While Bryan stayed around home to spend time climbing with David, Mandy and I made a trip to Kentucky to go caving.
We arrived around midnight and after signing us into the expedition, I poked my head into a few bunkhouse rooms before finding one with only one bed filled. Mandy and I threw down pillows and blankets and went to sleep. It occurred to me that in most places I’d feel pretty uncomfortable putting my daughter to bed in a darkened room with an unidentified man, but at Hamilton Valley I didn’t think twice about it. When she mumbled “I’m cold” in the middle of the night, he got up to turn on the heat for her. It turned out to be Tom Brucker.
On the first morning, after saying our hellos to everyone, repacking gear, and eating a good breakfast cooked by Pat Kambesis, we went with Tommy to Bedquilt. The entrance and first crawls needed to be adjusted a bit in order to reach the gate, but apart from that we had a fun, uneventful trip. Tom was predictably full of good stories about those portions of the cave. We got to see the old dance floor, the historical cairns near Phosphate Mountain, and the bottom of Colossal Dom where Wretched River begins. We surveyed a bit off Grand Avenue, with me reading instruments and Mandy setting stations – she’s surprisingly good at choosing survey stations, considering the very little survey she’s done. She was able to slip through a crack in the floor to answer some questions Tom had about the passage.
On the second day of the expedition, we went with Jim Greer and Tim Green in through the Austin entrance, down Pohl Avenue to Ralph Stone Hall and up Ralph’s River Trail to survey. I read instruments again, and Mandy made herself helpful by checking out small leads and holding lights. The survey was very tight. In one spot Jim had to exhale to wiggle through. To leave the passage when we’d tied into the last station, I had to crawl on my belly. That wouldn’t have been a problem at all, but Jim had only been able to get into the crawl feet-first and on his side, so coming out was a lot more difficult for him. I’d move forward a few inches, and he’d move forward to touch his feet to mine. When the passage turned, I’d reach back with my toes and move his feet in the direction he’d need to go.
On Sunday morning, Mandy and Roger put their heads together to make plans for a project they’re working on. I cleaned the stove and packed the car. The drive home was pleasant and we even had time to hose off gear in the driveway before dark.