SGE-006 Buddy’s Cave Cleanup, April 16-18, 2010
Most people refer to this cave as Arnold’s Cave, SGE-072; however, it is actually Buddy’s Cave, the 6th cave location turned into the MSS from Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, originally mapped in 1968. The purpose of this trip was to remove tires past the choke point, in the crawl way, that had washed in years ago from a poor attempt at erosion control outside of the cave. I do not know the exact number of tires extracted from the gullies and inside the cave, but the number is around 600 so far.
Last year I was in the cave with Shawn Williams and others, and I had to dig through a choke point to get into the main part of the cave. This choke point at the time was only 5 to 6” high and several tires were strung through various portions of the crawl, including 4 in a row in what would be the easiest crawl into the main part of the cave. Because of this I had to dig around them, causing an S shaped curve in the crawl that was rather fun to get around. Past this point we found over 50 to 60 more tires in various parts of the cave, some of them over 300 feet back through the narrow canyon.
I arrived at the cave Friday night to meet Kris Nicolussi from the MSM Grotto, who had already set up camp and was waiting on others. We built a fire and waited for Shawn Williams to show up around 9:00 p.m. After he showed up, Jennifer Thompson from the MVG Grotto arrived and we all got to know each other. I didn’t stay the night but I did return around 1pm on Saturday the 17th with Kris Hartman (we are both SEMO Grotto members) after surveying another cave in the area. By this time Joe Nicolussi from MSM had arrived with his son, as well as Joe Dellamano from the MDC. All were in the cave digging out tires and Joe was busy doing more surface cleanup in and around the cave entrance.
Hartman and I geared up and entered the cave and made our way through the crawlway which was very muddy, to my surprise. It wasn’t anything like this last year. We met up with Jen and Shawn first, who were working on various tires in the stoop walking portion of the cave. We then moved on to the paleo side passage where a stack of 20 or 25 tires was piled. All 4 of us then moved downstream to meet up with Joe and Kris Nicolussi who were busy pulling mud filled tires out of the canyon passage. After a short break and some conversation, Hartman and I moved on downstream to retrieve more tires.
We found a plug with 7 tires in it, 6 of which simply had water in them and only 1 was filled with mud. After getting them out of the water I began throwing them through the canyon towards the entrance. After the passage became too tight to throw them through, I threw them up top and began throwing them over the top of the canyon, only to have them fall down again. Kris went downstream to check for more tires and found 1 more plug of an unidentified number. After he caught up with me, I moved ahead of the tires 10 or 15 feet, and he began throwing them to me, and I would in turn throw them upstream even further. This method worked very well and soon we were at the paleo intersection where we left the others.
The paleo tire pile was no longer in the paleo segment, but in the main stream channel in a large pile. We added our 7 tires to the pile and crawled over the top of the entire pile. Again I would throw tires up the channel and Kris would throw all of the remaining tires up to me. This continued until we couldn’t throw them anymore and we began rolling them with powerful flinging motions. Soon we were at the choke point and we piled all of the tires up against the wall, making a clear path to move past them on the side. I dug 1 more tire out of the pooled water which was full of mud as well.
We exited the cave, met up with the others who were taking “lunch” and told them that we got all the tires to the choke point that were free. Other tires were still buried in the sediment in the crawlway, but they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Apparently Shawn, Jen, Kris and Joe spent the morning digging tires out of the mud, cleaning mud out of the tires, and stacking them up. They were rather exhausted by this point.
After a long break we tried extracting the tires out of the cave by pulling them with various cables, ropes and tow straps, through the crawl but this proved to be futile because the 2nd tire wedged its self in a choke point so tight that it couldn’t be removed, even with Paul Arnold’s tractor. We called it a day and decided to retrieve the tires in the morning.
I returned to the cave around 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning; however, we didn’t get started in the cave until around 11:00 a.m. I went in first, followed by Shawn and Jennifer. Shawn brought in the cable/rope setup so we could pull tires out. Joe and Kris Nicolussi remained outside to pull the tires through and remove them from the cave. Then the craziest thing happened. Shawn’s dog came crawling through the squeeze portion of the cave with no problem, as she was following us into the cave and could see her way through due to our headlights! It was rather comical but soon we had to get her out of there as she would definitely be in the way while dragging tires through the crawl. She had been running around the large entrance portion of the cave all weekend but never actually came into the crawl way. After a bit of calling and light shining, Joe was finally able to get her out of the cave.
After a few failed attempts we learned that we had to have 2 people in the crawl way to maneuver tires through the S curve and around other obstacles. This put me in the muddy wet portion of the crawl, past the tire that plugged part of the passage on the previous day, and Shawn just past the S curve on the bedrock floor. Jen rolled and pulled tires to the choker cable, hooked them up, then Joe would begin pulling the tires through as Shawn and I would pull on the rope as well to keep the tires out of the tightest restriction. After Joe got a tire pulled out, we would then pull on the other end of the cable and bring the hook all the way back into the cave.
As more and more tires were pulled out, our method for moving them through the tight spots with minimal snags became more and more efficient. This of course made it easier for Joe to pull them all the way through the crawl way. It was exhausting work, and extremely cold for Shawn and I as the only thing moving for both of us was our right arms and that was it. When there were approximately 10 or 12 tires left, Shawn and Jen changed places as she was tired from rolling and pushing tires to the choker. Jen quickly caught on to what Shawn had to do to get the tires fit and progress moved on steadily. After a very rough start the 40th tire was removed from the cave and no more tires were left that could be washed back into the cave on the next heavy rain. There were at least 5 tires I could see in the tightest portions of the crawl, 6 or 7 more buried in the mud in the crawling/stoop walking portion of the cave, and 2 or 300 feet back was the last group of tires (we hope).
It was a very successful trip and a great means of meeting new cavers, and hanging out with others I have been on other trips with as well.