Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Infinity of it All

Funny how when one reaches the end of the trail it happens unexpectedly, after climbing slowly out of the narrow canyon carved by the Seneca Creek, I saw the gentle left bearing curve and a clearing ahead, hoping that it was nothing more than another one of the numerous meadows along the path…until I spotted my car sitting bluely in the small parking area at the head of the Seneca Creek Trail finally signaling the end of three days in the Wilderness of the Monongahela National Forest in northern Pendleton County, West Virginia.
This was a trip at least a year in the making, definitely before my Shiba Inu pup, my only companion on the trail for three days, was a glimmer in her breeder’s eye, and what else would have first lead me to even pondering this trip except the lure of three caves that are likely the most remote known caves in the county. After reading the descriptions over and over again, and then purchasing the USGS topo maps, I had a general sense of where the real prize possibly lay, High Meadows Cave discovered less than a decade earlier with the remote, no pun intended, possibility of having yet to be explored passage. I decided that this trip was a must. Little did I realize that I was to stumble upon one the West Virginia’s best kept secrets when I began my first few steps down the soggy Lumberjack Trail.
The Bug-lette, flying as co-pilot, and I began our trip to West Virginia two days before hitting the trail with a brief overnight in Harrisburg East Campground (which I will stop short of recommending to anyone, granted it was quiet and cheap (the main criteria), but would I want to stay there again, no. The following day we arrived at Thompson’s Motel (you may recall the motel from the previous caving trip to the nearby Site’s Cave), friendly to not only cavers but backpackers and fortunately dogs as well. My parents made the three hour trip over the mountain to come and visit before I lost my last chance for a shower and general cleanliness for a while.

As a brief detour, I decided to take a drive past our eventual destination, and take a warm-up hike part way up Seneca Rocks, the iconic twin-sandstone slabs beloved by rock climbers. A lot had changed in the past fifteen years since I had visited Seneca Rocks. First of all the Visitor’s Centre had burnt down, and had now been replaced with an expanded one, and the original trail system that one took to the foot of the talus slope had now been replaced by a series of bridges and suspended walks as an archaeological site had recently been discovered there.
We also stopped at one of my favourite places to go caving, Kee Cave, now closed due to White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is affecting the northeastern bat populations. While hiking to the cave, Nori started chasing something that I later rescued and discovered as a cave cricket. Normally it is not recommended to handle them since they are a cave animal therefore very fragile, however I decided that when faced with impending doom at the hands of my dog that some human intervention was acceptable.
We left Thompson’s early the next morning after catching breakfast at the restaurant, and made our way across the low foothills the separate Germany Valley from the rest of Pendleton County, and found our turn off into Forest Service Road 112. The fog lay thick and heavy in the mixed spruce and hemlock forest until the forest road broke through the trees to the first overlook. An ocean of cloud beneath the clearest blue stretching further than the eye could ever hope to see.

After passing the access road that eventually wends its way to the lookout tower on the bald knob of Spruce Mountain, the road once again descends into the mixed forest as it drops in elevation toward the two trail-heads of Lumberjack Trail and Seneca Creek Trail. Both are about a mile apart, and it is necessary if one wants to make a complete loop of it to park at your final destination and hike to the trailhead you are staring from. I opted for beginning at the Lumberjack Trail and ending at Seneca Creek.
The Lumberjack Trail begins its slow ascent on the south-eastern rim of the Seneca Creek Canyon. It is an old railroad grade that was used back when the area was being logged, but now has been converted into a hiking trail. The benefit to starting in this direction is that the trail is an even and relatively easy upgrade (according to the trail descriptions that you read); however do not think that it is easy. Boulders the size of grape fruits are poised to trip you and very often you are slogging through ankle deep mud, but all in all it is a pleasant hike.
Eventually you cross the Huckleberry Trail, and if you stop to look at the trail map one quickly come to the conclusion that the people who printed these trail maps, including the USGS, don’t have a clue as to the correct name and order of the trails. However I knew that my eventual destination for the first day lay in the highest of a string of remote open meadows that I had read about in several descriptions of the exploration of High Meadows Cave and also other hikers who had been through the area.
Five hours after we began from the trailhead we reached our final destination of the day, the first of the high meadows on the southern rim of Seneca Creek, which was somewhere in the thickness of the trees below. After quite a bit of walking around (which according to the Milling About Theory of Speleogenesis, must have created quite a sizeable cave somewhere below us), we finally set up camp, hoisted the food up into the trees above the reach of the omnipresent black bears which had been terrorizing hikers on nearby Dolly Sods and then set out to find a source of fresh water.
This area of West Virginia had been suffering from a drought for a while as I was peripherally aware, but it hadn’t quite registered at the time that we set off for what appeared to be a tributary of Seneca Creek once you reached the second meadow. I was also not quite prepared for the steepness of the descent as the faint trail seemed to take a near vertical descent down the mountain (much fun for Nori with her four-wheel drive, but as for the biped whose every fibre was screaming at it to sit down and stop moving, it was not quite as much fun). Upon reaching the tributary that we had spotted on the map and NOT finding water (if we had gone fifty feet further we would have I discovered on the next day), we began the agonizing ascent back to camp. We after all had enough water for canine and human alike to get us through until the next day which we planned to spend the second night at the established campsite at Seneca Falls.
Sitting and watching the immensity of the sky turn from its milky blue to sapphire, and the long reaching rays of a failing sun while surrounded by the insect symphony and the occasional chirp of bedding birds and the mist rising up from the Seneca somewhere below like an eerie film…this will now forever be my vision of Eden. The constellations one by one crept through the fibre of nightfall, and when I finally expire, this is where I want my ashes spread in the infinity of it all. If there is a divine being, it has left its finger-print here where only time passes.
The next morning, the rising sun casting long shadows along the rim of the Seneca canyon woke us up with the choir of morning song-birds, and after boiling up just enough water to get us through breakfast, I broke camp with the moral support of Nori. We left our perch of the highest meadow to descend into the mute light of the forest and Seneca Creek.
One by one, we passed through each meadow (as well as discovering the tributary to the Seneca that I was hoping would be a water source. It was after one of these meadows that I remembered that High Meadows Cave was nearby, supposedly the most remote cave in West Virginia, and finding the small stream, hitched Nori to a nearby tree and followed it down. I tool a nasty spill on a slick piece of limestone, found the little waterfall near the entrance and turned to find a non-descript crack under a boulder. There was no airflow, but after a little more poking around in the area, determined that this was it. There wasn’t any water flowing out of the entrance, indicating that there was a serious drought going on in the area. I didn’t enter the cave as it would break several of the cardinal rules of caving…never enter a cave alone, wear a helmet and always carry three sources of light.
I marked its GPS location (sorry, I will not share. I’m not being stingy, but it is very remote, hardly anyone travels this way so if you were to get into trouble it may take weeks to recover your body…hiking here is one thing, but to go caving here is something different entirely), and continued on my way to the next trail junction. Here is where my maps, compass and general sense of where I was heading failed me. This trail junction heads in two different directions, one goes uphill and the other leads northeast. Logic would dictate that the downhill direction would be the one to eventually lead you to the bottom of the gorge and to the river, but the arrow was pointing me the other direction, so I turned southwest and started the long trudge uphill.
The original plan was to stop the second day at the established campsite at the impressive Seneca Falls, build a fire and relax to the sound of biomass conversion from the fire pit and the babble of the river, but after two hours of continuing to trudge uphill I began to have my doubts that my goal was within reach. After a quick gander at the GPS (I am cheap, I don’t have the Garmin that displays the map) to get my elevation and some study of the topo map, I realized that I was heading right for Judy Spring, the largest sizable established campsite on the trail, and that I had left Seneca Falls behind. Running low on water, “Noodles” (Nori) and I couldn’t afford to backtrack, so on we went until we reached the open sunny campsite of Judy Spring.
Fortunately for us, the site lived up to its name. Not far from the nearest site, a trail lead off to a tributary of Seneca Creek, and at an impressive headwall, a stream comes gurgling out of a solutional crevice (again, indicating that there is a cave somewhere under the hillside. After amusing myself with trying to climb into the opening where the water rushes forth (and that water is COLD), I refilled our bottles and we returned to our site to set up camp, roll up the pant legs and enjoy the lazy afternoon.
At some point in the morning I woke to a noise outside of the tent. It was close. A sort of scratching sound through the tall grasses, and then I heard it actually rub up against the nylon wall of the tent. Nori was all balled up, shivering. I unzipped my sleeping bag and pulled her inside. It was, after all, around 41° F. She took in a deep breath and then sighed, and fell back asleep. I figured that if she wasn’t too concerned about the sound of whatever critter it was crawling around outside of the tent, then I shouldn’t either and I drifted back off to deep sleep to the melody of the Seneca, babbling away in the dark.
The morning fell heavy, leaving a veneer of dew on everything. The birds were hailing the rise of the sun as I rose and cooked breakfast. After a few more moments of waking up, I packed up camp for the last time, hoisted my pack onto my aching shoulders, hitched up Nori to my waist belt, and off we went, crossing the wooden foot bridge over the Seneca and started the slow ascent to the end of the trail.
The end came abruptly, rudely interrupting the joy of walking. It started as a bright clearing ahead on the footpath, and then I saw the sullen hulk of my car, waiting like a dog that waits for the return of its partner. We had reached the end.
Returning to civilization, I decided to take us on a brief detour to the bald head of Spruce Knob; the last time I had been here was in January nearly twenty years ago with a friend from Junior High School. We had reached the summit of the highest point in West Virginia.
The Seneca Creek – Lumberjack Trail – Highmeadows Trail loop is in the Monongahela National Forest, and contains some of the most remote areas of Pendleton County. For more information, visit the Monongahela National Forest website. When travelling through the back-country, please follow all rules regarding campfires and follow the best practices of hiking in remote wilderness. Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Wear appropriate footwear and clothing. At these elevations the weather can be unpredictable, so come prepared to be dressed in layers and bring waterproof clothing, and take in the infinity of it all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lord Hill, Maine

The White Mountain National Forest is not just in New Hampshire, but also extends into the neighbouring state of Maine. I am a rock collector as well as a hiker, and in my searches for new places to go digging, I came across two locations, Deer Hill and Lord Hill.

The combination of the area's unique geology and its prehistoric history during the previous ice ages have created a heaven for the rock hound. Volcanic activity combining with hydrothermal activity created semi-precious stones: beryl, tourmaline, topaz, smoky quartz, garnet. Then glaciers steamrolled the mountains down, exposing the semiprecious stones and their surrounding pegmatite matrix. The National Forest Service has struck a decent balance between trying to preserve the natural beauty of the Park while also allowing for hobby rock collectors to have the opportunity to go out and make their own finds. Lord Hill is one of these locations, but in addition to is mineral allure is its astounding beauty and solitude.

The trail to Lord Hill is located on Deer Hill Road (and yes, Deer Hill, known for its abundant Smoky Quartz is nearby) on the Horseshoe Pond Trail. The pull-off is a small area on a turn about four miles from the start of the road. The trail descends from the road, a faint path, until it arrives on a dirt road. Turn right and follow this for about a third of a mile (there appears to be a fork in the road that bends to the the left, but continue straight until the dirt road you are on starts to peter out. Here, the trail bends to the right and enters a medow area. The trail continues back into the woods, and begins a sharp ascent into a mixed forest of mostly paper birch and hemlock. The trail crosses several small brooks in about three places, but remains dry in most weather. A junction is eventually reached, and here you want top bear left. You are almost at the summit of Lord Hill at this point. When you reach a fairly sizable and steep boulder, you are almost there, and this is the only tricky part of the hike.

Once you reach the summit, you have two options. For a spectacular view of Horseshoe Pond, take the faint trail to the left where you will find several ledges. Have a rest from your climb (though not overly difficult, it is substantial), have a seat, eat a snack and take it all in. Or, if you are there for some prospecting, from the summit follow the trail straight ahead. It re-enters the woods for a short bit and then the trail drops into an open area. Here is the first of the pits that you can dig in.

I have been prospecting here once. There is a large amount of white quartz here which can be hell on the wrists. A cold chisel is hiiiighly recommended here. The only thing I found in my brief prospect here were a few garnets, but according to some images at, there have been some nice specimens of topaz that have been found (the clear species). There are allegedly two more pits that people have dug in, but I have not yet found them in my brief explorations of the area.

The trail that takes you to the first pit is actually a loop, it descends down the mountain and then enters a primarily birch and beech forest. I haven't been all the way around this trail yet, but it does return back up the mountain. I have been down the return end of the trail (it is over by the overlook to Horseshoe Pond). It was during that trip, I found my first white mutations of the Pink Ladies Slipper orchid.

Lord Hill is located in Stoneham, Maine. Take Rt 16 North to Conway, New Hampshire. In Conway, pick up Rt 113 into Fryeburg, Maine. This is where Rt 113 becomes a North/South Road. Make a left onto 113 North and follow this to Deer Hill Rd (about in about 15 to twenty miles). Deer Hill Rd takes you into the Maine section of the White Mountain National Forest. In 4.2 miles you will see the trailhead for Horseshoe Pond Trail at a small pull over. The trail follows the hill, past a gravestone on the right, and exits onto a gravel road. Turn right. There will be a fork in the road, straight and left. Continue straight and when the road starts to peter out and there will be a grassy path on the right. The trail continues through here back into the woods and starts a steady ascent through mixed forest. Eventually you will come to an intersection. Turn left and follow this to the summit of Lord Hill.

For information regarding the rules and regulations about rock collecting at the Lord Hill site, visit their Mineral Collecting section. There is an informative .PDF file.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Welch-Dickey Mountain Loop

Time for some more serious hiking!

On the western side of the state of New Hampshire, in a section of the White Mountains near Waterville Valley (famous for its ski area,)from exit 28 on I-93, is a trail that climbs Welch and Dickey Mountain. Capped by sub-alpine plant life and fantastic exposed views, as well as being one of two locations in the state known for having Jack-Pines, this was the making of a fantastic hike.

Heading north on I-93 from Concord, NH, the weather was threatening disaster (much like it has for the northeast this summer this year). Grey clouds and light to moderate rains loomed ahead on the drive northward. Fortunately, as we neared the trail-head the sky seems to lighten up and in a few places there was actually blue sky. So, after pulling on my pack and prepping the dog, we headed up to the trail-head, and getting our bearings, began the ascent up the mountains.

The trail starts in mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, and begins a moderate grade up the first peak. Bearing right in the fork of the trail, you begin your ascent up Welch Mountain. If you had visions of a light and easy hike at this point, you had better ditch those thoughts now as you begin a steep ascent for the tree line. This is the shortest bu most difficult section of the loop. As you approach what you first think is the top of the mountain within the first 1.2 miles of the hike, you break into a mix of jack pine and sub-alpine plant life. Surprising to me, on the exposed and sunny areas, Lady Slipper orchids (Cyprepidium acuale) were in full bloom, usually preferring the dappled shade of Hemlock, oak and birch trees).

Thus begins the exposed section as you follow the yellow blazes on a series of ledges, many of which are at a steep incline. The trail seemingly disappears often as you climb up a ledge, only to discover that the trail keeps going up. My ten month old Shiba Inu pup, Nori, lived up to the Japanese meaning of her breed Mountain Dog as she nimbly jumped up four foot high ledges and waited impatiently for her dada to follow her up.

We finally reached the top of Welch Mountain, and the vistas of the surrounding mountains were fantastic! Here the trail continues on to Dickey Mountain. Descending from the top of Welch brought my first and only heart-in-the-throat moment when, following the yellow blazes, the trail seemingly dropped off of a vertical cliff edge. Gingerly working my way to the drop off while trying to keep Nori from running up ahead of me to her possible demise, I saw that the blazes lead you to the left, down an easy four foot climb. Descending this, we re-entered the forest as we walked .6 miles or so in the saddle between the two peaks.

Leaving the forest in the saddle behind, we started ascending a few more ledges to the peak of Dickey Mountain, which offers a 360° view of the entire area. From the peak of Dickey you can see Franconia Notch and Franconia Ridge to the north.

On the descent, however, I fond my favourite part of the entire hike. You begin a series of exposed ridge-walks with precipitous drop-offs on either side. The going is very steep so I recommend going slowly. There are also a series of cairns that help point out the direction you are supposed to go. Stopping occasionally to add a stone or two to the cairns helps to maintain them, however please to be conscientious not to dig up new stones, just pick up the ones that rain and wind and time has dislodged from the pile.

When you begin to reach the end of the hike, you return into the forest that you began. Nori was getting tired and rambunctious like a cranky three-year old and had to be picked up and carried, but she did very well for her first long-ish and difficult hike. Upon our arrival back at the parking lot, the sky opened up and began to rain again (perfect timing though I felt bad for the people still on the trail).

The complete distance for the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail is 4.4 miles, and can typically be done in about five hours. The trail is fairly steep in quite a few places, so please be sure to have decent and supportive foot-wear as you will be spending quite a bit of your time on the balls of your feet. This is a fairly popular hike, so if you plan on going, arrive early to assure a parking spot and if you want relative peace and quiet.

From I-93:

* Take exit 28 off I-93, and head east toward Waterville Valley on Rt. 49.
* Turn left onto Mad River Road (at the traffic signal) and bear right when Mad River Road goes that way.
* Then turn right onto Upper Mad River Road, which is both paved and dirt.
* Turn left onto Orris Road (there is a hiker sign at this intersection).
* Follow Orris Road for 0.6 mile and then take a short fork to the right to reach a large parking area.
* The Welch-Dickey Loop trail starts from the upper end of this parking area and quickly forks with the left branch leading most directly to Dickey Mountain and the right leg first encountering Welch Mountain.

Friday, June 26, 2009

John Boyd Thacher State Park, NY

So, after completing the return trip to Clarksville Caves, we needed something else to do to fill out the afternoon. Fortunately, the gentleman who was a representative of the Northeastern Cave Conservancy was also very familiar with the area's attractions of the outdoor type (my personal favourite), and he recommended that we go to the John Boyd Thacher State Park which was only twenty minutes away.

The predominant feature of the park is a huge ledge of limestone sitting on top of the local shales, surrounded by dense forests, waterfalls, and decent vistas of the Adirondack Mountains and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The views below are incredible, and in the distance it is possible to see the city of Albany, the state capital of New York.

He recommended to us the "Indian Ladder" trail, a trail that takes you along the bottom of the ledge. Named for the fact that the local Native Americans used to cut down trees, and then climb up them like a ladder, it is one of the most fossil rich areas in the world.

After the incredible drive to the Visitor Centre, we headed down to the trailhead where fortunately we were not forced to climb up and down trees as ladders as there is a modern, and very easy trail. Taking a close look at the Helderberg Limestones, you can easily spot the fossil remains of chrinoids and brachiopods.

Dotted all along this trail are numerous springs issuing from crack in the rock. The area's unique geology has provided the right coniditions for the development of caves and underground springs, many of which issue from this rock. However, long the way are numerous signs asking people not to climb on the rocks, mostly to safeguard them from getting injured on the way into the caves.

Along the trail are two waterfalls that cascade over the trail, however there was a mere trickle on our trip as there hadn't been much rain (until after we left).

The hike itself on the Indian Ladder is very short, less than half a mile, but this would be a good place for families or fossil-heads to visist, just please do not collect the fossils. For more information, please visit: the John Thacher State Park website. There you can also find a really decent map showing you the other trails. It is also the ending point for the Long Path, a trail that extends from New Jersey all the way into the Albany area.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marshall's Cave

Highland County, Virginia is a hotbed of cave exploration. Home to some of the longest caves in the state, the Chestnut Ridge cave systems and the systems of Burns Cove move massive amounts of water. And I do mean massive. The Butler-Sinking Creek system is now recorded to be seventeen miles long, and the related Chestnut Ridge System is fourteen miles long. The two are related hydrologically, as is nearby Aqua-Lockridge, and on the other side of the mountain is the Water Sinks System which is thought to possibly be a major contributor to the fridgid waters of Aqua, also known as Refrigerator Spring. Across the Cowpasture River is a small trail about a mile long that leads to one of my favourite places under-ground, called Marshall's Cave. When pondering the caving possibilities for the Boston Grotto/MIT caving trip back in February, this cave was one of the first that came to mind. I had last visited the cave about fifteen years prior, right before I left for college with my friend Christian, and I remembered being impressed with the absolute scale of the formations and the picturesque cave passages. This is not the longest cave I had ever been in, but it certainly was the most formated and large, complex horizontal caves I had ever been in.

After an evening of recovering from the Valentine's Day adventure of Site's Cave, and late evening debacle of locating Cave Rat Cave, finding out that we couldn't get into Cave Rat Cave through the horizontal entrance so aborting the trip instead of a hike in snow flurries to Kee's Cave in Franklin, this I felt would be the crowning jewel of our trip into the heart of West Virginia caving. True, Sites was very challenging from the technical aspect of rappelling and ascending out, but this cave would give us a good work out, and give me a chance to strech out my legs.

Genita and Darren had left us the night before, so it was just down to Keluo, Amy, and Madeleine who had joined us later the previous afternoon. We drove the thirty or so odd miles down a non-descript country road to the Bull Pasture Recreational Area near Williamstown, Virginia. Following the Cow Pasture River, you could smell cave, and the weather was quite mild, in the fifties, compaired to our weather back home in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

After locating the parking area, and gearing up, we headed across the suspension bridge to the far side of the river, and picked up the trail to the cave. The cave is not readily spotted since it sits high on a talus slope overlooking the river, and the only indication that you are close is when the trail crosses over a spring (which is the resurgence for the stream in the lowest level of the cave). Spotting the talus slope, we all turned up the faint trail. People do come to this cave, but my guess is that it is fairly infrequent. I have NEVER seen another group of cavers in it, and when I mention the name of Marshall's Cave, I usually get blank looks from many Virginia cavers. Either is it forgotten by most, or they just don't know about it.

Amy and Madeleine lead the way into the cave, stopping to take pics of the small brown cave spiders that have made their home in the entrance area (for the squeamish, they are really small, and if you weren't looking for them, you would never really notice them). The passage is made up of grey limestone...even the formations are grey, and what formations are there, they have been broken off by vandals. However, we didn't come here to see the broken ones, and shortly we made our way through a few narrow squeezes before arriving at the pits that lead down to the middle level. Fifteen years ago I remember breaking out the ropes and rack to rappell down the twenty-five foot deep holes, but after a little investigation, the use of vertical equipment would be of no use, so we left the rope behind.

After this easy climb-down is where you first encounter the first major obstacle of Marshall's cave. Water. The water is so still that it is hard to discern where the water actually starts. But it is also here where Marshall's true beauty starts to show itself. The formations are active, still receiving the mineral laden water that slowly builds them up. The passage is a narrow canyon passage that you have to traverse by putting your feet on the opposite walls and "walk" across, hoping not to get into the cold water. This is easier said than done, as the formations partially block the passage, causing you to sometimes bridge yourself across, duck under formations, and occasionally climb...all while trying not to fall in. Keluo was the first casualty of the trip when he attempted a duck under that brings your face within a couple feet of the water, and his foot slipped and ended up thigh deep.

On about three occasions you reach a formation choke in the passage, and the only way to continue is up the wall, some of them with tricky hand and foot holds. For someone whi is trying to learn various chimneying and non-rope based technique, this cave is quite fun and offers opportunities for you to stretch yourself. Finally, after this third formation choke, and climb up the wall, there is a fifteen foot drop that you don't want to go down, and building up the confidence that you can do it, and your dependency upon friction can be a little disturbing at first, but not too difficult.

After crossing the drop, there is a climb down to the big part of the cave. It is a fairly tall canyon passage full fo large formations, mostly columns and flowstone that reach forty feet to the ceiling. Following this passage back, we spent quite a bit of time photographing the formations and the occasional bat. The passage quickly goes from walking to stooping, and then finally it appears to end. I remember fifteen years ago that there was a gypsum flower (a formation where the gypsum, usually a mineral of drier caves, almost seems to have been extruded from the rock like toothpaste) but it is gone. This could be due to increased moisture in the cave or, more likely, someone decided to take it home (where it turned into disappointing dust most likely).

To the rest of the group it almsot seemed like a disappointment...we had reached the end of the cave. Not quite ;) We turned around and headed back toward the entrance. Part way back the passage, I asked the group to stop and look by their feet. There was a small opening that lead into blackness. This is the entrance to the lowest level of the cave. After Amy slipped into the darkness, the rest of us followed, and then slid down to the bottom. It is here that the ceiling are really high, a good estimate is about seventy-five feet or so. It is also here that there is the stream that resurfaces at the spring that we crossed on the way in. Amy and Madeleine disappeared among the formations toward the back of the room. Keluo and I took some photos and I took the time to change my batteries. I was trying to encourage the group to take a sip from the stream, going against all presuppositions that one shouldn't drink unless it is from a tap, but it is the sweetest, cleanest tasting water I have ever had.

Marshall's Cave is located in the recreational area near Williamstown, Virginia. Though horizontal and following in pretty much a straight line so it would be difficult to get lost. However, that being said, please do not go caving unless you are with a minimum of three people, three independant sources of light and at least the basics of caving gear. If interested, please get in contact with your nearest grotto, or if you have any caver friends. The last I knew, this cave is currently closed due to federal and local governments folling the recommendations for the protection of bats from White Nose Syndrome. Though this is not a "bat cave" per se, it is the policey of many places that no one enter the cave to prevent the spread of this tragic condition afflicting our bats. As a caver, it is our responsibility to be like the Lorax and speak for the bats. We were very fortunate to have been able to get in the caving that we did in West Virginia and Virginia when we did since they closed the caves shortly thereafter. There are caves that are open, please check available web resources and with local grottos (caving clubs) to get information on what caves are available for entry.