When I got home from my adventure careening down the hill and into the ditch I realized I could not get back up my road without chains. Having the chains already in the truck I chained up and managed to get into the garage. My neighbor offered space to keep the truck parked at her place at the bottom of my drive. With bags of groceries I made the choice to drive home and park at the bottom of the hill the following day. Little did I know I would awake to 24 inches of new snow on top of the snow I already had. Big mistake, the truck has been trapped in the garage ever since. My attempts to shovel out failed. I managed to get two vehicle lengths before the truck became high-centered, and there it sits. We have been walking in and out of here going on three weeks now.

Being house bound is definitely inconvenient but it has its bright side. I keep myself busy walking to and from the school bus stop to meet Teagan and Latah. They never complain about having to walk home. I wear my backpack to help carry the things from their heavy packs. When not cooking or doing housework I have been reading lots of books, watching movies I want to watch for a change, and playing with Latah when she is here. Teagan is happy doing her own things. One day I discovered a new hero. New Zealand’s top caver, Kieran McKay. When I have spare time I open the computer and go caving with Kieran. He has accomplished tremendous discoveries in the caving world. I have spent hours on my computer caving with these guys. They are not like our National Geographic Caving people who have the latest equipment and money to throw at their descents. These New Zealand guys are ordinary people wearing their tattered caving clothes and outdated equipment making extra ordinary discoveries, pushing themselves to the limits and occasionally beyond. Kieran McKay nearly lost his own life trying to save his partner during a water filled cave dive. His partner died that day. The title of this entry has more to do with caving as it does with my truck.

Meet Kieran McKay
A caver in his, “happy place”

These people are obsessed with caving and will spend a couple weeks underground exploring every passage to find the one that continues on. This particular guy spends 100 days out of the year underground. He is married with one son, both of whom must be patient and understanding. Kieran loves caving but it is his livelihood so that’s what he must do.

This job is serious
Just finding the caves can take several days
Things do go wrong
Every passage is measured and recorded
These guys are often laughing on their videos

New Zealand is a land of caves and the South Island has two discovered cave systems that Kieran just knew had to be connected; the Stormy Pot system and the Nettlebed. Kieran and his crew spent from 2010 until 2013 pushing into and mapping every crevice until they found what they were looking for, making that cave system the second deepest system in the southern hemisphere. Just watching videos of their attempts makes me happy for those people when they break through.

Not long ago Kieran, a member of the Speleological Society, was exploring an unmapped section of the Bulmer Caves, when an anchor broke as he abseiled down a rock and he fell about 10m. His first thought was, “Bugger, I won’t be able to explore any more’. Then he started thinking that he was going to have to get himself home.” His companions helped him 2km back to their cave camp. The next day, New Year’s Eve, the biggest rescue operation of its kind was launched with cavers from all over New Zealand being called in. Kieran managed to walk most of the way out even though he suffered ligament damage to one leg during the fall, a broken arm, and crushed jaw which had to be wired up. He was only stetchered at one stage. The police originally thought it would take up to four days to bring him 5.5km to the cave mouth. But he surfaced after just two. When asked if he was going to give up caving he respond,  “Give it up – no way. How could I give it up? I love it.” This guy is my latest hero along with his amazing team.

I, in no way, compare myself to these people, but, as you know, I love going into caves. I have been in numerous lava tubes locally over the years. I visit commercial caves when I am in their area. Three times I arranged to explore caves with a guide into the back recesses away from the commercial groups and I loved every time. I explored Wind Cave in the Black Hills with my niece Emily and a guide. On my own I joined a guide leading two young guys into the crevices and chambers of Jewel Cave, located in the Black Hills. That was exciting as we had to shinny across deep crevices on ropes and wiggle our way up chimney shoots. One time a guide and I were scheduled to explore a marble cave in southern Oregon. When I arrived the guide had the flu but I was in luck. The cave scientist said he had work to do in the back tunnels and said I could assist him. That was great fun. He showed me the petrified bones of a pair of long extinct tigers. I know the smell, the dampness, and the feeling of pushing myself through tiny holes and hearing the roar of water in the distance rushing through the cave. So, watching videos of men and women exploring caves is most enjoyable to me. My favorite caving experience was in New Zealand when there visiting friends. After walking through a number of caves I joined a commercial group sitting in inner-tubes on a river that flowed through the cave shooting out the end into a beautiful lagoon surrounded by jungle growth with long trailing vines and huge hibiscus flowers. I have no photos of that trip as I joined the group on my own and did not have a waterproof camera. That adventure lasted about three hours in the cave. I have spoke of it before in previous blog entries.

Box Works
Gypsum crystals

Wind cave is noted for its box works. Emily and I were also shown a rare cave feature of tiny 3 inch puffball shaped gypsum crystals found in dryer parts of caves.

I went to Jewel Cave on my own joining a guide and two young men. That adventure was quite a work out. Before I could join I had to crawl through a concrete box as that was the smallest space we had to get through. Also, I admit. I fibbed about my age as you couldn’t go if you were over sixty and I was, but I wanted to go very badly.

The concrete box
Many Jewel Cave passages are covered with calcite crystals, thus the name
I will follow you
From huge rooms to small crawl spaces

In off tour caving adventure the only lighting is your head lamp and the flashlights you carry. I went into Sitting Bull Cave in the Black Hills one day. I was alone and the next tour was in two hour but you could grab a helmet, flashlights and a guide book and go through the cave on your own, so off I went. Not being good at following directions I got lost. I didn’t really panic but all of a sudden I was terrible thirsty wishing I had brought water and was a bit terrified in fear of having to go to the bathroom. Where would I go. I knew eventually a tour going through would find me. I eventually spotted lights in a distant chamber which helped me realize where I was in the cave and so continued my lonely journey. That was a very fun day.