The recession was still in full swing in California, no building, no work. Talking to my friend Frank, he suggested that I move to Colorado, specifically Canon City, and I figured, why not?
After a few days of partying it was time to work. Back then I got out a phone book and started at A in a/c companies. I got to Aspen HVAC before I was hired, took about an hour, and off we go. Fast forward a year, I ended up working at a shop in town instead of commuting to the Springs, and met who would become my closest friend out there, Evan.
We were the well-oiled machine at the shop, knocking out any project we were asked to do, and had a ton of fun doing it. Jamming, hacky sack, shooting, a great time to live, then Ricky came by….
He was the grandson of the owner, and while a bit younger than us he was very smart, and ready to have some fun, and told us about a cave he knew of – “OK!” We replied in unison. The next day we prepared, down to the hardware store for headlamps and candles, grabbed some munchies and water and set out, 20 minutes North on a few county roads later Ricky pronounces, “Stop!” We look around on the flat ground in front of us ask, “Really?”
After a five minute walk we came across a large opening in the earth. “This is it,” Ricky says, so down we go.
I should mention at this time Evan’s dog Buddy was a constant companion, so we relayed him down into the cave as well. After a descent of 100 feet or so, we enter a HUGE gallery, full of faults and stalactites and such. There was enough traffic over the years that the paths were obvious. Remember we were working with old fashioned headlamps here, no LED, no lithium batteries– a rule we had was everyone carried candles and a lighter, you’ll see why later….
If you proceed left you travel up and into what looks like a narrow canyon, you can’t see the roof, then things get really narrow. I took my Vietnam vet Dad here once. We like to shut all the lights down sometimes to realize how black it really was; Dad was not pleased. At the end of the navigable part of that section was a graffiti chamber, and roots sticking out of the ceiling, so, pretty close to the surface, I found my Easter egg:
Bob 20000BC was carved in the roof!
Now to the right what was called the slot, a slumping of the cave that went out about 100 yards, around a pillar and back, only 3 feet tall, so I tell my son to stay with Evan and I go for it, silly me. Evan sent my son in after me and I didn’t know ’til he was right behind me. “Oh Shit!” I cried, “Follow me Z!” And we finished it together, truly a family affair. He was 5 years old.
This cave is less known, another 5 minutes towards the Escarpment, the entrance is on the side of a cliff, walkable if you know where to look, and unique. Flies surround the entrance and know one knows why. This is what’s called a wet cave, it’s wet, duh, but it’s also an active cave, meaning it changes. We basically slide down a 45 degree mud slope about 100 feet to a wide landing with multiple pathways. Take one, so we did, to the right again, and things start to get tight. We went pretty far but you could see it wasn’t all that stable, so we bailed.
The Great Clusterfuck.
We’re into Sunday early, pounding keggers, and Evan says, “Hey guys, wanna have some fun?” and we enlist 10 victims to follow us into Fly. At the entrance I tell everyone to buddy up, it’s easy to get lost down there, and we proceed down. We were looking for and found the Mushroom Cave, so we all crawl through a 3 foot wide hole and have a seat, and start smoking weed. Yes, the whole chamber was filled with glorious pot smoke, and it was good. Then we did a head count, 11 guys, “Oh Shit! If he got lost….”
We split up into parties and searched for a long time. When we came up, there he was, still shaking from the experience, we were too, he knew to go up, so he made it out OK. Evan and I went back the next week, and the Mushroom had caved in.
“Bob, I found a new cave!” Cool let’s go. Off we go to Wilson, this one is on private property, so we need to stealth in/out. Evan, Ricky, Jeff and me all get to the entrance and shit! Fresh slabs on the floor that fell from the roof, a very different cave system, so of course we go deeper.
Since we like to down, we spot the birth canal, a round opening you have to lie on your back to get into and then slide down into the next chamber backwards. Evan goes first and as I follow he kicks me right in the head, wrecking my headlamp. Did I mention candles? Thankfully, by that time I had a spare lamp, but I always keep the candles. Down we go. This cave was very deep and we explored more than anywhere else but it got tight enough we had to back up to get out, that’s enough.
Ending up on the high side exit, we saw bats galore. Me and Evan run out as fast as we can and come up short of a 50 foot cliff. Whoa! So of course we encourage the other 2 to haul ass as fast as they can, laughing as they try to avoid the cliff. We all went home and got drunk.
At the time, I was following the Colorado caving scene and heard a British group was traveling through the cave systems, and sure enough we ran across them, while we were leaving Marble Cave.
I say, “Evan, we are Australian.” He’s like, “I don’t do Australian.” I say, “Fake it.”
“‘Ow ya doing mate, heard you’re round these parts.”
“What ya doin’ ‘ere?”
“Caving, just like you, mate.”
“‘Ey, is that a dog?”
“Yeah mate, that’s Buddy, help ‘im out eh?”
Brit helps Buddy out of cave, “There you are.”
You had to be there, it was a great spoof.
Disclosure: Do Not Attempt to enter any underground passage, cave, mine whatever, without knowing the risks, some are stable, others are not. Don’t be cool, don’t risk being buried alive. I did and it was stupid, (but really fun and I’m glad I risked it!).
Addendum: this took place before the interwebs or smartphones, so there is no photography unfortunately, use your imagination
Addendum #2: Wear clothes you don’t mind ruining, just save em for cavin’ and always leave an itinerary with a loved one.