip was truly a great time. Thank you Lee Ann for making it possible!