Friday, July 4, 2014

Cave Adventure

The last weekend of June was set for a trip to Cave Torgac. As usual (for a cave trip) it was difficult to get directions to the cave and Jeff worked extra hard to try to coordinate this end of things. I tried to pull together all our stuff and figure out what you need to go camping in the desert. We also had heard that the cave was around 40 degrees so we didn't know what to bring/wear since we were mapping. I packed way too much stuff - tent, sleeping bags, stove, coffee, oatmeal, dinner options, junk (stuff for s'mores). Also a camp shovel and empty bottles for cave peeing etc. We had to leave around 6:30 am so we could rendezvous with the trip leader at a known spot before heading out on "2 track roads" for some 30 miles. This was around 4 hours of driving. The trip leader had a car concern and stopped which made her a little late and we were a little late as well. Anyway, we got to the spot and she wasn't there. No cell phone reception. No pen or pencil to write a note. Nothing. After waiting 40 minutes (I just LOVE waiting) I told Jeff we should just go. I noticed flagging tape so we followed it through the landscape for miles and miles. Down the "two track" we went and came across the three other cars. Everyone else was there, suited up and ready to go in. I hate being rushed but we rushed and got ready. One complication was that my backpack of clothes was left inside the house in the mad rush to get refrigerated things in the car. Oh well. I had neoprene pants and could use Jeff's fleece and had my knee and elbow pads.
The next obstacle was the gate. This cave is closed and gated. 6 people a month are allowed in during summer months by permit only and BLM was there to get us rolling. Unfortunately the combo to the lock didn't work. A drummel was produced - ha! No way it would cut through the lock. Jeff somehow cracked the code so we were ready to go in. By now it was 11:30 or so. Long story short we had two teams that started at different entrances and began the work of mapping, sketching and inventorying the cave (which of course had been mapped, sketched and inventoried many times before). On day one Jeff and I were on different teams. I quickly got the nickname of "ferret" because I was the explorer when I wasn't inventorying which was a lot of the time since it was all collapse with guano (looked like tiny mouse droppings to me - not the huge piles we are used to seeing)and nothing spectacular. After a while we saw nice gypsum chandeliers and stalagmites and -tites.

We came across a couple dessicated bats. This cave is closed because bats use it to hibernate in in the winter months. We saw one live bat the entire trip - lonely little bat flying around. Puerto Rico had lots and lots of bats. We continued on and spent around 8 hours in the cave and got out with about 20 minutes of daylight left. The mad dash to get set up and eat was on...didn't deal with s'mores and just wanted to get sleep for the next day, The best part of the trip was that night. I don't think we have EVER seen so many stars EVER! We were out in the middle of NOWHERE with only a super faded glow from Roswell maybe? The Milky Way emerged and crept up higher and we could see lots of stars and satellites. Really cool. We slept with the tent top open so we could gaze some more. In the morning the sun rose on the far off horizon, we got breakfast and got ready to head out or in I guess I should say. This time Jeff and I were on the same team since we planned to leave early (after 6 hours of surveying) so we could get home at a reasonable hour. We went back to the spot I had been in with Jerry and Mary. The "pretty" part of the cave with the gypsum trays. We continued on and made our way to the formation room after exploring some upper areas.

So...not exciting like Puerto Rico (but we knew it wouldn't be) but worth doing. I don't know if I will be wanting to do this a lot but it was nice to see something different. It was COLD inside and HOT outside. Also going from blackness to super bright was a little bizarre. I immediately thought of the mole people in MadMax. The neatest thing about the trip for me was the rodeo getting there (crazy "roads" in the middle of NOWHERE) and the nighttime stars. We can camp a lot closer to home but there is the lure of being really out there that is appealing. We need some foam, camp chairs and more time to enjoy the camping part. Caving will never be the same!

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