Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweeping Chimneys in the Snow

So for those of you who may have been wondering, I did succeed in living through my trip to Jewel Cave on Sunday. It was a near thing though! We ended up spending ten hours in the cave, and during that time surveyed 694 feet of new cave passageway. It was a very very good day! For those of you who are not familiar with cave surveying, a really good day is going to yield 500 feet of surveyed passageway, so this was phenomenal! I came out of the cave looking very much like a chimney sweep, with a lovely layer of manganese covering absolutely every part of me. My caving pants also decided that they had had enough part way through the experience and when I came out I noticed that they had a lot more ventilation in the posterior section than they normally would have. So those pants may be on their way to retirement!

I didn't get to name any rooms, but we did find some exciting new passageways! And I ended up doing all the instrument reading for the entire trip. We only had one set of instruments so another guy went on point and established each survey point and I took the measurements from the previous point and then went to the new one and took the back sites as well. Normally two different people take the opposing measurements, but in this case I did all of it. So every inch of those 694 feet was actually calculated via my measurements!

We came out of the cave into a bit of a snowstorm. It wasn't too bad, but it was definitely snowing and it picked up as we continued on. It was the sort of snow that reminds you of taking off into light speed as you are driving along. It also brought images of sliding and slipping off the road to the forefront of my mind! But we did make it back safely. The snow had turned to rain before we got back to wind cave, so after spending a copious amount of time and effort cleaning myself in the shower I went to bed to the sound of rain utterly exhausted and feeling like I would never move again.

When I awoke I discovered that things had changed during the night. I opened the curtains next to my bed to discover a winter wonderland, a land completely covered in a soft blanket of snow. It had a magical quality to it, much like the classic image of awaking Christmas morning to find a similar coating surrounding you. The snow has since mostly melted, but that first snow was rather magical. Now I am hoping I don't get too much of it in the next month that I am still here!

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