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PostPosted: Jun 7, 2015 4:19 pm
by msm0711
We arrived at the Valhalla Preserve Gate at around 10:00 AM CST. Due to some travel issues, our second Jeep of cavers were running late, so we lingered near the entrance for about 30 minutes for the second vehicle. One of our party had a last minute emergency and was not able to make it. Once the others arrived, we made our way down the long drive. The road was much more worn than the last time I visited the area, and the one caver who was there that we insisted not drive his Ford Festiva was happy he had not. A large tree had fallen on the road recently, but thankfully it had been cleared to the road sides. There was an abundance of water on the road along the last ¼ mile, and numerous Bronze (Rana clamitans), Pickerel (Rana palustris) and Leopard Frogs (Rana sphenocephala) were seen plunging into and out of rut puddles as we passed. At 11:00 AM we made the clearing/parking lot and quickly unloaded. As the others were donning their gear I checked my riggers belt and headed up the path to the pit. I set a quick safety line on the 2 boulders near the rigging tree, padded the tree with a new “clinging” tree pad that I had made, and dropped a 300 foot piece of Highline Semi Stiff into the pit. Shortly thereafter, the other 3 members joined me at the pit and I harnessed in and dropped over the edge into Valhalla. Moments later I found myself on the floor of the pit, got off rope, and began to wait for the others. The pit was dry, but the sound of rushing water was loud from the waterfall on the opposite wall. There was an abundance of wildlife in the pit itself, including 3 types of Salamanders I was familiar with (Slimy (Plethodon glutinosus ), Cave (Eurycea lucifiga) and Dusky (Desmognathus conanti )), a Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), a Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala ), a Short Tailed Shrew (Blarina carolinensis) and a ton of Mice. The 4th type of salamander we saw is one I have never seen before and I have still yet to identify. It resembled the Slimies (Plethodon sp.) in color, black with white spots, but the spots were so numerous on the back that they almost fused into a solid white. The body was much slimmer than a Marble (Ambystoma opacum) or Slimy Salamander and was more the shape and size of a Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus ) or Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifiga). I’m kicking myself now for not taking its picture. We saw no bats in the cave during the entire visit, though we did see 8 to 10 in the evening circling the parking area. I also noted some bat bones and hair in the “Toms Chimney” area. We also noted 2 interesting fungal growths in that area. One of these two resembled a slime mold that was seeping an amber liquid in droplets. The other was forming a beautiful mycelial “tree” along the wall that measured 3 by 4 feet. I wish I had gotten a picture of it. In that same area we also came across a large cave cricket that I had not seen before. It was about 3 inches long, tan and resembled a cross between the typical cave cricket and a katydid. I assumed this was a bush cricket until I saw one farther down in the cave near the Thunder Falls area. I explored the crawls in the Rooms Down Under solo, while the other 3 scrambled down to the Waterfall Dome. I was disappointed to find the only real litter, a Dr. Pepper can, in the Rooms down under. I met up with them at where the 20 foot drop connects the passages to Thunder falls and Mega Dome and the Waterfall Dome area. We made our way towards the back, noting a line of cairns and the occasional faintly scratched arrow on the walls. Near the passage labeled “Snug” on the map we found a very shiny and recently dropped screw link, which we picked up as we passed. All the hand lines on the way to Mega Dome seemed solid, though the one made of webbing was sketchy. I toyed with the idea of taking a piece of PMI pit I had back in camp and replacing it, but ended up not doing so due to time constraints. Maybe next time. We saw a small brown crayfish in a pool in the last squeeze prior to Mega Dome which was a first for one of our group who had never seen one. He promptly screamed that he had found a tiny lobster. I am very curious about Mega Dome. There were at least 3 openings up its length that appeared to be possible leads, but I can’t find any info on their exploration. It seems likely that since Mega Dome is on the 1970 map, others have seen these and possibly thought to climb to them. We decided to head back to the pit after a short rest at big dome, and made good time in our retreat. When we returned there were mice all over our packs and vertical rigs, so we checked them over for chew marks but found none. Since we had not eaten yet, we assume it was not crumbs that led them to our things, but simply the smells on them. The climb out was uneventful, and I personally took my time up, since I had raced down. It truly is an awesome pit. One bit weirded me out though. About 2/3 of the way up I swear I heard the laughter of children. Even after I stopped to listen it continued for about 20 seconds before fading out. I could hear my 2 friends below talking over it, and my friend above said he didn’t hear it and didn’t say anything while he waited. I assume this was water fall noise or wind, but it was quite distinct. In all we had a great visit, and thank the SCCI and Buddy Lane for allowing us Lowcountry boys to visit.

Re: Valhalla

PostPosted: Jun 7, 2015 4:24 pm
by msm0711