Crevice Cave, Echo Pit to Pipistrel Door to Door, Saturday, February 27, 2010
After meeting up at the park-et, we headed to Weinrich’s to get changed then Edmund Tucker, Erin Tucker and myself ran over to Echo Pit to rig the ropes and wait for the others to show up. After what seemed like 30 minutes, the rest of the crew finally showed up. We had a group of 12 people today, including Don Bittle, Paul Hauck, Richard Young, Gary Resch and 5 others from the St. Louis area. Grottos on hand were the Little Egypt Grotto (host) S.E.M.O. Grotto and the unofficial grotto called ‘Were not a grotto”. I’m not sure how they actually spell it but they hate speleopolitics.
After they showed up, we took a group photo then I immediately dropped the pit. Erin followed moments later then Edmund came in on the 2nd rope and hung out near the top of the pit to take photos of some people coming into the pit. He ended up rappelling down with Richard after Paul made his way into the pit. After everyone was in I tied a series of butterfly knots in the 2 ropes to attach everyone’s gear bags to. Some of the group carried their harnesses and rack’s out with them; however, I wasn’t one of them.
We got started on the trip with Paul, Richard and Don taking the lead. Edmund, Erin and I were hanging out in the middle with the St. Louis crew in the back, followed by Gary. The passage was very easy going, and I didn’t have to duck under anything for the longest time. Although there weren’t any formations in the passage until we came to the backbreaker passage, which was a series of rotten rimstone dam’s at the entrance of the passage, it will still a cool part of the cave. It was an exciting day because some of us were getting to see more Crevice than just the historic door to door trip from Pipistrelle to Historic. I took a few photos as we walked through the South White Nile; however, nothing too special turned out, just people walking in a dark tunnel. At various points in this passage I found shoe leather from the old shoe factory in Perryville. Many leather scraps were dumped in Perry County sinkholes, years and years ago. By the end of this portion of the trip, Edmund and I had fell back to the end of the group to bring up the rear.
We got to the stoop walking area and we slowed down quite a bit as we could no longer move at a brisk pace. After ¼ mile of stooping, which wasn’t all that bad even though I am 6’3”, we were at the junction of the Eternity passage. I was standing right on the edge of the ledge above the river and Edmund gave me a push. I almost lost my balance and fell in the water and we all had a good laugh. We got to moving and headed up into the Paradise Room where we all sat down to eat lunch. It was at this time I noticed Don was pounding down a can of Red Bull. I guess if you are going to bring an energy drink into the cave, bring a red bull, it takes the least amount of pack space!
While most of us ate, Edmund was busy giving a crash course on cave photography with a side flash to the guys from St. Louis. He was also showing them how to set up night mode on their cameras for the photos, and the importance of having your head lamps turned off during the photos. Everyone finished lunch, and began to make their way to the Paradise Formation. Paul was already down there looking around, and I followed him shortly. He showed me the climb around the backside of the formation where there was a small rimstone pool with cave popcorn growing inside the pool. We found about 8 salamanders in the pool which were about 1/2” long as well. It was a pretty area. It was at this time I notice several large cracks at the base of the formation. Paul said they have been there ever since he discovered the formation years ago. I then noticed more cracks around the center of the column which have already began to grow back together, healing the formations breaks. It is hard to fathom how old this formation must be.
We set up Edmunds camera on my tripod to take a series of photos at the Paradise Formation. We took two grotto group photos as well as a couple single photos. I hadn’t had my picture taken in front of the Paradise Formation yet, so it was something that I definitely wanted. After all pictures were taken, we returned to our packs to head out. I had to pack my flash, and to my surprise when I opened my pack and got my dry bag out to put my flash in, I discovered someone had rocked my pack! Two or three large rocks were inside the pack that I tossed to the side as everyone laughed. Paul decided he should check his pack as well as he took off to the Paradise formation long before anyone else. Sure enough, he had a few rocks in his pack as well. Har har everyone. Too funny……………
We headed out to the entrance of North Merlin’s. This is where we were to depart ways. It was 2:30 p.m. and I told everyone else we should by all rights make it out of the cave by 9:00 p.m. That would give us plenty of time to take pictures, goof off, and move at a steady pace. 1:00 a.m. would be when they would come looking for us if they had not heard from us by then. Edmund, Erin and I were going to make the most of the trip and head down to the Eternity Room and to the siphon terminus of Crevice Cave.
After saying our goodbye’s to everyone we headed out and we could hear the other group talking and laughing, quite a ways down the Eternity Passage. At this time we decided we should take photos as we went along, as this was some very easy walking. We kept to the high road when we could, which were massive mud banks. It was like walking on sand dunes in the desert. Massive passage and massive mounds made for some amazing passage photos that showed the sheer size of the borehole we were walking through. We came to the 1st and 2nd pool, and sure enough I got into water up to my chest. I was definitely singing a tune higher than usual. After more photos and more walking we were at a beautiful white waterfall, pouring down over the top of a massive rotten rimstone dam that was long since undercut and bypassed.
We were now standing at the entrance to the Rimstone Passage and the North/South Rectal Passage. Erin climbed up top to give scale for the photo and she said there were more up top. We climbed up high and found the Rimstone pools that Paul told us about. These were amazingly beautiful, complex and extinct, but still flowing with water which was taking at least 3 to 4 different routes through the spillways before reaching the river below. After several more photos, we moved on and we came to another area with massive extinct rimstone pools which were mud caked and rotting away. Apparently there is airflow at this passage which chokes off quickly, and Paul thinks this is where the Coffee Pot cave comes into Crevice. More exploration needs done in the future!
Moments later we were walking in thick mud, Edmund took a high bypass tunnel and seconds later I was standing at the base of a massive mud slope which elevated itself all the way to the ceiling. We were finally at the Eternity Room. We took another quick photo then moved up the bank into the beginning of the room. We found a tiger salamander and a male spotted salamander. By this time we had already seen dozens of toads, frogs, and other bugs. We changed out our batteries and set up to take another photo from the top of the mud bank, down the passage, to the main breakdown climb up into the very top of the eternity room. Amazingly enough the photo turned out pretty good and we moved on. Moments later we were ridge walking inside of Crevice, with sloping banks leading 40-60 feet below us down to the streams. We made our way around the breakdown pile in the center of the room, and to the Liberty Bell formation. This was so huge that our powerful 220 lumen Fenix head lamps seemed to be turned off and not even working. We managed to get 1 photo taken from the Liberty Bell, facing downstream, but even with all of our lights it was still rather dim.
We made our way to the chimney in the back of the room, and I climbed up to the bottom of the hole and looked up into it. The air here was extremely cold and moving fast! Where is this entrance at on the surface? Surely it is too tight for a human to pass through. Moments later we were making our way back to the main river passage and heading towards the siphon. We were stopped abruptly by a bullfrog the size of a dinner plate. Edmund and Erin took a few photos while I trudged downstream through the thick mud. Erin wanted to stay behind but we talked her into coming with us anyway. After we got through all the breakdown mounds we were soon at a deep pool of water. I figured why not? I got into the water and headed as far as I could, which was far enough to see around the bend. Up ahead I could see the ceiling drop within 3 feet of the water, which as the last indicated ceiling height on the map. By this time I was in water chest deep with no wetsuit on and it was extremely cold. After we took a couple photos I got out of the water as fast as I could. I then changed my batteries so I wouldn’t have to again, put on a long sleeve base layer over my T shirt. Yes I have been in a T shirt up until now. I put my elbow pads back on and my gloves, packed my flash and we were off. It was exactly 5pm.
We made great time, heading back upstream, falling down the mud banks, sliding into the water, trudging through the thick mud, back into the Eternity Room and on top of the mud bank past the Liberty Bell. We couldn’t help but stop and gaze in awe at the sheer size of the passage once again. We headed out and wasted no time heading upstream. We came down one steep mud bank in two different places where I had to catch Erin from spilling into the water. I walked over to Edmund, looked down and saw a half buried grooved rock. I dug it up and sure enough it was a fossilized tooth, and a large one at that. We took a bunch of photos for identification and I noted that it has two large grooves in it. Maybe some type of bison or camel tooth?
After a short while we passage a semi large infeeder on the left that Edmund went into a ways while we stayed at the entrance. I noted that while the passage is noted on the map, it’s not mapped. Moments later we were looking at a large passage on the left, clay filled to the ceiling. Amazing. Where did this go? A minute later we were at the entrance to Merlin’s and it was only 6:15 p.m. We headed into Merlin’s and immediately came to the junction where we climb up into the paleo segment of the passage. To our left was the same sized clay filled passage that we just saw in the Eternity passage. Merlin’s used to flow out a different way but had been pirated long ago, amazing! We made our way through the crawling portion of the paleo segment of Merlin’s and decided it was time to eat again.
After eating and a funny story about a 40 mph gocart that Edmund used to have, we were on our way. By this time my knee’s ached a bit. They felt like they feel when I haven’t ran in a while, and I hit the 3-4 mile mark. Sore! Edmund wasn’t much better as his knees were hurting from walking on the mud banks. After a short distance we passed Independence passage and continued to Broadway. We climbed the fixed hand line up into the passage and took off through this massive canyon passage. The left walls were nothing but flowstone formations from the ceiling to the floor in places, and the right walls were filled with gypsum? Really? This is the first time any of us had seen gypsum in a cave and how amazing it was! We followed the passage until it got to crawling where we decided it was time to turn around. We took some more photos in here which turned out electrifyingly cool. One of them looked like I was standing inside of a giant flaming mushroom.
After we got out of Broadway we continued our journey towards the exit of the cave. We did have one more stop though. We stopped at the 6’ high waterfall over the black flowstone to take some amazing water flow pictures with our headlamps. No side flash was used here and the water spill effect was awesome! We headed onward and found 4 or 5 more tooth fossils, which had no doubt been found 100 times before. One of them was very large and crusted with sediment. Edmund took a few photos of the tooth and we headed out. We passed Perryville Road, climbed through the Quamen connection and I started noticing pools of water in the gravel. Jokingly I said “Well I was hoping we would have to crawl through water to get out of here.” We all laughed, untied our shoe laces then headed up the crawl. Erin was first and yelled back that she was crawling over the skeleton and fur of a dead possum. What fun! Moments later we were out of the cave and by this time I could barely walk to the car I had so much pain in my knees. Wow. The rest of my body felt like I could do another 3-4 miles easy, but I just haven’t been running, hiking, or caving much at all this year so my knees weren’t ready for a 7+ mile kick in the butt. We finished our night by going to Echo Pit to retrieve our ropes, gear then we went to El Torerro’s to eat before heading home. We exited the cave at exactly 9:00 p.m. then called everyone to let them know we were safe. Great trip!
pictures in a few moments