Trip through the Tunnel of Mud
This past weekend (Feb 12-13) we loaded up the van and started the drive up to Oklahoma. There we visited Quartz Mountain State Park, and a place called Jester’s Cave. We left early Saturday morning, and while it was cold at the time, we were blessed with a beautiful spring day. Upon reaching the state park, we met up with some folks who had volunteered to lead us through the cave. After some pleasant greeting, we drove off together to find Jester’s Cave. The cave itself rests under an area of private land in a place that can only be described as “the middle of nowhere”. We parked, got our gear together, and all headed off to the entrance. This cave is one of the biggest in the state and has 68 openings to the surface, so while walking across this area of land we saw a number of places that looked like a good area to start. Needless to say, we were glad to be with someone who had been there before. After successfully navigating the tumbleweed branches and the cacti, we descended into a cave mouth. This was where we were going to start our 2.5 mile walk/crawl through Jester’s Cave. This was the first wet cave I had gone caving in, and it looked very different from the caves I was used to seeing. For a majority of the hike we were following along an underground river (sometimes being in the river itself). This cave looked pretty much what you would expect a cave that had been formed by a stream to look like: one long tube. There weren’t any of the rock formations I had come to expect from other sites, but the uniqueness of this cave didn’t leave me disappointed. We walked past a very large number of bats (which we unfortunately couldn’t help but wake up some). After the rooms of bats the ceiling began to lower and we started our crawl through the soft mud. Throughout the rest of the cave, we alternated crawling/walking through mud/water, throughout tunnels and large caverns. My favorite room (properly named the “run around room”) was shaped like a horseshoe. Now, the center of this horseshoe was a pretty deep pool of water, and the outside edge of the shoe had steep walls. The horseshoe itself was a ring of mud slanted downward into the pool. So, the only way to get across was to run along the muddy trail to have enough momentum to avoid falling in the pool. We ran back and forth a few times before heading on. Who would have expected to find such a fun area underground? All in all, the cave was a lot of fun, and it ended way too quickly. Once out of the cave, we took the long walk back to the van, changed out of our muddy clothes, and began the drive back to Quarts Mountain State Park for the night. Our dinner there was cooked on our own outdoor stove: chicken quesadillas and cookies. A delicious dinner indeed. The warm food kept us toasty just long enough to get into our tents and our sleeping bags. Good thing we got in them quickly as the winds picked up and the temperature dropped. We kept warm the next morning by cookin’ up some bacon and eggs. Our stomachs full, and the trip a rousing success, we loaded up the van and drove back to SMU.
Stephen Hayden, Trip Leader.