2023 July 30 Stark Caverns Survey and Photo

Trip report 30 July 2023

Stark Caverns Survey and Photography

Participants: Bill Gee
Mike Kovacs
Candace Kovacs
Rabecca Marlin
Tyler Marlin
Sarah Peterson
Tristin Whetstine
Elyse Kincaid

It has been a while since we last did a trip at Stark Caverns. There are some details in the survey to clean up, and we wanted to get a start with off-trail photography. The photography may eventually become part of a coffee table book for the gift shop. That is just an idea now. Besides photography, decisions need to be made about who will write copy, do layout and how it will be printed.

The group planned to meet at the visitor center at 9:00 am. We all made it on time. I was first arriving about 8:10. The gate was already open which surprised me a bit. As it turns out there was an overnight camp in the cave by a group of Girl Scouts. That requires leaving the gate open in case of emergency.

Several of our group needed to sign liability waivers. Those are locked in the office. The cave manager Klayton Dennis was not on site, so no way to get in. I should have asked him ahead of time to leave some out on the counter where staff could find them.

Karen (one of the staff) called Klayton who said he would be there about 10:00am. While waiting for him, the group walked the tour trails getting an idea of where we were going to be working. We noticed that the water fall at the cave entrance had no flow at all, not even a trickle or drip. Mike Kovacs and I planned to work on the survey at the northeast part of the Grand Canyon. The rest of the group headed to The Slot and the stairs on opposite ends of the Onyx Circle.

We went back out to the visitor center where we waited for a while, but Klayton had not arrived. It was getting late and we needed to get started, so I cobbled up a release form on a blank sheet of paper. Everyone signed it. We were in the cave about 10:45 heading for our destinations. A rather later start than what I wanted, but at least we were heading in.

The survey on the northeast side of the Grand Canyon was originally done by Krista Bartel and Kohl Mitchell. I tried several times to get their sketch to fit onto the rest of the map but had little success. Our goal was to examine the sketch, compare it to the cave and decide how to proceed. Mike and I spent some time finding all of the survey stations that Kohl and Krista set. A few of them are missing. Fortunately they are in the middle of an unambiguous leg, so not missed.

After lunch we went back over the sketches. I made some notes as to how things fit together. I think I can now make the existing sketches work. I added about 10 feet of sketch from station I5 to I10D6. We did not have to take any survey shots. We finished doing this about 1:30 pm. Just about that time the photography crew joined us.

Candace took a bunch of photos around the Grand Canyon area. She said they had gone down The Slot and several went through the squeeze at the bottom to get to the stream passage. They all looked muddy enough to have done that.

There was plenty of time left, so we all packed up and headed for the Rugged Canyon area. We had to wait at the overlook while a tour group finished. After they left we spread out a tarp and changed into clean shoes.

At the Rugged Canyon entrance we changed back into our muddy cave boots. We took the lower stream back to the first stand-up room. Along the way was a frog (unknown species, probably Leopard or Pickerel) and some very young salamanders. The salamanders were only 2cm long. We also saw a fairly large amphipod. The stream was almost not flowing. In most places it was not really a stream – just wet rocks.

From there we took the upper tight crawlway passage. At the second stand-up room there is a bunch of grafitti. Candace photographed most of it. She also photographed some flying bugs on the ceiling.

The exit from the second stand-up room is a challenging squeeze. Becca and Mike decided not to continue all of this section. Everyone else made it through. We went about 50 or 70 feet farther, up to the point where the trail goes up to the ceiling. We took some more photos and then headed out.

Candace got some very nice video of people going through the squeeze into the second stand-up room. We were all back at the tour trail by 3:00pm. The first of us to pop out startled a tour group going by. It is always fun to do that. I brought up the rear, so I missed the fun.

We changed into clean shoes and left the cave. It was hot outside. After changing into clean clothes we checked in at the visitor center. Klayton was there. He said the ad-hoc release we all signed was good enough, so no need to do the formal forms.

The last stop was Si SeƱors Mexican restaurant in Eldon. We had an early dinner and then hit the road.

There is more photography to do, mainly in the Rugged Canyon. I would like to get in there when the stream is flowing. There is a waterfall near the end which will be much more impressive when it is flowing. On this day it was probably just a trickle, and maybe not even that much.

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