Millers Pit 2, Rock Castle County, Kentucky, USA
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Having made contact with the local cavers I met up with them at the Great Saltpetre Preserve (GSP). The GSP comprises a 17th Century mined cave that they have turned into a showcave and the surrounding 300 acres of beautiful countryside. The GSP is actually owned by the Dayton, Cincinnati and Lexington Grottos (caving clubs) and they have a camp site with full facilities and an “open air” caving hut which members can use at any time of the year and which they share with lots of beavers, the occasional bobcat, some black bears and even a cougar (which, having been told about the size of its paw prints, you wouldn’t want to meet in the dark)! A brilliant facility for enjoying the more than 500 caves in the surrounding area.
Two trips were taking place: a surveying trip to a new pit (pot) that they are exploring and which has gone to 150 feet deep so far; and a tourist trip to Millers Pit 2. I opted for the tourist trip and we headed well and truly off-road in a convoy of pick up trucks and giant SUVs.
The cave entrance was located about half a mile into a virgin mixed wood forest and is a 60 foot free hang through a fluted surface shaft into a large room (chamber). A clamber down breakdown boulders leads into a fine stream passage reminiscent of the Whitescar streamway, only like everything else over here it’s bigger. The streamway goes for between 1 and 2 miles and has a network of high level phreatic passages which enable the deepest wet sections to be by-passed. Several side passage have yet to be pushed to their limits and there is a 100 foot dome (aven) with a waterfall from a passage at the top that has not been climbed. There is just so much cave out here that all these projects get filed away because there is easier stuff to find. With the cave temperature at a constant 55F all year round the caving is very pleasant.
Upstream the passageway eventually lowers to a belly crawl which must be very near to the creek above as there is plenty of fresh organic detritus all over the place from when it floods. Downstream ends in an area of breakdown and the resurgence is not known by the people I was with.
Back at the entrance chamber some of the team prussiked back out whilst the rest did a flat out crawl to the lower entrance. Then it was back to the GSP site for beer (and moonshine), loads of food and ranting until the small hours by which stage most people didn’t care if they met the bear or cougar on the way back to their tents. Some caving customs are obviously the Sam Allshorne the whole world over and at least our trip wasn’t threatened by a gun toting landowner unlike the surveyors!
A great introduction to a fine bunch of cavers. Photos added to a new gallery “Caving USA”.