This morning Emma was recruited over to Rick and Sandi's trailer to help make breakfast. Rick likes to put together a big breakfast on weekends away, and since today was the day to go crawling around in a cold wet cave, he didn't hold back.
After a leisurely breakfast, we headed over to the hamlet of Clarksville to visit the cave. It's long been informally open to the public but in the past few years the cave has been purchased by the Northeast Cave Conservancy and is now managed. Access is still governed by the loose policy of not identifying the exact cave location. If you want to visit, it's best to go with someone who knows the place.
It's also good to go with someone who knows the basics about caving in the northeast. Caves here usually run in the mid-40s all the time, and are damp. This cave requires wading through knee-deep and occasionally waist-deep water which is about 55 degrees, and there are numerous low crawls and plenty of mud. So you need to be prepared, with three sources of light per person, clothes that stay warm when wet, kneepads, helmets, a map, snacks, and at least half a brain. Hypothermia, and injuries from falls do kill people in caves who don't pay attention to safety.
Eleanor and I have visited this cave many times but not in several years. This visit we were disappointed to find a lot of trash and some graffiti in the cave. Apparently people have come in here to drink beer and dump their empties and used glow sticks all over the place. We gathered a bag of trash on our way out, but there's plenty more in there. (And look what somebody else left in a cave!)
Emma's first "wild" caving trip was a huge success, for all of us. Emma loved it, even the cold, wet, and muddy parts -- which was pretty much all of it. She and Eleanor left through the main entrance after about two hours, but Rick, Sandi, and I continued to explore another arm of the cave for another hour and finally exited through a different entrance.
Just up the road is John Boyd Thacher State Park, which sits atop a limestone escarpment and thus offers a spectacular view of the land below. We took this route back to our campground so Rick and Sandi could take in the view, and enjoy some open space and sunshine after our hours in the cave.
The little state campground we are camped at (not a "state park" for some reason) seems to be dominated by seasonal residents, who have set up little tent cities on their sites. Across the way from us the residents have hung a carved wood sign declaring themselves "The Governor of Thompson Lake", and our neighbors (not to be outdone) have a similar sign calling themselves "The Mayor of Thompson Lake". It's a friendly place where most people seem to know each other, but it also feels more like a residential park because of all the settlement.
Rick and Sandi hung around into the early evening, but finally had to go back home so they could be at work on Monday. I don't have to go anywhere but I will also be back at work on Monday, alas, trying to finalize the Winter magazine. We've got a few days of courtesy parking planned just a short distance west of here.