Today was an interesting start. Bobcat, Eric and Dana Hooper, Kristy Hajny and I were to meet Shawn Williams and Jeff Grigg at "El Toreros" at 9am. Who would have thought that there was an El Torero's in Ste. Genevieve as well!!! Anyway we met them at Arnold cave around 9:40, spoke with the land owner and drove out to the cave entrance.
A little back story, Shawn and his crew cleaned 498 tires out of the entrance of this cave. These were the remains of the attempts to control the ravine's from erosion. They got all of them out in 1 day but they were too exhausted to dig out the crawl way to the main passage. This was over a year ago. The cave's main portion hadn't been entered since it was mapped in 1992 by Aaron Addison, Phillip Moss and others.
We all got dressed and headed into the cave and immediately came to the crawl way. I immediately jumped into the passage and began crawling to try and find a way through. More tires were buried in the mud, blocking various passages and causing mud to build up. I came to a choke point and Eric began crawling in behind me. This was only his 2nd wild cave trip with us and his first "tight" crawl. I came to a choke where the ceiling was 5 or 6" high, but blocked by mud, and tires! I could see bigger passage after the choke so I started digging. I asked Eric if he was claustrophobic at all, and he said apparently not, becuase he was right behind me!
After approximately 40 minutes of digging, on my stomach, with my arms out in front of me, in a 9" passage, I got enough of the loose dirt/mud out of the way to snake through an S curve in the crawlway, past the tire choke. Eric immediately followed me, then Bobcat tried to get through. We dug quite a bit more out, as i crawled back to the passage to help from the other side. Unfortunately Rob wasn't able to make it through, probably due to his coverall's and pads. Negotiating the S curve in the crawl was interesting as well.
After Rob got out, Shawn and Dana came through, immediately followed by Kristy and Jeff. Kristy, Dana also had no real problems in the crawl way, for being first time claustrocaving
We took off downstream and found choke after choke, clogged with tires. The last group of tires we found approximately 5-600 feet into the cave. It blows my mind that they made it in that far. The water rushing into the cave from the water shed must get pretty ridiculous upon the event of a heavy rain. I checked out a couple domes after the ceiling got 15 or so feet high. it was extremely narrow, and covered in some draperies. Water filled the passage ahead so we decided to double back for another day when we were prepared to get wet.
Back at the main side passage (paleo) we found 2 pipistrelle bats and 1 small brown bat in this section. After a brief exploration we exited the cave. Later I got an email from Shawn stating that the land owner would like the tires in the crawl way and deep in the cave removed so the cave could be restored to its original beauty............................. yeah..............
Anyway, Rob, Eric, Dana, Kristy and I headed to Tom Moore cave in Perryville and entered the main entrance and immediately found the bottom of an injection well busted into the ceiling. You could still see daylight from the part of the cave, so we werent but 50 feet from the entrance. it was rather strange seeing one of these from the bottom side.
As we continued up the cave we ran into a raccoon! It was the first time any of us had ever seen one in a cave. Usually they hear you coming and run and hide before you ever get around, but we caught this guy red handed! He promply crawled into an upper lead that was several inches high. We continued on through the cave to the pillar room where the water constantly flows into the ceiling. I noted two large sections of a column that were busted off and lying in the water. They were orange and I don't remember them being there the last time I was in the cave, last June. We went ahead and continued downstream counting grotto sculpin along the way. We walked till the cave began to get crappy and crawling. I had already had enough crawling for one day so we turned around and exited the field entrance. By time it was all said and done, we had counted 96 sculpin. It was a pretty cool trip, as most of it was new to me, and all new to the others. Except for Rob of course!