December 12, 2006

My Favorite Cave, Pettyjohn Cave

I could write many stories about Pettyjohn Cave, however I would like to explain here why this great cave is my favorite. For a Horizontal caver like myself, Pettyjohn has plenty to offer. Good climbs, challenging passages, waterfalls, formations, intriguing passages, extreme hard to reach places most of which I have not seen, possibilities for new discoveries and good mud.

Good Climbs

For some looking for climbing challenges, the entrance room has plenty to offer. This long room over 500 feet long and averaging 50 feet wide and 30 feet high ceilings, has two easy climbs just to reach the back. Near the entrance there is a good climb up into an upper formation room that connects to the main entrance room at the ceiling level. Most visitors rush pass this area to get to the back of the room or to head off to the main waterfall.

To reach the stream levels there are challenging climbs if you avoid the ropes left there by previous cavers. Some of these ropes have been in place for a long time and should not be used. One especially challenging climb is getting up into the Racoon Room, this large room in the mid level of the cave gives access to most of the middle levels of the cave. Pettyjohn Cave is divided up into three levels, the entrance room which is high and mostly dry, the middle levels which are dry passages making up about 1/3 of the known cave and reaching under the mountain to the north. A difficult climb from this northern section is up into the Echo Room, the largest room in the cave. A 100 by 200 foot room with high ceilings. And the lower stream passages which make up the largest portions of the cave.

The waterfall climb leads to a second waterfall that is much easer to climb and an up stream passage called Schreiber's Extension that is yet to be completely explored.

Challenging Passages

From the main entrance room there are many ways to go deeper into the cave and at the start of each of these passages you will have a challenge. The Pancake squeeze on the way to the waterfall, some tight squeezes or hard climbs, depending on which route you choose, to get to the Volcano Room. Each route from the Main room is like a cave of its own. If you like maze's try The Labyrinth in the southeast lower level of Pettyjohn. If you are looking for real adventure, explore the extreme northwest section called The Outer Limits. And for a good technical climb, explore the rooms above the Double Echo Domes.


If you like underground waterfalls, you will love Pettyjohn Cave. There are two good size waterfalls on the way to Schreiber's Extension. A loud waterfall about 4 feet high just beyond the Chute and on the way to the Outer Limits. And another one that you have to climb over to enter the Labyrinth.


Formations are scattered through the cave. The Entrance Room contains the largest in the cave. The Signature Room and the passage to it are well worth seeing for the formations. And there is a beautiful formation room just before you get to the Volcano Room. Other nice formations will surprise you along the routes to the many sections of the cave.

Intriguing Passages

The Worm Tube is a long 150 feet crawl that is very tight and leads to the Echo Room and beyond. The Z-Bends is an interesting alternative to the Pancake Squeeze when going to the waterfall or the Racoon Room. There is a down sloping squeeze that is a real challenge to climb back up when you visit the East Stream passage and Crowell Domes. The small hole leading from the Bridge Room to the Mason-Dixon Passage is neat. And the stream canyon passage on the way to the waterfall is fun.

Extreme Places

The extreme places are for the hard core cavers that like fourteen hour trips and want to be pushed to their limits. Pettyjohn Cave offers four such areas. The Labyrinth, which I have only visited the start of.

The Discovery Room above the Emerald Pool that you have to use the old existing rope or do a hard technical climb. An extension pole was first used to reach this area. And I understand that there is much to be discovered beyond the Emerald Pool.

The Outer Limits which I am not even sure at what level you reach. I have explored the stream passage to tight muddy squeezes that finally turned me back and high dry passages that could also be the way. These were ten hour trips and I still had not found the Outer Limits. I meet Richard Schreiber once when I was leaving the cave and he was excited about getting back under the mountain and I believe that he was referring to the Outer Limits. I have a copy of most of his survey notes but I think that I am missing one that describes how to get there.

Schreiber's Extension is a long stream passage with many leads and places to climb up into along the way. The end is a low stream passage which has been dug out and pushed to a second low room blocked by another low stream crawl. This passage continues around the edge of the mountain and takes in water from along the mountain side. The cave is still lower than the valley but under the edge of the mountain.

Possibilities for New Discoveries

The most promising area that I feel could be developed is to the East. There are many sink holes along the mountain east of the entrance and Crowell Domes is the most eastern portion of the cave with the exception of the Labyrinth and Screech Owl Cave. There is a possible lead from the Echo Room that I would like to push some day, but it would require some rock removal. There is also a large sink on the top of the mountain east of Pettyjohn that the water has I believe been traced to the sump below the Entrance Room in Pettyjohn. Pettyjohn provides drainage for most of this side of Pigeon Mountain until you get to Ellison Cave which drains the north end of the mountain. Recent discoveries have been made in Schreiber's Extension, Discovery Room, and the Anamatosis Room. I have 36,117 feet of level survey plotted, almost seven miles (6.935 Miles) and a total survey length of 7.127 Miles.

Good Mud

Pettyjohn Cave is known for its mud. There are some places that you will loose your shoes in the sticky stuff. Crawl ways that you just slide through in the mud with two slots for your knees from all the traffic. I have seen the lower level flood with the water backing up from the stream canyon passage which is narrow and can restrict the water flow. Always check out the weather forecast before going to the main waterfall. You can read about cavers getting lost in the waterfall area for days and explore parts of the cave by clicking on pictures within the cave by visiting my web page. I also have other links to stories about Pettyjohn on the main page.

Hubert Crowell

I have started writing as a hobby and plan to write about my life, work, hobbies, region and many other things of interest to me and maybe others will enjoy also.

For more information on caving, improving your service department and many other subjects, Please visit my web site at:

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Caving in New York State

During July 1975, I drove a red 68 Mustang from Atlanta to Rochester, NY for a month of training with Eastman Kodak and was looking for something to do on the weekends. I found John Freeman who also worked for Kodak and he invited me on a caving trip for the weekend.

I followed him to the top a hill where the cavers had a small shack with a fair size cave near by. The group had a band and they played most of the night. The rock group was good but I was not into that kind of music, a little too loud for my taste. I started out sleeping in a small tent, Then it started to rain and turned colder, the rain got so hard that I moved into the Mustang. Pushed the passenger seat forward as far as possible and tried to make a bed between the back seat and the front seat. I was not too successful and stayed up most of the night. The rain and lightening were strange, it was sideways running through the clouds like nothing I have ever seen.

The next day Jack took a few of us that were from out of town to show us a new cave. One of the couples was from Australia visiting in the States. He felt that we would be leaving and the cave location could remain a secret for a while. I believe that the name was Raccoon Cave. There were many Raccoon tracks in the cave and even high on the walls.

The entrance was small and tight, just a crack along the side of a small rock wall. The cave was small but had some nice formations. There was even a possibly that it could be pushed through a large crack to deeper levels.

Jack was a member of the Cave Research Foundation (CRF) and he gave me a copy of the CRF Personal Manual. The CRF was the major force behind the exploration of the Flint Ridge System in central Kentucky and the connection of this system with Mammoth Cave. Jack was also a member of a group that explored 7.5 miles, Lee Cave, beneath the northeastern edge of Joppa Ridge, in Mammoth Cave National Park a few years earlier.

New York caves are colder than the ones in the south and much wetter also. I purchased a 3/4 wet suit and used it each time I went caving in New York State. The cave behind the shack followed a stream passage to a small room at the back with few formations. You could see the complete cave in about fifteen minutes.

Herkimer, New York is the home of the Herkimer Diamonds, These are large crystals but not real diamonds. We walked across a farmers field, kicking up a few diamonds along the way until we reached what looked like a mine shaft. The pit had a ladder and we climbed down about 20 feet to the floor of the cave. The passage was cold and damp as we crawl along around several turns. It also kept getting smaller and lower. My friend who brought me to this cave was up ahead and pushing hard. Being young and with a lot to learn, I told him to keep on going, he rolled over and said that I was welcome to pass him and go ahead. I inched passed him and headed for the next turn in the passage to see what surprise might be waiting around the next turn.

Hard hat off and slowly pushing it ahead, exhaling to move forward, I finely gave up. It was just too tight. I announced that I was coming back. With no room to turn around there was only one thing to do, back out the same way I went in. Went I cave I carry an army gas mask bag with all my gear, an army belt with the battery for my head light and all this fits nicely at my sides. When I started to back out, everything started going wrong. All my gear started moving toward my chest where it was already so tight that I could hardly breathe and I had to release all the air in my lungs just to move.

My arms were in front of my head and I could not move them to release my belt. I could not turn around and I was stuck! Panic set in as I lay there against the cold rock and I wondered if this would be my grave. Over the next 20 minutes or longer, I would exhale as much air as possible and dig my toes into the rock, pulling backward a fraction of an inch at a time. Each movement only resulted in the Chinese finger getting tighter. At last, the passage relented and gave me a little more room and I eased on back with my toes. That was the last time that I egged on a fellow caver, I had learned my lesson.

My friend, I cannot recall his name, took me to several small caves around Albany that weekend and even showed me his old swimming hole, which turned out to be the city water reservoir. No swimming was allowed, but that did not stop us or the local kids we ran into along the way. We took the well-worn path along under the low brush to the edge of the lake. There was a high bank with a tree that reached out over the deep water. Attached to a limb was a rope. One of the young boys climbed the tree and by swinging the rope over to the bank we were able to grab it. It was a long swing out over the water and very high. I also did not know how cold the deep water would be.

I hit the water hard and went deep, grasping for air, the cold water took my breath away. I tried it a few more times but was not having as much fun as the younger boys.

I had two or three good and exciting weekends on that trip, and learned a lot. Mostly that I was not as young as I thought I was.

Hubert Crowell

I have started writing as a hobby and plan to write about my life, work, hobbies, region and many other things of interest to me and maybe others will enjoy also.

For more information on caving, improving your service department and many other subjects, Please visit my web site at:

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November 28, 2006

The Outdoor Adventure: an Old Favourite Which Will Never Truly Get Old

There's nothing quite like an outdoor adventure; after all, nature offers it all - fun, relaxation and the opportunity to engage in various exciting activities. What's more, a nature getaway is ideal whether you plan to travel alone, with your family or with a group of friends. So whether you're interested in taking a week-long retreat, or you're simply looking for a great way to spend a weekend, start planning your outdoor adventure today.

There are various locales which would be perfect for your outdoor excursion. While many people immediately consider mountains to be an ideal setting for an outdoor adventure, the beach, the countryside or even the desert are great places for physical activities, or to simply relax and take in the serenity of nature. What's more, your activities will vary widely depending on the setting, so it's a good idea to consider all your options before you set off on your adventure, and ensure all transport and hotel accommodation is arranged in advance.

There are loads of activities to take part in which will increase the participant’s enjoyment of the great outdoors, and hiking is undoubtedly one of the most popular. Hiking is a terrific activity for individuals and families alike, and it's a great way to experience diverse surroundings on a single excursion; experience the gorgeous scenery atop lush mountains, or go hiking amidst stunning desert terrain. Children can also learn a great deal whilst hiking, as they'll encounter a number of different plants, insects and small animals. With a little bit of research on the trails at any given park or campsite before you even get there to the area, you can plan a route that matches up with fitness levels and interests, as it is important to know how long the trails are, as well as what level of hiking experience they require, before embarking on a potentially unsuitable trek.

Other popular nature activities include fishing, canoeing and kayaking; but while these are perfect for summertime recreation, it doesn't have to be warm outside for you to have a great outdoor adventure - rest assured; you can even have outdoor fun in the snow! Skiing, snowboarding and snow-hiking are excellent outdoor activities for wintertime; and for families with younger children, sledding is a sure way to spread some smiles.

So why not start planning an outdoor adventure today? Whether going alone, with family or with friends, everyone is sure to have a terrific time.

Andrew Regan

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3 Scenic Mountain Tours

If you're looking for some of the most exquisite and pristine territory in the United States, you'll find it in Oregon. The state offers a tremendous number of places to view its scenery. From the coast to the top of Mt. Hood, there are plenty of scenic areas in Oregon to visit. A fantastic way to learn about a state is to drive its roads.

The National Scenic Byways Program's mission is to 'provide resources to the byway community in creating a unique travel experience and enhanced local quality of life through efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways'. To become a NSB, the road must offer some sort of unique archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational or scenic quality that would be of interest to travelers along the way. So, of course, it comes as no surprise that Oregon has five National Scenic Byways. Here, I've listed three that showcase Oregon's fabulous mountains.

The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Byway makes its way through the Cascades among the range's 10,000 foot-peaks. It runs through areas completely surrounded by lava (65-square miles worth!) and offers up views of Mt. Washington, North and Middle Sister, Black Butte, gorgeous waterfalls, two national forests and plenty of fishable rivers and hikable trails. The 82-mile loop tops out at McKenzie Pass 5,325-feet above sea level.

Cascade Lakes was named one of America's 10 most important byways. The sights, sounds and peacefulness of this 66-mile lake loop will leave you breathless. The trip starts and ends in Bend. Throughout the journey travelers will see a line of snow-peaked mountains to include Mt. Bachelor and Broken Top and will get the opportunity to enjoy the mountain waters of Sparks Lake, Devil Lake, Elk Lake, Hosmer Lake and Lava Lake. But it doesn't end there. On the way back to Bend, at least three other lakes can be seen and visited depending on the chosen return route.

The West Cascades is the drive to make if you're travelling between Portland and Eugene and have a few extra days to enjoy. The distance for this trip measures 215 miles but the pay-off is well worth it. With miles of trails and rivers, not only can you drive the route but along the way you can also hike, fish and even stop for the night. The trip is best done in two days so as to be able to enjoy the full richness this area has to offer. On your journey you'll see the state's longest covered bridge, forests between 200 and 500-years old, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll probably see some elk and deer. There are numerous recreation sites along the way, so if you really want to extend your trip, consider camping out for a few nights at different campgrounds, taking some time to enjoy the great outdoors and most of all, unwind from city life.

Barbara Pfieffer

Barbara Pfieffer lives in beautiful Oregon State. tells you all the fun things to do on vacation in Oregon, whether in the mountains or on the Pacific Coast. Visit for more information on scenic areas in Oregon, including more information on other drives, as well as areas to boat, windsurf, ski and hike. Come visit Oregon, you'll love it!

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November 14, 2006


Caving is the recreational sport of exploring caves.  Speleology is the scientific study of caves and the cave environment.

The challenges of the sport depend on the cave being visited, but often include the negotiation of pitches, squeezes, and water. Climbing or crawling is often necessary, and ropes are used extensively.

Caving is often undertaken for the enjoyment of the activity or for physical exercise, but original exploration, or physical or biological science is an important goal for many cavers. Virgin cave systems comprise some of the last unexplored regions on Earth and much effort is put into trying to locate and enter them. In well-explored regions (such as most first-world countries), the most accessible caves have already been explored, and gaining new caves often requires digging or diving.

Caves have been explored out of necessity for thousands of years, but only in the last century or two has the activity become a sport. In recent decades caving has changed considerably due to the availability of modern protective wear and equipment. It has recently come to be known as an 'extreme sport' by some (though not commonly considered as such by its practitioners, who may dislike the term for its perceived connotation of disregard for safety.)

Many of the skills of caving can also be used in the sports of mine exploration and urban exploration.

Practice and equipment Helmets are worn to protect the head from bumps and falling rocks. The caver's primary light source is usually mounted on the helmet in order to keep the hands free. Electric lights are most common, with halogen lamps being standard and white LEDs as the new competing technology. Many cavers carry two sources of light - one as primary and the other as a backup in case the first fails. Carbide-based systems are still popular, especially on expeditions. Spare flashlights are often kept, but it is not recommended to use anything bigger than a mini-mag (a very small version of the popular Maglite flashlight). The type of clothes worn underground varies according to the environment of the cave being explored, and the local culture. In cold caves, the caver may wear a warm base layer that retains its insulating properties when wet, such as a fleece ('furry') suit and/or polypropylene underwear, and an oversuit of hard-wearing (e.g., cordura) and/or waterproof (e.g., PVC) material. Lighter clothing may be worn in warm caves, particularly if the cave is dry, and in tropical caves thin polypropylene clothing is used, to provide some abrasion protection whilst remaining as cool as possible. Wetsuits may be worn if the cave is particularly wet or involves stream passages. On the feet boots are worn - hiking-style boots in drier caves, or rubber boots (such as wellies) often with neoprene socks ('wetsocks') in wetter caves. Knee-pads (and sometimes elbow-pads) are popular for protecting joints during crawls. Gloves are almost always worn. Ropes are used for descending or ascending pitches ('Single Rope Technique') or for protection. Knots commonly used in caving are the figure-of-eight- (or figure-of-nine-) loop, bowline, alpine butterfly, and Italian hitch. Ropes are usually rigged using bolts, slings, and carabiners. Cavers carry packs filled with first-aid kits, food, extra equipment and bathroom supplies. So-called 'pee bottles' are now standard and cavers are expected to carry their waste out with them. For solid waste, several zip-lock type bags (one inside the other) are used, surrounded by aluminum foil (for aesthetic reasons). These are affectionally referred to as 'cave burritos'.
Caves can be dangerous places; hypothermia, falling, flooding, and physical exhaustion are the main risks. Rescue from underground is difficult and time-consuming, and requires special skills, training, and equipment. Full-scale cave rescues often involve the efforts of dozens of rescue workers, who may themselves be put in jeopardy in effecting the rescue. This said, caving is not necessarily a high-risk sport (especially if it does not involve difficult climbs or diving). As in all physical sports, knowing one's limitations is key. The risks are minimised by a number of techniques: Checking that there is no danger of flooding during the expedition. Rainwater funneled underground can flood a cave very quickly while the surface remains clear. Using teams of at least four cavers. (If an injury occurs, one caver stays with the injured person while the other two go for help.) Having a 'call-out person' who will notify appropriate rescue personnel if the party does not return by a predetermined time. Use of helmet-mounted lights with extra batteries. American cavers always recommend a minimum of three independent sources of light per person, but two lights is common practice amongst European cavers. Sturdy clothing and footwear, as well as a helmet, are necessary to reduce the impact of abrasions, caver falls, and falling objects. Synthetic fibers and woolens, which dry quickly, shed water, and are warm when wet, are vastly preferred to cotton materials, which retain water and increase the risk of hypothermia. It is also helpful to have several layers of clothing, which can be shed (and stored in the pack) or added as needed. In watery cave passages, partial or full wetsuits reduce the risk of hypothermia. Cave passages look different from different directions. In long or complex caves, even experienced cavers become lost. To reduce the risk of becoming lost, it is necessary to memorize the appearance of key navigational points in the cave as they are passed by the exploring party. Each member of a cave party shares responsibility for being able to remember the route out of the cave. In some caves it may be acceptable to mark a small number of key junctions with small stacks or 'cairns' of rocks, or to leave a non-permanent mark such as high-visibility flagging tape tied to a projection. Vertical caving involves ladders or SRT (Single Rope Technique). SRT is a complex skill and requires proper training before trying it underground.
Cave conservation A vertical cave in Alabama, USAMany cave environments are very fragile; since water that flows through a cave eventually comes out in streams and rivers, any pollution may ultimately end up in someone's drinking water, and can even seriously affect the surface environment, as well. Cave-dwelling species are also very fragile, and often, a particular species found in a cave may live within that cave alone, and be found nowhere else in the world. Cave-dwelling species are accustomed to a near-constant climate of temperature and humidity, and any disturbance can be disruptive to the species' life cycles. Though cave wildlife may not always be immediately visible, it is typically nonetheless present in most caves. Bats are one such fragile species of cave-dwelling animal. Despite their often frightening reputation in fiction and in the movies, bats generally have more to fear from humans than vice-versa. Bats can be beneficial to humans in many ways, especially through their important ecological role in reducing insect pest populations, and pollenization of plant species. Bats are most vulnerable during the winter hibernation season, when no food supply exists on the surface to replenish the bat's store of energy should it be awakened from hibernation. For this reason, visiting bat-inhabited caves during cold months, when bats are most sensitive and vulnerable, is discouraged. Some cave passages may be marked with flagging tape or other indicators to show biologically, aesthetically, or archaeologically sensitive areas. Marked paths may be notably fragile; a pristine floor of sand or silt may be thousands of years old, dating from the last time water flowed through the cave. Such deposits may easily be spoiled forever by a single misplaced step. Active formations such as flowstone can be similarly marred with a muddy footprint or handprint, and ancient human artifacts, such as fiber products, may even crumble to dust under the touch of any but the most careful archaeologist.

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