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Archive for the ‘backpacking’ Category

snogof, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Jeff and I visited a spot in the forest where we had found a tunnel this past summer. We had been trying to dig into the tunnel but the bugs were terrible. Now that the ground is heavily laden with snow there is no such problem – now its the cold. Anyway, after about 4 hours of digging and levering frozen boulders we managed to create a hole large enough to look well into our suspected cave and what we saw within was an elliptical shaped tunnel that was plugged by boulders. A small waterfall dropped from the roof of the tunnel and beyond, a chamber in marble.

See video for Snowgof – breathing tunnel here.

We are yet to access the chamber, but with great difficulty Jeff photographed a small segment of the chamber. In his picture you can see a wall of pure white marble and you can hear the water falling within.

Near the entrance the roof is encrusted with frost thus indicating airflow from deeper in the earth. In fact it was the smear of frost on the wall outside the cave that first got us digging there in earnest. Based on its proximity to the edge of a steep slope and no apparent resurgence at its bottom I am left to conclude that the water flowing into the cave must be dropping down deep quite quickly. I suspect that it goes down a shaft such as you see in Twin Trickles Cave.

Spring will reveal what lies beyond.

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IMGP5962, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

We hiked through a jumbled terrain of massive slabs fallen from the cliff face and rounded boulders that have been washed by epic wind-spawned storms.

As entrances go these sea caves far surpass others that I’ve seen, though admittedly there are few sea caves to rival Rover’s some distance further along the shore.

In the picture above Jeff and I have been hiking and reached the end of dry land. Further progress would have to be through Georgian Bay’s icy water. What I found most intriguing about Cave Point was its sea caves part way up the cliffs. For the most part it looked like difficult climbing and I’d imagine few if any people have ever visited some of those harder to reach places.

SeeĀ video on our trip to Cave Point (Georgian Bay)

Our initial idea had been to see if we could locate low-lying bedding plane squeezes close to the water line as we are aware that not every opening in this area is a sea cave, there is huge potential for solution caves and as has already been discovered, there are nearby that are intensely decorated with speleothems.

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IMGP1872, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I have a lead on a Pre-Cambrian marble cave that we will be exploring on Thursday. Most exciting is the fact that the area is host to several known tunnels – they are small but beautiful and where there are some, there are more. Best thought in this area will be to speculate on what is buried. The surface geography will be our initial clue, we will be looking at unexplained dips in the soil, sink points and resurgences, contacts between marble and granite, and possible funnel points that have been created by glacial erosion.

Either way there will be some good pictures of the known cave (assuming that we can find it) and hopefully we can find something else in the area that presently lies waiting for us to discover it.

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Exploring Stone Church Cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

When the railway engineers sealed Stone Church Cave they must have thought they’d done a pretty thorough job, and in reading E.D. Ongley’s 1965 BA. thesis, I had thought the same myself, however, on the off chance there might be some surface clues I visited this area with a friend (Jeff) and was immediately able to access the suspected Stone Church Cave as the retaining wall that had been built by the railway has collapsed. Ongley was entirely correct when he theorized that there might have been a buried system in the area, this thought being derived from his observation of an albino crayfish in the railway tunnel.

There is a sizable space that leads off from the railway drainage tunnel and because of blowing air from a hole nearby I suspect that there might still be a tunnel sealed behind the retaining wall on the opposite side of the tunnel as well. When I look at that wall to the right of the above picture I suspect that I can see points from where a tunnel might lead, deeper into the rock. Just because the railway blasted their own drainage route, across the natural tunnel path does not mean that where the water now leaves the rock is where the water always left the rock. There is a low lying area nearby that has been cut off from Stone Church Lake and I wonder if the old drainage route had taken the water that was sinking from the swamp, moved it underground and then either had it meet the surface in that low lying area and from there it drained down through the rubble against the wall of the hill. I noticed that there was a seam of rock about 20 wide in this hollow that was eroded back into the side of the hill. Debris covers the natural seam, but the cleft that is made suggests that the rock is easily worn or decomposed; could this be the subterranean route by which the area is drained?

A surface search revealed a shaft leading down into the natural cave near the upstream insurgence.

To see a short video of the exploration of Stone Church Cave – click here.

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It’s hard to imagine how thrilling it was to see this wonderful yellow spotted newt. He crawled out from beneath a rock as we were digging in Newt’s Nook, a local cave near Toronto (Ontario).

Newt’s have both a terrestrial and aquatic phase to their life, they hatch from eggs at a length of about 1 centimeter and they exist on land, hiding beneath leaves and old logs. Officially a young land-dwelling newt is referred to as an ‘eft’. After about 3 years the eft moves into a swamp to continue the remainder of its life (about 10 years), flippering about in the mud and slime.

I am thinking that maybe the yellow spots have something to do with warning other animals to stay away. I understand there are toxins in the newt’s skin that make them poisonous to everything but a garter snake. Apparently there is a ploy whereby a beleaguered newt flops over onto it’s back to display a belly that reddens in proportion to its anxiety – another form of warning. Once transplanted from the spot beneath the rock that we found it, the newt blinked myopically and then began dragging its feet in a slow but persistent dash for the nearest crevice.

See this documentary video of our dig at Noot’s Nook and the discovery of the above pictured creature – here.

Our intention is to return to Noot’s Nook and continue following downward toward tunnels that appear to exist about 3 feet beneath the solid base of the cavern in which we found the newt. It is possible to see the space below through a narrow crevice. However great our excitement, we must exercise care as safety is paramount on any dig – especially where there is so much loose rock.

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This weekend Jeff and I descend to the bottom of a cold and dripping sinkhole in Ontario, Canada. It would appear that most are unaware of the existence of these pits, thinking that they only occur in Florida and other places where there have been some well publicized swallowings of people and posessions. Sinkholes occur for several reasons, but in stable rock they develop slowly and predictably over thousands of years and it is only the careless who end up lying broken and dying at their bottom.

In Toronto, it is most likely an underground pipe that has broken and eroded the lake deposited sediment beneath the city streets that would pose a sinkhole hazard. On rare occasions there have been collapse windows that have unexpectedly appeared in farmer’s fields, and of course there have been the celebrated cave-ins around mining communities like Cobalt and Kirkland Lake that have resulted in the loss of buildings. I believe it was in Timmins that a school bus was swallowed up one night with a sleeping beggar who had sheltered there, little suspecting that he would wake up entombed within the earth.

See the Documentary video on the sinkhole that we had explored this weekend – a Deep Mysterious Pit in Ontario Canada – here.

I spend my weekends caving and it appears that for the scarcity of horizontal cave openings near Toronto, it is now the vertical shafts that we are breaking open in hopes of exposing buried tunnels. Pictured here is one such shaft that sinks deep into virgin rock.

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Some time ago I did some winter hiking near Toronto (Niagara Escarpment) and explored behind a waterfall to see how it would look with all the icicles. Needless to say it was amazing – exceeded my most hopeful expectations. Most impressive was this low rumbling sound that filled the whole cavity, it was a new dimension to my unusual Ontario based travels – sound.

Check out this video of behind an Ontario waterfall – here.

In line with the publication of my first book in 2005 (Rockwatching), in the video that I have linked to just above, I show a little bit of the local rock and the contact between the Queenston Shale and the Whirlpool Sandstone.

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Waterfall in cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I suppose on of the most gratifying things about cave exploration is the ‘buzz’ that you get, and everything in existence seems to be encompassed in the yellow circle of your headlamp. Outside your headlamp there is mystery – turn your head and the mystery reveals itself. Each turn, corner and passage feels like it’s own first time discovery – I guess its something like the gambler’s buzz, and once you leave the cave the buzz dies away and then I feel like i’m in this slump and the rest of the week is grey and gloomy.

First human in a place that has lain untouched for several thousand years – beat that! How can you? The greater the challenge, the more the buzz. If somebody has already gone before you and poured a concrete sidewalk where’s the wonder there? I believe caving can become an addiction, and having caved for 26 years now I am hooked just like a junkie. And oddly I’ve become a connisour of rare and unusual sights – a flowstone dam, cave pearls, speleothems and speleogens, crawling in tunnels that are washed by frigid streams, deep tannin stained pools in marble, dolostone, calcite and limestone – privy to a sleeping porcupine’s bedside, wondering if a bear lies just beyond. Where does the waterfall come from? What wondrous crystal is that? some would pay a fortune at a mineral show, I prefer the mineral exactly where it sits – a concept of eco-mineral exploration which is something quite closely allied to ethical cave exploration.

See my latest cave trip here to the incredible beauty of Marvin’s Cave and its mysterious tunnels through marble beneath a forest escarpment.

I’d have a problem topping this discovery – Mountain River Cave here.

For more on caving see my book, ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst’ – there is a link on the right side of the blog that will take you to Lulu where the book can be purchased.

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We visited a beautiful – pristine marble cave in Northern Ontario this week. The cave had initially been discovered in 1964 by Bob Burns and it was documented the following year in an archive that was managed by Derek Ford. The last visitors to this cave were Marcus Buck and Brad Wilson who spent the time to make a highly detailed map of the underground tunnels. This cave had been known by another name, but we had to change it to protect it’s location (on the advise of Brad and Marcus) The new cave name is after the former owner of the cave who has since passed away.

By its most simple understanding, the rock in the area dips quite steeply into the earth and there is a large swamp with a dry valley running parallel to it. We began our search for the cave based on Marcus’s memory of his visit many years before and so we made a few wrong turns before we finally found the cave. Whereas it is relatively easy to predict cave entrances in limestone – whose surface topography depicts what lies beneath quite accurately – here in the north, the contortions of marble and calcite veins are not so simply seen upon the surface. On the bright side, we did find a small sink point in the dry valley that might justify a second look.

See the video of Marvin’s Cave here.

When we first stumbled across Marvin’s Cave we actually came upon the point where the upper cave took water directly from the swamp, broke onto the surface for a short distance and then dropped down through a series of crevices into the lower system.

Marvin’s Cave is typified by a number of small cataracts that move its stream beneath the edge of a small escarpment in the forest. JC and I made a chilly October exploration up its stream that was still darting with minnows in mid-October. The main features in this cave are its two bowed out stream passages through incredibly banded marble. There are several sizeable rooms within the system, heavily littered with breakdown.

For more information on caving in Ontario, buy my book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst”. There is a link on the side of this page that connects to “Lulu” where the book can be purchased.

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IMGP3595, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I recently visited a cave in solid marble (The Natural Marble Bridge). Our intention had been to follow up river a short distance to see if there were other caves in the area. You might know the old adage – were there is some caves, there are more. Sadly there were no more that we found, but JC found a hole in another nearby valley that was blowing cold air and about 100 meters away, a hole (on the opposite side of the marble bridge) where it looks like the stream that presently runs through the cave must have sunk at one time. A cave dig might be in order when we run out of other going options.

The Natural Marble bridge has an entrance at one side of an elevated ridge of marble, and a downstream exit on the other side of the ridge. The entry way looks quite ominous and the roar of water is impressive – well out of proportion to the quantity that sinks.

Your passage through the cave is quite magical – traversing through bands of marble of various earthy colors, a granite contact being some short distance into the rock (facing downstream to your right).

See video of the natural Marble Bridge here.

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