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Mountains on Vancouver Island

Grandpa and Grandma Farnell were going to a timeshare (condo) for the week of November 14 – 21, 2004 at Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island, Canada (near Parksville). This sounded like a fun place to me, so I asked if I could go along. They said they would be happy to have my company. My Aunt Marilyn had also planned to go, but as the date got closer she found out that she would have to work that week. The condo unit would sleep up to seven people total, so we tried to get some other family members to come, too; but they couldn’t make it because of work and other commitments. Only Grandpa, Grandma, Suzanne, and I ended up going.

I was taking three college math classes at the time, via independent study, and I really didn’t want to have to haul my textbooks up to the island to study. I wanted to just take a break from school for a few days. I’d already taken lots of vacation this year from work, so I finally decided it would work best if I only took off Thursday and Friday and combined those with the weekend to make a four day trip. Suzanne’s violin lesson and orchestra practice were on Monday and Tuesday so this plan worked out well for her, too. A four day trip it was!

For the last two years, I’ve become very interested in caves, both lava tubes and limestone caves. I’d heard that Vancouver Island was a caver’s paradise, so about a month prior to the trip, I began contacting people to ask about possibly visiting a wild cave while I was on the island. Larry McTigue of the Cascade Grotto put a lot of time and effort into helping me find some Canadians to take me caving (In the end Larry ended up coming along to go caving, too!). It just so happened that on the very Saturday that we would be on the Island, VICEG (Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group) was planing their Annual General Meeting. This is a very significant cave meeting, and several people from the Cascade Grotto and other places would be attending as well. There would be a good possibility of a wild caving trip on Sunday following the meeting.

Larry also told me that Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park was located very near where we would be staying, and it had several tourist caves we might be interested in visiting. I spent some time looking at Horne Lake Caves’ web site and found out that they have two small self-guided caves and one large guided cave. I called and made a reservation for a guided cave tour called the "3 Hour Wet and Wild Adventure." The guy on the phone asked how many people were in my party and when I told him it was only me he was pretty surprised. He said they can’t give a tour unless there are at least 3 people, but he would see what he could do. He said he would call back to verify my reservation the next day.

Horne Lake never called me back to verify my reservation, so about a week ahead I called them again to verify. They still didn’t have anyone interested in a tour but me, so it wasn’t looking very hopeful. I gave them my home phone number and the condo number, and hung up with the understanding that either I would call them or they would call me again before the tour for final arrangements.

Grandpa and Grandma showed up at our house on Thursday, November 11. We spent some time with them over the next few days, and then they headed for Vancouver Island on Sunday, the 14th. Suzanne and I planned to join them there on Thursday, the 18th. The condo provided free kayak use, and there were plenty of other things to see and do on the island as well. We would have a busy four days!

After all our preparation and packing was done, we decided that we would need to leave at 5:30 a.m. in order to make the 12:45 p.m. ferry out of Twasson, just south of Vancouver, B.C. I needed to stop at several stores along the way to pick up last minute equipment for the caving trips. Larry had e-mailed me that there would indeed be an organized cave trip led by the Canadian cavers on Sunday. Larry himself would be there!

Thursday, November 18

After shutting the alarm clocks off at 5:15 a.m., we finished loading the Jeep and set out. We had a full tank of gas, so our first stop wouldn’t be until Seattle to fill up. Most of the stores were closed along the way, so we planned to stop in Bellingham to do some shopping. I had driving directions from store to store with driving times, etc., and I had planned the timing of each stop, hoping to make the 12:45 ferry with time to spare. If not, we would have to wait until 3:30 p.m. and then we wouldn’t get to the condo until after dark.

After leaving Seattle, things began to look more unfamiliar. I drive up to Seattle usually a few times per year, but I’ve only been north of Seattle a few times in my life, and that was years ago. I’ve only been in Canada about 3 times in my life. We ate a small breakfast of fresh fruit along the way.

Our first shopping stop was at the Bellingham REI. Suzanne woke up to read the driving directions, but we ended up getting lost anyway. Great start at keeping our time schedule. After asking for directions, we found REI. Only a few minutes late so far. After looking around in the store for Columbia brand rain pants to match my rain coat, we decided they didn’t carry them. Great. The caves on Vancouver Island are very wet, and I need rain pants in order to stay dry and warm. We had seen a Fred Meyer while we were lost, so we headed back there and I found a Coleman rainsuit that was on sale. Very good.

Next stop was AAA to pick up some free maps and tour books of the island. We almost drove right to it, so we gained some time. Maps in hand, and back on our time schedule, we headed for the next stop.

I had called Kit’s Cameras in Bellingham a couple days before, and they did carry the slave flash I needed for my digital camera. This was our final stop before crossing the border into Canada, but our driving directions weren’t very clear. After driving around for a while, we finally stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. It ended up that the store was inside a shopping mall across the street from where we had been looking. After quickly running in and making our purchase, we hit the road five minutes late again. It was beginning to look like we might miss the 12:45 ferry.

Our next stop would be the inspection station at the border. When we arrived, there was only a line of about 5 cars, and they were moving through a one line inspection quite quickly. We had our photo ID, birth certificates, a letter from our parents, and more, so we were quite sure we wouldn’t have a problem. When we got up to the window, the guy just asked to see our photo ID, asked a few other questions, and sent us on our way.

After entering Canada, all speed limits and distance signs were in kilometers, so we were able to review our mathematic conversion skills while driving. It really wasn’t that hard, especially since the speedometer had both mph and kph marked!

About 12:35 p.m. we turned off the freeway and headed toward the ferry terminal – this going to be close. We arrived at the ferry dock and drove up to the window to pay for our ticket. There was nobody in line ahead of us, and nobody waiting to board the ferry. I told the lady we were headed to Nanaimo-Duke Point, and asked if we were in time for the 12:45 ferry. She said we were. Yea! We drove clear up to the ferry, where we followed the last semi on board. There were about three cars behind us that also made it on board, a
nd then the ferry set sail. That really was close! That’s good though, because we didn’t have to wait in line at all. Too close for comfort though as I didn’t want to sit for another two hours waiting to board the ferry.

We ate our bag lunch on the ferry. It took us a minute to find the doorway to the stairs to get up to the passenger deck, but someone showed us where it was. We were looking in the wrong direction. Once on the passenger deck, we sat down to relax and do some reading. Suzanne was working on school, and I was reading the Speleograph. I had also brought a school textbook to read, but I didn’t use it much. Hey, this is a vacation, right?

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Passenger Deck of the BC Ferry

After a while we were distracted from our reading by a bunch of commotion near one of the front windows. We looked out the window nearest us, and there was a family of orca whales playing around in the water. We quickly went outside on the deck to see if I could get some pictures, but by then they were gone. Too bad. The wind was so strong on the deck that we had to lean into it to keep from being blown over.

We were approaching the ferry dock quickly, so I snapped one last picture and then we went back downstairs to the car. A few minutes later we were docked and the cars began unloading. We had good directions to the condo, so we made quick time and drove straight to it. There was hardly any traffic, and it was interesting to see the island’s countryside.

Grandma had told me over the phone that the unit number was 715, and the resort had told me by e-mail to park in the gravel parking lot near the entrance gate. After we had parked, we grabbed a few small packs and walked toward the units. We ended up walking directly to unit 715, but there was a 715A and a 715B. What to do? Not much to do but pick a door, knock, and hope for the best. I knocked on 715A and waited. Sure enough, Grandma and Grandpa opened the door. Whew. We soon found out that they had both 715A and 715B with a door between them. Sometimes the units are used separately, and sometimes together to sleep more people.

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Condo Dining/Living Room Area

After saying hello and bringing in the rest of our stuff, I took several pictures of the condo. It was very colorful, featuring a blue, green, and yellowish-orange theme. There was a full kitchen, living room, two TVs, stereo, patio, and more. It was very nice.

Horne Lake Caves had still never called to verify my reservation and make final arrangements and my tour was scheduled for the next day, Friday. It was about 4:30 p.m., so I began hurriedly calling them, realizing that they might close at 5:00 p.m. All I could get was an answering machine which gave a different number for reservations. The condo was charging 50 cents per call, so I was getting pretty annoyed. I decided to try using a pay phone. After trying numerous phone numbers, calling card numbers, and phones, I was thoroughly disgusted. I decided that if they couldn’t return my call then they didn’t need my business, and I gave up trying to contact them.

Our next adventure was attempting to check our e-mail. The condo had two computers in their office/lobby area hooked up to the internet. They were weird computers – Linux I think. They were both open, so Suzanne and I sat down and logged into our e-mail accounts. I read several e-mails and then tried to reply to a message. When the reply screen came up, I found I couldn’t type anything. I tried typing in the message box, in the URL box, and nothing worked. The keyboard had completely quit!

Suzanne had replied to one of her friends’ messages so when she was done, I moved to her computer. I tried replying to the message again, and the same thing happened! Suzanne told the girl at the front desk that one of the computers wasn’t working, and she came over to restart it. She couldn’t even get it to start up after it shut down, so she told us she’d call the computer guy. We never did tell her that the other computer wasn’t working either…

Grandma made a very good dinner of green salad and tamale pie, which we enjoyed after our long trip. We told her about the computer problems, and she was surprised they worked at all. She said they hadn’t been working since they’d arrived earlier that week. We made plans to visit Victoria the following day to do some sightseeing, and then settled down to enjoy the evening watching TV and just being lazy.

Friday, November 19

After a quick breakfast, we packed a lunch of sandwiches and fruit and headed out. It was a beautiful day – sunny but cold, with snow capped peaks visible in the distance. Those peaks are on the island! Actually, this island is a surprising 280 miles in length, much bigger than I’d imagined.

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Lower Englishman Falls

We decided to stop at Englishman Falls before heading for Victoria. The Indians named these falls after they found a dead white man near them. There is an upper and lower falls with a short hiking trail and two bridges between them. Suzanne and I walked by both falls and took pictures while Grandpa and Grandma waited at the car. The lower falls was the most impressive, with the whole river shooting through a narrow slot in the rocks. Soon we were back at the car and on our way again.

About half way to Victoria we stopped and ate lunch. We had a view of a golf course and the mountains. It was almost 100 miles to Victoria, so we didn’t arrive until afternoon.

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Sea Gull with Parliament Building in the Background

Our first stop was the Parliament Building. We had a fun time finding a place to park. Once we did park, I saw a sea gull roosting on someone’s car, so I got a couple good pictures of it. We took an interesting tour of the Parliament Building and then we drove to the southern tip of the island where we could see the Olympic Peninsula in the distance.

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Empress Hotel

Our next stop was the Empress Hotel. They wouldn’t allow anyone inside except hotel guests so all we did was take pictures of the outside. It was quite cold outside and we had a long drive home so we started out. The gas tank was almost empty, so we began looking for a gas station where we could fill up. We soon saw one, but there was a divider in the street so we couldn’t turn directly into it. After driving around several blocks and almost getting lost we finally got into the gas station. Once we had filled up, we had the same problem getting back onto the road. After driving around several more blocks we were finally on the main road again.

By the time we got back to the condo it was time for dinner. Grandma made clam chowder from a potato soup mix and a can of clams.

Saturday, November 20

We got up, ate breakfast, and Suzanne and I headed for Horne Lake Caves at about 8:00 in the morning. Since my tour hadn’t worked out, we decided we would explore the self-guided caves ourselves anyway. We turned north on the freeway and sped along at 110 – kph, that is. This country north of Parksville brought Alaska to my mind. It just seems to look like the way I’ve always imagined Alaska to look. There was hardly any traffic and almost no side roads. Just a four lane freeway with woods and mountains along the sides. We soon saw the Horne Lake Caves sign and exited the freeway, turning West toward the mountains.

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Horne Lake Caves Parking Area

After about a mile, the paved road turned to gravel. A few more miles and we were driving along Horne Lake. Evergreen trees lined the sides of the road. We passed quite a few cabins – probably summer vacation homes – but didn’t see any people. Fifteen minutes of gravel and we were at the Horne Lakes Caves parking area. There was a small camp trailer for the caretaker off to one side of the parking lot, but nobody was around. We put our caving clothes on and began hiking to the caves. The trail was well-maintained gravel and easy to walk on. Larry had told us to wear synthetic long underwear, wool pants, wool shirts, coveralls, rain gear, and knee-high rubber boots to go in the Canadian caves. It sounded like overkill to me, but we decided to try it out today in preparation for the big, wild cave trip on Sunday.

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Harvestmen Spiders in Main Cave

We arrived at Main Cave, the bigger of the two small, self-guided caves. These are all limestone caves, so it was pretty new to us. We’d only been in one other limestone cave down in California. I had maps of the caves, but they were quite simple short caves. Right inside the entrance we found cave crickets and a bunch of Harvestmen spiders. There was a creek flowing through the cave, and at one point the ceiling was two stories high. There were no stalagmites or stalactites, but there were quite a few flowstone type formations. I experimented with my slave flash a few times. We were in a hurry to get back to the condo for more adventures later in the day, so we were soon back outside and headed for Lower Main Cave.

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Lower Main Cave

Lower Main Cave had a large stream emerging from it’s black entrance. Good thing we had rubber boots. We walked up the stream to where it got too small to follow, then climbed up, over, and back down to the stream. This was the end of the cave, so we turned back. There were some nice flowstone formations in this cave and I took some more pictures. We had worked up a sweat and taken off some of our wool, but otherwise the clothes seemed to work well.

Back outside we retraced our steps to Main Cave. Gathered at the entrance was a group of school kids with a tour guide. I guess we made it just in time to beat the crowds! We saw another group of kids on our way back to the car. The parking lot had several vans and trucks when we left.

We got back to the condo around 12:00 noon for lunch. The VICEG meeting was going to be at 4:00 p.m., and we wanted to go kayaking before leaving, and it is about a 90 minute drive to the meeting. We ate a quick lunch and then went downstairs to check out kayaks. We had to sign a waiver thing that said we understood we might drown, freeze to death, etc., etc. We got our life jackets and survival kits, walked down to the water and unlocked two one-man kayaks. It was raining lightly so we were wearing our rain coats.

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Suzanne Kayaking

We launched and headed along the shore of the bay trying to figure out how to paddle efficiently. I had brought my camera along, in a ziplock bag, so after we’d paddled a while I turned around and took Suzanne’s picture with the condos in the background. We were allowed to keep the kayaks for two hours, but we were back after 30 minutes. We didn’t want to be in too big of a rush to get ready for the cave meeting.

After turning all the gear in, we went back to the condo, changed clothes, and prepared to go to the VICEG meeting. We left around 2:00 p.m. to give ourselves some extra time. We told Grandma we would be home around 9:00. I had noticed the Jeep engine making some funny sounds, so I checked the oil before we left. There was only about 1/8 inch of oil on the dipstick, and there wasn’t any extra in the car. Great. I didn’t know this Jeep ran on oil as well as gas! So much for being early. We drove into Parksville and found a service station where we bought two quarts of oil for almost $10! Canadian currency, of course.

By the time we had added the oil, we had just enough time to make the meeting on time if we didn’t have any trouble. The meeting was to be in Shawnigan Lake, and we had seen the exit the day before, so we made good time to that point. From there we had a bit of trouble and ended up being five minutes late. It didn’t matt
er too much since they didn’t actually start the meeting until 4:30 or so.

There was all kinds of caving gear lying around on tables waiting to be auctioned off after the meeting. We signed up for pizza, salad, and pop for $10 each. The meeting went well, and some of it was interesting. Other parts were kind of boring for us since we weren’t part of the club. We had heard there would be a slideshow and geology talk about the island’s caves, so that was the part of the meeting we were looking forward to. It turned out that the meeting lasted until around 6:30 and then we ate dinner while they auctioned off items. We had to leave at 7:30, so we missed the slideshow and geology talk. Rick Coles was having everyone over to his house to sleep that night, so I guess they probably had the slideshow and talk over there late that night. Oh well. I grabbed a Dad’s Root Beer on the way out to save for the drive home on Sunday. It would be late and I might need it to help me stay awake.

The only adventure on the way back to the condo was buying gas, but we eventually got that taken care of and arrived back on time. I had bought a copy of the "Canadian Caver" and we had met some new people, so the meeting was beneficial although we were disappointed that we missed the slideshow. We didn’t stay up too late as we knew we would have a long hard day on Sunday.

Sunday, November 21

We got up at 7:00 a.m., ate breakfast, and prepared to go caving and then home tonight. We were headed to Blak T Cave, which was just discovered last December. The cave is mostly all horizontal, and it is a total length of 4,650 feet so far. Larry McTigue and Scott Linn would lead us to the cave this morning, and they were planning to arrive at our condo at 8:30. We soon heard Larry’s knock on the door and were on the road shortly.

We headed north on the freeway, the same way we had gone the day before to go to Horne Lake Caves. After a few miles we took the exit toward Port Alberni. We got stuck behind a couple of slow cars, so that kept us from speeding too much. This was a two-lane mountain road that curved around the hills in the morning light.

By 10:00 a.m. we were in Port Alberni parked at McDonalds. Scott hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and neither had Steve. Steve had hitched a ride with Scott and Larry after hearing about the cave trip at the meeting last night. He’s visiting from Australia, and he bought a cave suit and helmet at the auction last night so he could come along. He was using Scott’s spare headlamp for his light.

A few blocks from McDonalds, we parked in front of a small house. There were lots of people preparing to go caving. It didn’t seem like anyone was in a rush, which wasn’t good for us since we had to make the ferry that evening and we didn’t have any time to waste. About 11:30 a.m. we set out for the cave again. Somehow Suzanne and I ended up being the last car in the lineup, and I was afraid we’d get stuck at a red light and lose them.

We were able to keep up, and after about 15 minutes we found ourselves driving on a gravel logging road just out of town. A few minutes later we pulled off in a large parking area across the road from an abandoned logging road. There were 15 people total, and everyone was soon busy putting on caving clothes and organizing cave packs.

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Strapping Packs on the Four-Wheelers

We were told that it was a three-mile hike up to the cave, and a lot of it was uphill. Two guys had brought their four-wheelers, so they offered to take packs up to the cave entrance. They were planning to shuttle back-and-forth picking up the stragglers at the end of the line each time and giving them lifts up to the cave. This worked really well, and only about five of us ended up walking the whole way.

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Hiking to the Cave

Scott took off in the lead and Suzanne and I followed, doing our best to keep up. It was a cool, foggy day, but we were soon hot enough to begin shedding coats. After half a mile or so, Suzanne just couldn’t keep up anymore as she wasn’t used to all the extra clothes. I slowed down with her and soon Scott disappeared ahead. We kept up a brisk pace and soon were at the top of hill. The four-wheelers hadn’t returned yet, so we must not be getting too close. They had marked each fork in the road with flagging tape, so we were able to stay on the correct path.

Soon we heard the roar of the four-wheelers returning. They waved as they rode past and we kept on. We were going downhill gradually now. Small streams of water were running down the ruts in the road. After the four-wheelers had passed us about four or five times, we heard them stop in the road just around the bend. We came around the corner and found about half the party sitting in the road with all the packs. The first caving group was gearing up to head into the cave, so we hurriedly got ready.

The cave entrance was nowhere in sight. Linda, one of the original discoverers of this cave, told us that the entrance was just about 100 meters up the dry wash from here. Scott, Steve, Suzanne and I were in the first group, and Barry was our guide. Barry took off up the wash, and we scrambled up the slope after him through brush, trees, and everything else in the way. We held to the right side of the wash. After about five minutes, Barry began to look as if he might be lost. Scott asked, and he said he was afraid we might have passed the entrance. Barry went ahead to look around while the rest of us waited. We soon heard his yell up ahead that he’d found it.

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Blak T Cave Entrance

We joined Barry at the entrance and headed into the cave. I don’t know much about the formation of limestone caves, but this entrance kind of looked like it formed from a collapse as there were broken rocks all over. Just a few feet inside the cave we came to what looked almost like a dead end. Barry showed us the way through a small crack in between some rocks. We crawled through the crack and were soon able to stand up and duck walk through the small passage. After about 15 feet, we came to a stream passage that looked more like what I thought limestone caves should look like.

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Stream Passage

This stream was fairly good sized, and the passage was still small. We worked our way along by pressing our hands and knees against the sides of the passage just above the water level to try and stay dry. Rubber boots were a great help. 30 feet more and we were able to stand up again. The cave became much larger as we continued down stream. We had to watch our step as some places the water was deeper than our rubber boots and would quickly get our feet wet if we weren’t careful.

The group was setting a very fast pace so I didn’t have time to take many pictures. We began passing small stalactites and I made time to take pictures. At one point the group was so far ahead that we couldn’t see them and we began to worry about getting lost. We hurriedly caught up. Nobody in the group was taking pictures except Suzanne and I, so it was hard to take good pictures and stay with the group. I had brought my new slave flash with me, but I never did have a chance to use it.

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Small Pillar

There were lots of soda straws and even a small, three-foot tall pillar. So far the cave had been only rocks, limestone, and water; but now we were coming up on some mud. We came to a very steep section of mud-covered boulders with a rope trailing down to hang onto should you slip. Overhead were more soda straws. We climbed down through the muddy boulders and continued down the stream. The cave was very big in some sections, with parts of the ceiling being maybe 30 feet high.

Up ahead was a short drop, about 9 feet straight down. Scott hesitated, but Barry pointed out how a person could hang onto a sharp piece of rock and reach down with his feet to stand on a boulder below. From there you could step down the rest of the way. Barry said they sometimes rig a hand line here, but it really wasn’t necessary. It was a bit of a stretch for Suzanne, but we all made it down just fine.

We were now in a large room with a side passage off to one side. Barry led us down the side passage, right at an intersection, and then left again. Up ahead we began to hear a thundering waterfall. The passage we were in came out about half way up the water fall, and the dirt/rock floor beneath us was unstable. We could see where some of it had collapsed and Barry told us that last time he was here that part of the floor was still intact. It had fallen down maybe eight feet below. We couldn’t see the top of the waterfall, but across from us we could see another passage. Previous cavers had been over there before, but there is still exploring to do. Parallel to the waterfall pit was anther pit which Barry said led to a vertical entrance. Quite interesting. Our breath was steaming up the air so much that I couldn’t get any good pictures of the waterfall.

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We retraced our steps back to the main passage where Barry showed us some white mold stuff growing on the floor. There was flagging tape all around to keep people from accidentally walking on it. Someone had been digging in a passage above, and there was dirt thrown all over the mold. Barry was quite upset about this and said that the cave would be gated in no time if this kept up.

Barry said he wanted to see what everyone else was doing, so he turned back while the rest of us continued downstream. We came to more dirt, and up ahead we saw a narrow crack ending with a 12 – 15 foot wall of dirt. The stream went off through an impassable passage. There was a hand line in place, so Steve began to climb first. With considerable effort, he finally made it to the top of the wall. I went next and soon found out why he was having such a hard time. The crack was only about 10 inches wide, with dirt on two sides and rock on the other. There were almost no foot holds, and every time you tried to place your foot you would knock more dirt down below. The only way to rest was to wedge yourself in the crack. You almost had to just pull yourself up the rope with your arms, which is very difficult when you’re in a small crack with a pack on.

Suzanne came next. She left her pack below until she was half way up, and then Scott handed it up to her and she handed it up to me. She continued to struggle her way up, but started saying she didn’t know if she could make it. With encouragement and a hand from me she made it.

We caught our breath while Scott worked his way up. Steve was laying flat on the ground like he might be sick or something, but I assumed he was just resting. Scott soon joined us and Steve led on. The passage ahead was a small crawlway with a floor of damp dust and sides and ceiling of rock. I took off my pack and pushed it ahead of me as I followed Steve up the crawlway. We were getting very dirty now. Later we found out that this section of the cave is called "Military Crawls."

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Military Crawls

After about 60 feet of crawling, we came to a spot where we could stand up. All of a sudden I began to hear sounds like someone was throwing up. Steve was kneeling up ahead with his face down. In a small passage like this, someone throwing up was almost enough to make me sick. I stood still for a minute unsure what to do. Suzanne and Scott were still in the crawlway unaware of what was happening. Soon Steve’s voice drifted back, "I’m afraid I’ve gone sick."

I passed the bad news on to Suzanne and Scott. Steve was unsure why he was sick, but thought maybe it was from the cave party after the meeting last night. It turns out that he was just having dry heaves. Scott thought it sounded a lot like exhaustion or maybe a reaction to the McDonald’s food from that morning.

Scott decided we needed to turn around, but first we explored on ahead a bit while Steve rested. We climbed up through some awkward holes and found ourselves in a dome with a survey mark that said "1000 meters." The dirt had stopped and we could hear a stream up ahead again. We turned back and found Steve feeling a little better.

On our way back to the entrance, we met most of the other cavers. They had rigged a hand line at the 9 foot drop and a rope ladder at the mud covered boulders. We never did see Barry again. It seems he went off with another climber and explored the section near the waterfall. We found out that we had seen most of the walking part of the cave, and the majority of the rest was crawlways.

We had planned to exit the cave at least by 4:30 p.m. in order to make the 8:00 p.m. ferry back to the mainland. That would give us 90 minutes to walk to the car and two hours to drive back to the ferry. The 8:00 p.m. ferry would put us home around 3
:00 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning! I really didn’t like that idea much, and I had made a mental note of the next earlier ferry at 6:15 p.m.

We ended up exiting the cave at about 3:00 p.m., and I soon began playing with the idea of maybe catching the 6:15 p.m. ferry. I mentioned the idea, and Scott was skeptical and said I would really have to drive fast in order to make it. However, he said if I missed it I could just go enjoy dinner at a restaurant somewhere and then catch the 8:00 p.m. ferry.

It had taken us 90 minutes to hike to the cave, and I estimated a total driving time of two hours back to the ferry. I wondered if we could cut our hiking time by half and make it? We would be carrying our packs this time as well, so it would be rough. We each had brought a complete change of clothes, so I told Suzanne to hurry up and get ready. She took off into the woods to change. Scott and Larry didn’t seem interested in trying to catch the earlier ferry and they were taking their time changing. I crammed everything into my pack, not even bothering to change clothes, and then began cramming Suzanne’s stuff into her pack. Everything wouldn’t fit as nicely as it did on the way up, so we both ended up carrying a bundle of stuff under our arm as well.

I thanked Larry for all his work arranging this trip for us and said goodbye. He asked if we knew the way back once we got to the car, and I was fairly confident I did. We set off walking as fast as I could go without running. Suzanne’s legs aren’t as long as mine, so she was having trouble keeping up. I took her bundle of stuff and took off with a bundle under each arm. This seemed to help her and she kept up well. We tried running a ways, but that made our packs bounce too much, which wasn’t comfortable at all. Walk, walk, walk.

We took about a one minute break at the top of the hill to gobble down a granola bar and then set on. It was all downhill now, but it was still a long ways. I was keeping an eye on my watch, and it was going to be close. I figured if we could make the car by 4:00 p.m. we would be safe.

We arrived at the car at 4:05, threw our stuff in and took off, with me still not bothering to change out of dirty rubber boots and wool pants. We still might make it if we didn’t get lost. Suzanne had kept notes of each road we’d followed on the way, so we followed her notes back to town. From there we were able to find signs back to the ferry. I held to the speed limit as I didn’t want to get a ticket, especially in Canada.

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Waiting for the Ferry

It was looking good, so I began to relax. We reached the ferry dock with 45 minutes to spare – it seems I had mis-estimated the driving time. All that fast walking for nothing. Oh well. We ate dinner and I changed clothes while we waited for the ferry to arrive. The whole back of the Jeep was full of smelly and muddy packs, clothes, and boots. The border patrol sure would have a surprise if they decided to search our car!!

We boarded the ferry and headed straight for the restrooms to wash our hands and faces. We were quite muddy, and Suzanne even had someone ask her what she’d been doing. After leaving the restroom, I met Larry and Scott on the passenger deck. They’d taken their time and still made the earlier ferry! Oh well, serves me right for being so paranoid. I told them I was happy they made it and we said goodbye again. Suzanne wasn’t impressed that I’d made her walk so fast when she could have made it walking leisurely like Scott and Larry had.

I tried to take a nap on the ferry, but it didn’t work. The drive home went smoothly, and the border patrol let us through with no problems again. Luckily for them, they didn’t inspect our car. I made good use of the Dad’s Root Beer at about 1:30 a.m., and we arrived home at 2:00. It was a good trip and will be remembered for a long time.

By Published On: November 22, 2004Categories: Caving, Outdoors, Vacations1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous January 30, 2005 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    What a great article!! I’ve been surfing the net all day doing research about caves for a screenplay I’m going to write. I live in Nanaimo, BC, which I’m sure you drove through during your Vancouver Island trip. I hope you enjoyed our Island. Judging from your article, it appears you did. I also learned something new from you… Blak T Cave. I didn’t even know it existed. I’m going to have to check it out!! Thanks.

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