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Archive for the ‘backpacking’ Category

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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Descending a pit is a somewhat awe inspiring experience, especially if that pit has never been descended before. This particular area of Ontario is absolutely pocked with holes and solution shafts through the rock and this past weekend we found another cluster somewhere near the cave that we call the Death Bell.

See video on the descent of the pit – here

When I got to the bottom of the pit I discovered that I was standing on a boulder choke and beneath that choke you could see a shaft that dropped down at least another 30 or 40 feet. Any dig of the boulder choke would have to be done very carefully as there is the hazard of engulfment where the floor could collapse away and you would find yourself tumbling down amongst hundreds of tons of rock. Bottom line – diggers would have to be roped off.

The size of this shaft is out of all proportion to the water that presently drains into it so I would imagine that it is a relic from the glacial past – in fact the clusters of shafts in the area are generally aligned along some prominent joint and there is little that would explain why they had formed there. Without surface wear marks that would suggest a river that had drained into the shaft the only other thought that I am having is that the shafts formed beneath a glacier with an enormous pressure head that injected water deep along the bedding planes – kind of similar to the formative process of Museum or Leopard Frog Cave.

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Caving in Ontario

Exploring an Ontario Cave - Canada

Here are 2 links to video that I took this weekend. Both these short clips are of Pilgrim’s Crawl, an Ontario cave that is yet to be followed to it’s end. I’d say the biggest problem are the tunnel’s scallops, it’s like crawling against a cheese grater and my cave suit shows it after doing so.

Check these videos out – my first attempt with video of Ontario caving …

Pilgrim’s Crawl 1  – Caving in Ontario 1

Pilgrim’s crawl 2 – Caving in Ontario 2

At this time I’m still getting the hang of this video thing, I like it and see it’s potential for documenting our explorations in the newly discovered “Wasteland Waterway Cave”. One point is that I need to increase the lighting – especially as Wasteland  Waterway has much larger tunnels. Some are well above your head. More on that in the following weeks and hopefully I’ll have my new caving book in about 2 – 3 months. It’s taking a while because I’m trying to get it right.

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Finding the Croft Uranium Mine – Ontario

Between 1953 and 1955 Croft Uranium Mines worked the area for radioactive minerals. They found betafite, uranite, uranothorite, allanite and pyrochlore. Their appearance is flagged in the pegmatite by a dark red color and quartz that has darkened to a grayish-black. There are also said to be small pink garnets in the gneiss and larger specimens in the pegmatite – some reaching up to 3 centimeters in diameter.

A couple of hundred meters along the mine road I got Maggie to pull over in a little clearing and I continued on foot, leaving her there with the understanding that I would be back as soon as I had found the mine and explored the dumps. She had Shaka with her for company and I had my whistle that I tooted on intermittently so as not to walk unexpectedly into a hunter’s ambush. The whistle also served the dual purpose of letting bears know of my presence as the bush was thick and close to the path and I had no wish to meet the “mother of all bears” in a circumstance of mutual surprise.

The road dropped steeply down into a valley and I soon realized that leaving the car above was a wise move. There was nowhere to turn around, the ruts got deeper, and the track was soon entirely underwater. Beavers had built a stick and mud palisade that held back a stinking organic tidal wave that would one day inundate the swamp below. As for the road, forget it. I climbed across on logs and waded knee-deep in mud, thinking what it might be like during bug season (What looks like a stream in front of the beaver dam is actually the mine road).

On the other side of the beaver dam the track began a slow and steady climb upward. I noticed the appearance of crushed granite where I walked and of course the telltale patches of eastern hemlock. These trees tend to grow in clusters wherever the natural forest has been disturbed. They tell you where to look for hidden human habitation.

I soon discovered the mine dumps on my left and in a marshy gully I unexpectedly found the adit.

 

See another abandoned uranium mine in Ontario …  here or my trip to the Sarnac Zircon Mines  … here (where we were again terrorized by the possibility of being eaten by bears

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scan0003, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is what a burn site looks like – typical of the kind of terrain a tree planter works in.

The planter is a guy called Don who was a film student in Ryerson, he carries ‘container stock’ and is using a pottie (potty) to put his trees in the ground.

The idea is that you take your seedling out of your planting bag – roots neatly encased in a little cardboard roll – and drop it down the red tube that Don is holding. At the bottom of the tube is a spike that is driven into the ground. The measure of a well planted tree is whether the duff (organic matter) has been kicked out of the way first. Stomping on a lever at the bottom of the pottie, the spike opens up and the seedling is dropped into the hole that the spike has made.

 

Don looks pretty clean so either he was bathing in the swamp near the camp or I took the picture within about five minutes of beginning work. I remember by the end of that two week contract we were totally black and nobody bathed, firstly it attracted bugs and secondly the leaches in the swamp were these huge ribbony things that would flitter through the water toward whoever was in it.

One of my jobs was flagging the land and I would be out there marking off the planting areas for the next day long after the planters had all gone back to camp. I remember one evening I was way off in some burn site and the sun had already set, it was real spooky and I was convinced that there was some creature following me – maybe it was a bear or coyote or something, but at the time I was thinking it was a Sasquatch.

I believe this burn site was somewhere near Bancroft.

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