The plan for the day was to venture up to the Selman ranch to tie up a few final loose ends in the mapping of Cattle Cave. John needed to take another look at the geology for the final report on this cave system, and Lil needed to check several areas to ensure the accuracy of the mapping. In addition, there were some questions regarding one small side branch off of the main room that we wanted to clear up with another visit. This was the little spur that had been connected by smoke to another spot (Salamander exit?) on an earlier trip, but we wanted to squeeze in there to see if further human progress could be made with tinier individuals in the fore (Moi).
We had decided ahead of time to allow ourselves a little bit more sleep in the morning and depart from the Bozeman's at 8:00 a.m. instead of our normal 7:00 start time. On our way driving up to the ranch, we had a near close call with a traffic accident in the dense early morning fog, and the ensuing detour delayed our caving start time even more. As a result, we didn't actually get in the cave until past noon. It was a beautiful summer day, not too hot, not too windy. Very unusual weather for Oklahoma.
The first item on our agenda was to check out the small smoke hole. Glancing in there, we saw that it was a water/mud filled crawl, and we decided to postpone this job until the end of the day right before we left the cave. We proceeded next to the Cave's South arm, walking along and allowing Lil the chance to verify that the map she was carrying was an accurate portrayal of the actual cave arm. There did appear to be a couple of confusing bits on the cave data log, and we were frequently mentally kicking ourselves for failing to put in more semi-permanent labeled survey markers along the cave arm when we had done our detailed survey of this arm last year. We plodded down past the main bat room, where the gnat population was delightfully low at this time of the year, and went on through to the next section of the cave. The portion of the map between the bat room and the Trumpet Funnel appeared to have some inaccuracies, and we spent much of our time tromping back and forth, trying to determine whether the map was wrong, or the cave was wrong. Esteban voted that the cave was wrong, and offered to re-structure it to make it agree with the map. His suggestion was soundly voted down by the rest of the group.
Armed with additional information, Lil determined where the clarifications needed to be on the map data. She made copious notes, and we turned back without going past the trumpet, since it was already past 5:00 at this time. Helping to make our decision was the fact that the funnel itself, a challenging vertical crawl under the best of conditions, was very slick with mud from earlier rains this spring.
We had saved the exploration of the small squeezy crawl near the main cave entrance for last. As a group, we went through the portion of this sub-arm as far as it was easy to go, then I plopped myself down in the mud to check out the rest of the passage. Lil had told me what she had seen on her last visit through this passage. My exploration basically verified the description she had given me regarding her last visit to this spot, up until a point. She had recalled being stopped by a tight squeeze at one point, and unable to proceed through it, remembers that the passage beyond was large and walkable. When I got to the same point, however, I was able to go through the tight squeeze, only to be stopped in my tracks by a very tight meandering passage just a few feet further on. I sat there staring at the passage in front of me for several minutes trying to envision how I could get through, and finally convinced myself that even if I could get my body through it, it would be a one way trip. Backing out would be extremely challenging, and help would not be able to get to me to assist me if I got stuck. I made my best guess as to direction and distance of the passage which I could see, then backed out of the passage to re-join the group.
Muddy and tired, we left the cave feeling good about the work which we had accomplished this day, but saddened by the realization that there was quite a bit of additional loose ends to tie up yet.
Page created on July 8, 2004