POC teams up with SI

Being a Co-op in the Mechanical Engineering program, I seem to constantly be on the move. School never quite feels like home, so of course I had plans to head out immediately upon completion of the summer semester. My first weekend of freedom would take me south to Tennessee to Rumbling Falls Cave, a 15+ mile long cave that was discovered and explored in secret by Marion Smith and crew several years ago. The trip was a photo expedition for an upcoming SI article on the cave and Marion’s caving career. I had led several POC’ers through a short section of the cave during Spring Break earlier this year, but had not been back to the cave since. It would make for another great trip. 

Friday, August 2, 2002
Finished that horrible MA262 final around noon. I hit the road straight from class, immediately emptying my head of all knowledge of differential equations. Stopped by Indianapolis to grab some more gear and picked up my friend Adam Graef. Adam had just finished work for the summer and was in search of adventure. I had mentioned to him what I was up to and he decided to tag along for some of the excitement. Back on the road around 5pm, we made our way south. We held out on dinner, waiting to get far enough south to find a Krystal. For those of you who don’t know, Krystal is the White Castle of the south, and in my opinion, far superior. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on those small square burgers and some sweet tea. Finally, around 10pm, we came across an exit that had one. After ordering, a drive-thru customer came in to return two dozen burgers that they had incorrectly put toppings on. Of course Adam and I left the restaurant with 32 burgers (two dozen for free) and our sweet tea. Sometime around midnight we rolled into our hotel in Murfreesboro. We talked to several other members of the crew for a short time. The gear had all been inventoried and packed already, so we went back to our room, cranked the AC on high (because you can do that when you’re in a hotel), and hit the sack.

Saturday, August 3, 2002
The wake-up call came at 6AM. I was absolutely freezing. The room was so cold. Oh well. Several of us went to the lobby and engulfed the “courtesy” continental breakfast. We packed the trucks and I took off early so I could show Adam where he would be headed today. Drove out past Spencer and down into the Camp’s Gulf Addition of Fall Creek Falls State Park. Adam was to meet Jamie Winner and Brandon Stephens here later to do a trip into Camp’s Gulf Cave. I pointed out the parking spot and how to get to the entrance, then we drove back to the parking area for Rumbling Falls. Adam hiked down to the cave with me where we met the crew. I would be caving today with a great crew; Stephen Alvarez (photographer), Alan Cressler, Neeld Messler, Paul Aughey, Gary Chambers, and myself. Adam hiked back up the hill to meet Jamie and Brandon as we entered the cave. Just inside the entrance is a 68’ pit. The bolts for the pit are quite hard to reach. I am just under 6’ tall and had to stand on my absolute tip toes to clip a biner into them. Gary had set the bolts here during the exploration of the cave and seeing as how he is 6’4 “, it makes it a little tough for others. Paul and I made up the back of the crew as we dropped the pit. He and I had hauling duty on three large packs. Two were photo bags filled mostly with flashbulbs. They only weighed about 15 lbs. each, but were very large and had fragile contents. The third bag weighed in at 25 lbs. and was filled with mostly food and supplies. We went into a body wide walking passage at the bottom of the pit that I had missed during the Spring Break trip. It bypassed lots of the exposed chimneying in the canyon and we were quickly at the two 14’ waterfall climbs. Marion had come into the cave the week before and pre-rigged the climbs and the upcoming Stupendous Pit for us. Luckily, the drops had just a trickle of water coming down them. During the winter months, water blasts over them and crashes down the passage (as shown in the pics on the website), hence the name Rumbling Falls Cave. We went ahead and free climbed the first of the climbs because it was faster. The second, we clipped the bags into the rope and hauled them up, then jugged up the rope. From here the cave gets kind of nasty. Walking passage quickly pinches down to a low stream crawl for several hundred feet. I wasn’t wearing my kneepads, so the gravel and cobbles were pretty painful. A short room is encountered after this and then you are forced into a tight winding canyon for another couple hundred feet. Movement through this passage is slow, especially with a couple heavy packs. The main route is along the top of this canyon, and we had to be very careful not to drop the bags down into the 20’ crack. Soon the air flow really increased and we came to the top of 201’ freefall Stupendous Pit. This drops into the top of the Rumble Room, a 4 acre chamber that is the second largest cave room in the nation. There is no way to describe the vastness of this room without actually being there. Amazing, even after I had already been there. We had managed to make it this far in just over an hour’s time. Pretty fast considering the amount of people and gear we had. I guess it just goes to show what an efficient crew can accomplish. We dropped down into the room and began to set up base camp. We unpacked and repacked all of the equipment we would need for the day and began to set up for the first shot. Shooting a room this large is pretty difficult. We all had radios on us, had several ropes rigged, and traversing the room took quite some time. My job for this was pretty cool. I donned a bright yellow cave suit and climbed about 100’ off the deck on the main line. I was definitely the talent for that shot (Haha). Anyways, during this time, I had to climb the pit twice for different reasons. It was also cool to see the room with the 100 Watt Video light that Stephen had brought in. After several hours, we packed up our smaller packs and began to head deeper into the cave. The center of the room (bottom of the pit) is on a huge pile of talus (breakdown blocks). The slope goes down nearly 180’ vertically to the main river through the cave. We climbed down to the river borehole. I hadn’t been down here yet and the size of this passage blew me away. It averaged 30’ high and 50’ wide. It felt more like backpacking then caving, just making our way down a river with no crawling or anything. After a 3 mile traverse down the borehole, we reached Gary’s Chamber (named for Gary when he discovered it). This is another large room in the cave which not many people realize is there. It is approximately 150’ high and several hundred feet long. We did several shots here, spending a few more hours, and then decided to head out. Leaving most of the gear at base camp, we were out of the cave around 9PM. Adam was waiting at the parking spot for us with some ice cold Gatorade. It tasted like the nectar of the gods. We all went out to dinner that night and then headed off to bed back at the hotels. There was another long day waiting for us tomorrow.

Sunday, August 4, 2002
Wake up call came at 5:45AM this morning. I was shivering under my blankets. Remind me why we left the thermostat all the way down again. I stumbled out of bed and headed up to Shoney’s for breakfast. Another face-stuffing complete, we went back to the hotel, picked up Adam, and headed back towards the cave. Adam took off to go do some hikes around Fall Creek Falls. I took lead as we entered back into the cave. All I had was a camera box (plus my normal gear), so I was able to make it to the to of Stupendous in 20 minutes. We set up another shot in the Rumble Room, this time with the camera on top. I climbed the pit again in order to run the video light from the bottom to the top. For this shot we got to use the “cantaloupe” bulbs. We called them this because they really were the size of cantaloupes. Very impressive. One had broken on its trip into the cave, so Alan lit a piece of paper cardboard and put it on some of the exposed magnesium. Just as we thought it wouldn’t do anything, poof, it went up in a quick bright flame. We packed up and headed back down the borehole again. About a mile down the passage, we stopped and did a shot. Next, Paul and I headed back to break camp while the others did a couple shots in a delicate formation area. We packed up and hauled the large base camp bags out of the big pit. Half way up the drop I had a scary incident that really made me pucker. The footloops on my climbing system snapped in half. All I heard was a loud pop. I sat still for several seconds, making sure that I was still alive. I started looking around trying to figure out what was wrong. I ended up making a chain of spare ‘biners from the ascender down to my feet in order to finish the climb. Paul and I routed out of the cave and then stayed at the top of the entrance drop. The others soon came back and we did several shots in the entrance area to finish the day. Ended up being about a 10 hour trip. We were all happy to be out of the cave and celebrated by an all-you-can eat at Ryan’s (obviously my favorite place). Everyone was pretty tired and we retired to the hotel for that wonderful thing called sleep. I don’t think I have been this tired since Hell Week during high school soccer.

Monday, August 5, 2002
Slept in today. It sure felt nice. Caving and sleeping in hotels so rarely cross paths. Adam and I eventually made it up to the continental breakfast again. We got back to the arctic room and packed up all of our gear. We ran into Steven and said goodbye. Mid morning and we were back on the road. A Monday morning and I wasn’t stuck in class or work. Well, I guess technically this whole thing was work, but the good kind. We drove up into Kentucky, and having no place to be, we decided to go over to Mammoth Cave National Park. Tours were all long and somewhat pricey for our budgets (free that is), so we opted to hike down to the Historic Entrance. Kentucky was hotter than a hundred hells that day, so we sat in the entrance for quite some time, not wanting to leave the cool air. ADD eventually got the best of us though and we hiked back up to the truck. Next stop was the town of Horse Cave, several miles away from Cave City. Here we paid a visit to the American Cave Museum. Lots of cool pictures. Old cave gear. Worth the visit. We also took a tour of Hidden River Cave. The entrance to this cave is a large sinkhole that the museum building is actually built into. Pretty cool. Afterwards, we hit up the Pizza Hut Buffet. Never eat at this one! They gave us paper plates and there were a total of two cold pizzas on the buffet. The rest of the drive back was uneventful and we made it to Carmel around dinner time.

Overall, minus the Pizza Hut, it was a great trip. Definitely one of my best this summer. I think we got a total of a dozen different shots in the cave. The final tally for flash bulbs ended up at us using somewhere between 300-400. This gives you a bit of insight into the reason it takes 6 stout cavers to take just a few photos. Add on top of that all of the food, cameras, film, lights, rigging, etc. Hopefully the article will be out in the next month or so. It was originally scheduled for sometime in September, but obviously that time has passed. Keep an eye out for it. The pics should be great!

Old Comments:

Ryan commented:
Thanks Klink
Matt E. commented:
Dont believe it
Ryan commented:
Funny Evans...I'm not your buddy.
Matt E. commented:
Good :)
Ooh Ooh Baby commented:
Did Fat Ed go on the trip?
K commented:
is there a shorter version of this report??
adam commented:
i googled my name and this came up.........weird
bud rogers commented:
naw...leroy vascoy and i did that back in the 50's.....( fart )  
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