Photos of the Return to Mudhole
(click on any thumbnail to see full-sized photo.)

On April 27, 2002, Dave organized a return to Mudhole, the cave where I had my first caving adventure. This time, I'm pleased to report, I actually went into the cave. Taking photos helped, especially early on, when the desire to take a cool photo kept me moving forward.

The cleanup
Mudhole is located in a beautiful wooded area near Front Royal. Here's Dave attaching a rope to a tree.

A tree located on the edge of the slope down into the third cave entrance.

Dave, in the third entrance.

The reason we were at the third entrance . . . cleaning up some of the trash that had been thrown into the cave.

And there was a lot of trash. The rope was for hauling it up out of the cave mouth. We also filled several trash bags with old, rotting shingles, nails, broken glass, aluminum cans, and other junk.

Dave, picking up rotting shingles in the third entrance.

We found quite a few boards with nails still in them, which were rather dangerous to leave in the entrance. Dave, removing nails.

And the trash we hauled out. Unfortunately, since Dave and I were the only ones able to make this trip, there was a limit to how much trash we could haul. Next time.

And finally, caving
After the cleanup, we went into the cave itself. Only a short visit, but since this was the part I couldn't even manage to go in the first time, it felt like a victory.

Here's another picturesque tree, this one overhanging the second entrance.

The second entrance. Like the third entrance, it's located in a pit. Since the Virginia Department of Transportation built a road where the first, easiest entrance used to be, this is the entrance we used.

A closer view of the second entrance.

And from another angle.

And this is what it looks like from inside.

Me, inside the cave. Note the characteristic damp, mud-covered walls. What looks like fog is actually my breath--it's 55 degrees and very humid inside.

Dave, pointing out a characteristic formation.

Another typical Mudhole wall.

Me, inside the cave.

Dave crawling about in the upper reaches of this cave room.

Descending again.

Another formation.

Me, with a ribbon formation.

And basking in a large room.

Dave, investigating what here looks like a dragon's lair. It proved to be uninhabited.

Remember this part?

Getting back out proved to be the most physically challenging part of the day; just inside the entrance, there was one steep stretch that took me a while; and just outside the entrance, scrambling up the inside of the pit was harder than I remembered. Fortunately, Dave was patient, and ignored my occasional whimper that perhaps we were going to need the rope after all, and eventually I figured out a series of hand and footholds that worked.

Note on photos: the outdoor shots were taken with a Nikon Coolpix digital camera; those in the cave with an inexpensive HP PhotoSmart that I could stand to lose if one of us landed on it or dropped it in the mud. The Nikon photos were reduced in size/resolution for the Web. The HP pictures . . . well, there's a reason I got the Nikon.