An odd photo from tonight’s Turks’ game. Harrisonburg Turk Jay Gonzalez slides under Strasburg’s Nicholas Barnes to steal second base in the third inning.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)


Tree Trimming
Climbing trees today for work . . . Making a photo of JMU landscapers Mike Fitzgerald (right) and Chad Churchman as they trim redbud trees at Memorial Hall.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)


Prayer Tree Cutting
Woodturners of the Virginias member Starke Smith of Fishersville makes a cut into the fallen Jackson Prayer Tree. Local lore says that the oak tree near Weyers Cave was used by Civil War General Stonewall Jackson to pray under during the 1862 at the end of his Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)

Prayer Tree Cutting
Nathan Hawkes of Charlottesville counts the number of rings from a branch about 15 feet from the base of the of the fallen Jackson Prayer Tree Thursday morning. He counted 204 rings.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)

Prayer Tree Cutting
Members of the Woodturners of the Virginias load cut pieces of the fallen Jackson Prayer Tree to haul away. The wood will be used to make items to sell and benefit veterans.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)

Prayer Tree Cutting(6/9/11) – (Weyers Cave)
Pete Johnson of Mount Jackson cuts the top of the Jackson Prayer Tree into manageable pieces to haul away the wood.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)

060911 Prayer Tree Illustration NF
Stonewall Jackson prayer tree before a summer thunderstorm blew down the historic oak tree.


Spring VAR
Chris attempts to rig Odey’s Pit entrance to Cassell Cave after a massive rain storm a few days earlier. As you can see, there’s still a bunch of water entering the cave entrance. I believe I said there was “No fucking way” I was going down there!! Being Chris (stubborn), he finally gave up after the water pounded the breath out of him in the crawls to get to the rig point. Insane shit.


Had a fabulous trip into Memorial Day Cave trip with Chris Coates, Aaron Moses and Terry McClanathan!!
We continued the survey of borehole we found at the bottom of Fasten Your Seatbelts Pit. We spent 16.5 hours underground and surveyed nearly 2,200 feet of passage! Above is Aaron standing the the borehole we named Ripple Way.

Below is Terry doing the cross sections.

Here Terry comes out of a side lead.

And a photo of the sand that inspired the passage name — Ripple Way.

Memorial Day Cave Trip Report
The Push of Ripple Way
April 9, 2011
LAK survey
by Nikki Fox

Chris Coates and I met up with our crew — Aaron Moses and Terry McClanathan — for breakfast at the Gateway. Terry got underground first to get a head start. Chris and I were in next, in around 10 a.m., followed by Aaron. Aaron caught up to us when we were at the 50-foot drop. At the bottom, Aaron passed us to catch up to Terry, who we could hear banging around in the Puppet Buster. 

We all made our way to the top of the connection drop. Aaron took Terry on a little tour of the upper Western Section, including showing the window into Nebraska Canyon and Starlight Passage, which Aaron had never seen himself. At the bottom of Fasten Your Seatbelts Pit, which took us 3.5  hours to get to, we all got rid of all or part of our vertical gear and started the long crawl to the borehole lead Chris and I did last month. 

At LAJ15 we stopped, had a snack and decided who would do what. Chris did his usual duty as frontsight, Aaron did backsight, Terry recorded the data and sketched cross sections while I did the sketching. This provided to be most efficient, allowing us to survey the passage rather quickly. 

There were 8 to 10-inch scallops on the ceiling with iron-colored rings along passage between LAK1 and LAK19. When Chris was setting station LAK8, Terry and I were at station LAK6. Aaron said there was a side passage on the opposite wall, so I crawled up the hole and went around a couple of turns, to see the small crawling passage going uphill with a floor channel in the bottom. It reminded me of the Puppet Buster. So I crawled back and hollered at the boys that we should survey it. Chris was not a fan of leaving the nice borehole. After 4 shots, Chris went a little further and found that it opened up into a small room and then continued in a crawl. We decided to leave the crawl as a lead for another time. Once back in the borehole both Terry and Aaron “bitched” about how aweful the borehole passage was to survey. This joke continued throughout the day.

Back in the main bore, we ran across another floor channel between LAK8 and LAK13. It originated from a tiny hole along the western wall and cut a huge slot in a mud mound. It was around this time the mud started getting a little gewy. After LAK13, there was a visible drainage area on the east wall, under a shelf, with the first collection of gravel we saw in the passage. The passage then constricted to a hands and knees crawl, where there were large sand mounds with wonderful ripple designs. Suddenly, we popped into a 13.5-foot high dome! At the bottom, there was a small crawling passage with cracked, sticky mud on the floor (LAK16). Before we went further, Chris returned to the beginning of our survey to retrieve our packs and I took photos of the mud cracks before it was destroyed by our path. The muddy sump turned out to be 9 to 11-inches tall the whole way and was 45 feet long. 

After the sump, we crawled up a sand bank, again with beautiful ripples, and followed an old water channel up the passage, which started at LAK21 from under a rock pile. The passage from LAJ8 to LAK20 had more sand/mud mounds. It was at LAK19 when I heard a low-frequency pop. I said “It just sounded like something fell in the passage ahead.” Aaron quickly chimed: “No it’s not! That’s the Ruddle crew we’re hearing!” There was much excitement and hurry to push the passage further to see if there was a small crack somewhere in the passage where the Ruddle crew could connect.  

Just around the corner (LAK21) the bore dramatically changed. The floor was covered in muddy breakdown and the walls looked craggy, not the smooth-lined walls with scallops we had grown accustomed to. I do not know much about the kinds of limestone in GV, but I would have to guess that we had entered a new contact layer. 

We surveyed through the breakdown, hearing the familiar low-pitched drilling (from LAK22 to LAK27) we have heard working on the SEC connection dig. At LAK26 I found a standing pool of water. It was not big, and was about 6-inches deep along the western wall. Between LAK26 and LAK27 there was another gravel sump, but this time there was a trickle of water flowing down into it! Once the passage narrowed, to 5-foot tall (LAK 27), I could no longer hear the drill. So I went back, as all the others were ahead at least one station, and tried to determine where the drilling sound was the loudest. It seemed to be around this gravel sump. 

We continued upstream and around LAK28 we started to see formations — lots of sodastraws and stalagmites. We popped into a wet, drippy passage that was decorated with flowstone and drapery. The passage branched off at LAK29. To the right (southwest) was upstream with air blowing. We continued straight (south), following the largest flow of air. After a small crawl (between LAK31 and LAK32) we climbed down into another junction room, accompanied with a small stream. The stream came from a breakdown pile (southwest) in the room, and traveled down the hill to the west. We left both of these leads and pushed forward in a dryer passage with no running water. 

From LAK33 the passage became muddy. At several turns in the passage, we left three small crawling leads and a walking lead with running water near LAK37. It was here that Aaron and Terry refilled their water bottles. Between LAK38 and LAK39 we left a lead going southeast. It looked rather unpleasant — a wet, muddy crawl. Continuing along the passage, a very slick, muddy sloped had to be climbed to reach LAK39. At the top, we encountered another dry stream channel that disappeared down two small holes in the floor (LAK41). Up another small hill, a shelf jutted out of the wall (LAK42) and the passage became a stoop walk, for me. At LAK44 we came to a fabulous natural bridge with more scallops on the ceiling. 

From here the passage had pockets of beautiful formations — mainly sodastraws, stalagmites and stalactites. Near LAK47 there was a very promising passage heading northeast down a slope. It has gobs of air and made me chilly sitting at the intersection. Around LAK51 the passage changed again. We followed a flowstone drain downwards to the end of our borehole. The entire area was covered in gravel and rotten flowstone. We stopped surveying at a water sump, which was 4 feet long, at least 6-inches deep and had at least an inch of air on the other side (LAK54). The good news is that it was blowing massive amounts of air. Our hopes are that this will eventually dry up for us. It was at the end of our survey that we discussed what to call the passage we had just mapped. Terry suggested “Ripple Way” and it stuck. 

A big thanks to Aaron and Terry for joining us on our survey! 
We couldn’t have done this kind of trip with just the two of us. 

Side notes: 
— Aaron seemed to think that the first stream was Ruddle water and the second was from Con. 
— The air did change directions multiple times during the day. 
— Took 4.5 hours to exit the cave from the last station

The numbers:
54 stations
2,171.9 feet of survey (0.4 miles) 
16.5 hours underground


Chris and I led a sport trip in Shovel Eater Cave with Mike Broome and Lisa Lorenzin. I think it was their hardest vertical cave they’ve done. But I absolutely love this cave, it’s my favorite! Here are the two of them in the borehole above Germany Well (217 ft).

Below is Chris in the Acoustic Persistence Chamber.

Unfortunately, we ran into this little guy in the cave. An Eastern pip covered with White Nose (WNS). I sure hope he makes it to the summer, he’s got a few more weeks to go for the bugs to come out!!


CrossKeys Wind Turbines
On the job today . . . . photographed Brad DeLeeuw, a wind turbine service technician from Michigan, as he climbs up a turbine he is installing at CrossKeys Vineyards. The wind turbine is supposed to make frost hard to form during freezing nights before grape harvest.
(Nikki Fox/Daily News-Record)