By Mike Gordon
When Buford put out the notice that he intended to do a little stomping around the Archer cave area on Saturday I jumped at the chance to tag along. Buford grew up in that neck of the woods and is as familiar with the lay of the land out there as anyone. Checking on water levels at some locations needing surveys and
a little SRT work was what we wanted to accomplish. Of course, In my head whenever I’m ridge walking, visions of finding the “big cave” is always on the agenda.
Meeting in the center of town went well enough so off we headed to one of Buford’s longtime friends with permission to do some walking. As we prepped our packs Buford recalled some of his adventures growing up not far from where we stood. Even remembering a huge dead pine that still stood like it had when he was a youth. The area of the dead tree was the beginning of our trek.
Walking through the woods as a child was always a learning experience for me. My Dad was a scout master who took every opportunity to share his knowledge of the outdoors. Pointing out subtle nuances around the wilderness always held my attention. I found myself once again on a nature walk with a purpose learning new things whenever we stopped for a rest.
The hike was strenuous, hot and humid, with hip high vines and sticker bushes taking their toll. After a few quick checks on the compass we headed for the area of interest. The water levels we found were even higher then the last time Buford made it out there. It didn’t matter to me. The region we were in had karst features peppered throughout. We checked on quite a few. While locating a cave Sean and he began mapping on a previous trip, I stumbled on an opening in the ground in the shape of a letter slot, maybe a little bigger. After showing Buford we decided it was small and obscure enough not to have been entered prior to this. It was tight and pitched at an awkward angle. Staging my helmet was a must for the first 8 or 9 feet. My first step on the bottom at 10 feet allowed me to turn and stand to see a small cave with a foot of water covering the floor. The opposite wall was a few strides away. It wasn’t the “big cave” that’s always in my head but it was well worth the squeeze. I’d like to return to map and survey it to be sure of its cave status. Buford and I collaborated on a name once the survey is done. I’m hoping he’ll join me this winter to tend to it.
So on we pushed to “Watch Cave”. This is a pretty little cave. The water was way up. As Buford tied off the rope and rebelay, I donned my
gear anxious to see this one. Not much of a rappel but a necessary one onto a ledge almost water level. As I skirted a column and amused myself in the cave looking at the formations and odd twists and turns of the passages Buford patiently waited topside. I climbed out not bothering with my rope walker and secured my gear. After a few more checks we headed back to our starting point. Our conversations were easy and without idle chatter. The hike was tough but fruitful. Though most of our day was spent doing leg lifts through the undergrowth we decided to take Jerry up on his offer to do some checking out his way. Jerry and Cheryl always go out of there way to make their guests feel welcome as was the case again. We headed east of his property with some easier hiking ahead. I believe the last of our energy drained away while sitting by a small frog pond in the woods.
It was a good day. Nothing remarkable happened. I still have to search for the “big cave.” The one we found isn’t big enough to stop looking. But it was a good day. Thanks Buford, for sharing some of your knowledge and friendship with me. Count me in on the next journey.