I’m no longer a caving virgin. I lost “it” today in Cleveland Cave near Osceola MO during an “Introduction to Cave Survey and Restoration” event organized by a local Sierra Club group and the KC Area Grotto.
This is the largest wild cave in St Clair county and has apparently been known since the 1800’s. Up until 10 or 12 years ago it was pretty much wide open to all comers and had been a popular hangout and party place for many decades. Consequently, the walls were covered with carved and painted graffiti, the floor with broken glass, there was lots of trash everywhere, and the bats were mostly gone. The current property owner closed it off and has been working to get it cleaned up and restored to some semblance of naturalness. Hurrah for Vic!
I spent much of the time about 400 feet in, cleaning graffiti from The Bat Room but later went all the way in through the known parts of the cave, which required some belly-crawling, wading, squeezing down narrow passages, and climbing through small openings between large walkable “canyons”. I definitely pushed my boundaries!
Afterward, everything that went into the cave goes through a cleaning and decontamination procedure consisting of a high pressure wash, a soak in soapy water, a soak in an ammonia solution, and a rinse. Fortunately, my underwear and I were allowed to decontaminate at home. Unfortunately, I have no pictures from inside the cave as my camera would not have survived the decon – I’ll take a disposable next time. These procedures are intended to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome (it has nothing to do with pro athletes!) between caves.
Once the restoration is considered complete, a more bat-friendly gate will be installed and human visitors will be very limited so the bat population might have a chance to recover.
What a day.