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Posts Tagged ‘shelter caves’

IMGP3419, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It has been my unfortunate experience to visit many shelter caves near Toronto and for the paucity of decoration and the generally shattered and graffiti-scarred innards, had come to regard them as a waste of time – no beauty there, only a miserable reminder of what a wild cave ought not to be.
Today JC and I followed up a canyon which in my own thoughts had probably been traversed by many people. Not having the energy to make a long trip and storing up all our caving ambition for the coming trip to Marmora (which I am leading for the TCG), we just settled for a none to ambitious scouting over what we’d thought must be territory that should have been well traveled before.
The going was difficult, but the scenery was spectacular and we soon found ourselves in a gorge with an increasingly thickening bedding plane. The riverine growth was somewhat reminiscent of the edges of the Maitland and that karst terrain of a ‘River Ledge Limestone Pavement’ – but not entirely as there was also thick growth up the sides of rubble mounds in places – pink flowers that looked like giant snap dragons nodded in the humid air as we pushed our way between them. Simple shelter caves began to exhibit features of greater complexity – many having stone tongues hanging out of their mouths – of tuffa, or in some cases more finely deposited flow stone. To me that suggested water flowing from within, it gave us hope of onward leading tunnels.
Against all odds we came across not one but several shelter caves that were somewhat beautifully hung with spelothems. The most impressive decorations were a stacking of rimstone dams that led inward to deeper passages. Sadly they seemed too tight for explorers, and thankfully nobody had tried to push it. I was astounded by the complexity of the deposition and looking over the wriggly walls it reminded me of waves of molten wax. And not far above I could hear the sound of passing traffic. It was an amazing little hidden oasis.
The point is that just by pushing on a little further beyond where it is easy walking, hack through the stinging nettles and mud and cobbles and there is still a lot to see in Ontario. And thanks to whoever preceded us, for having the forethought to restrict themselves from standing on the speleothems.
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As JC was in the process of studying for a test today, we could only make a short trip. Our excavation of the Tooth Tube will have to wait till next Saturday. We initially visited a place near Paris called Sinkhole Swamp and that was a bust though the place was quite beautiful. I suppose we should have known it from the start, the whole area is too thickly overlain by till.  On the way back to Guelph we made a diversion to the Galt Shelter Caves as I had never seen them.

I believe I had first learned of the Galt Shelter Caves from Ongley’s Manuscript. He described them as “small”, I add to that description, “shallow nooks in the cliff along the shores of the Grand River – humble in appearance, and by the added blight of spraypaint, not worth the struggle down the cliff face and through the vicious thorn bushes”.

Some of the features were in the upper portion of a heavily fractured cliff face. We climbed a short way to access most and where for the most part pretty disappointed. There was nothing but gutted hollows – cave vandalism at its worst. Fortunately I don’t believe there were any formations to break, just the usual empty cavities of a shelter that had been worn by running water.

Two things that work against preservation of these features, firstly they are well known by local kids, and secondly, they are easily accessible as they are literally within an urban area. Can you imagine the impact of people who did this kind of thing visiting LS Cave or Rovers or the Tooth Tube or P Lake Here.

I am very selective about whom I share locations and this is why..

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JC and I have had some difficulty in locating these caves in the Elora Gorge, there are plenty of rumors out there, but because of the difficulty in viewing this area, with slippery ice and cliff edges that seem to blend into the drifted snow these caves had gone un-noticed until today.

As many of us live such an urban lifestyle most are hesitant to enjoy the winter – or at least the winter beyond the limits of a local ice rink. A ramble up the Elora Gorge is definitely a cool thing to do if you live in or near Toronto. The ice formations are amazing, especially with the warmer temperatures as of late and the rapid freeze to grow these incredible icicles. There was also an interesting bed of octagonal foam rafts that had floated down the river and gathered in an eddy. I managed to get down to the river and grab one. It was ice with a top of foam that had frozen. by their rubbing against each other the ice rafts had all developed this unusual geometric appearance and at their outer edge the rafts were being jostled out into the river and sucked back into the eddy further down to replenish the back end of this constantly moving carpet. It was like a natural conveyor belt.

Sadly – as much as photographing the ice formations is a cool thing, it looks like we will have to either wait for summer to reach the caves in the above picture, or we will have to wade across the river in less than ideal conditions. As seems to be the pattern, all caves that I’ve seen in the Elora Gorge are simple shelter caves – shallow cavities that have been scooped out by the water. Admittedly the caves present some interesting opportunities, but I’m not sure I’m ready to wade across the river in these temperatures. There also appears to be a possible scramble down the opposite cliff face. I will have to scout that out next weekend if I’m not with JC looking for abandoned gypsum mines – the landscape south of Hamilton is littered with them. JC just e-mailed to say that he visited a buried adit today from which 60 000 tonnes of rock had been removed. The land owner says that he had felt a breeze coming from there in the summer.

So will it be looking for caves or abandoned mines next weekend?

Cave near Kingston

One question – who is looking for a cave near Kingston?  Do you know something that I don’t? Leave a message so I can contact you – your lead and the knowledge of my various contacts might be able to locate the treasure for the both of us.

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Further to my exploration of Canadian geography in the the winter, JC and I found an icy precipice down which we could slither into the Elora Gorge. Being more agile JC had led the way, and I followed tentatively, wondering if I could make my way back up again. Admittedly it’s been too long and my lack of confidence was misplaced, tree roots, hanging branches and rocks made for easy climbing and soon our discovery of cool ice formations and a frozen waterfall led me to believe that the effort had been worthwhile.

JC had found a picture of a low slot-like cavity on Flickr, I recall seeing this years ago, but it was never so exposed above the water. Either the water has got lower in the Elora Gorge or my memory is faulty. Elora Gorge is mentioned in several caving manuscripts for it’s shallow shelter caves, and as there are usually more challenging explorations around, I’ve never really paid too much attention – but today, we’re just marking time till warmer weather and then it’s back to real caving. If you are looking for cool things to do near Toronto, a visit to the Elora Gorge would certainly top my list – Just be sure you’re safe, the edge of the gorge is very dangerous, especially in the winter.

We figured that we could reach the slot pictured on flickr by descending into the gorge and then picking our way along the river bank. Sadly this was not possible as the river cut off our expected riverbank access. This hollow might well be a shelter cave, but in looking at the sloping rock wall above it I wonder if it might again be some kind of tuffa formation. You will possibly remember my posts on Travertine Cave, there are some spectacular formations within it (See my book Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst – here) and if the river level has dropped and opened this new passage, I wonder if there are similar hidden treasures – but then again its probably like all the others, a rather disappointing shelter cave.

Any way when we realized we could not reach our intended destination we headed down stream and discovered this cavity in beneath a joint. Elora has beautiful thick bedding planes in many places (lower down) and so you never know what you might come across. Being formed by running river water from the gorge, this cavity does not go in too far, but being curious – cavers usually are, JC stood on my shoulders and as I stood, he hand-walked up the wall to get a look inside the tunnel up above, it too was relatively short. The real treat in Elora are the ice formations, and the frozen water falls – here is one that I saw. Short of re-visiting in the summer to check out the river level slot, winter is the time to go there.

I’ve heard rumor of a few other caves along the river bank – does anyone want to share?

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