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Finding Fry’s Cave; Surveying in Wythe County, VA

Finding Fry’s Cave; Surveying in Wythe County, VA

    We were on a roll. We finished two caves in one day and still had time to do more, but we had yet to find them. Bill had given us a topo map showing us where some caves in Crystal Springs should be, but hadn’t been located yet. Leah and I went for […]

 

 

We were on a roll. We finished two caves in one day and still had time to do more, but we had yet to find them. Bill had given us a topo map showing us where some caves in Crystal Springs should be, but hadn’t been located yet. Leah and I went for a walk up the trail and then veered off into the woods. It didn’t take us long to find one cave, then a sinkhole nearby with a hole that could be dug open to a fissure that might go.

We went back to the car for our caving gear and saw another possible entrance, but it was on private property instead of the public park. We went up to the house next door. The owner of the cave was mowing the grass. He was perfectly willing to let us roam around to look for caves and even gave us a tractor ride to a hole in the creek bed he knew. The hole was going into a tangle of roots and looked unpleasant, but it matched the topo map for where a known cave should be. He gave us the owners name and also mentioned a cave up the hill in a quarry and one down the road which he said was very nice.

We went back to the car, got our gear on, and went back in the woods then into the cave. Then we saw whiteout and survey markers. Turns out this was one of the caves that got mapped back in December by VPI folks, but the other 3 caves near Crystal Springs still hadn’t been located. Running out of daylight, we headed back to the car and drove to Bills with this newfound information. He looked into his cave database for the county. He was able to match the description with the rough location given to us. It was a cave called Frys. Leah and I went back to Crystal Springs for the night and awaited news of whether or not we got landowner permission.

In the morning, we drove to the owner’s house and knocked. No answer. We then went to check out the quarry where a cave was reported. Turns out the quarry was in sandstone, no caves to be found. But we did find what appeared to be sinkholes formed in the sandstone nearby. Once again no caves, but still a curious feature. Back at the car I gave the owner of Frys a call and managed to get permission. We parked at the bottom of the hill. It took a bit of searching in thick brush to find the entrance, but we got in and storted to work.


Right off the bat, the cave sloped down steeply into the hillside, opening into decorated passage going different directions on multiple levels. For such a short cave, this one is among the most unusual and interesting caves I’ve ever been to. The left passage soon narrowed and sloped down after a left turn. A tiny hole in the wall doubled back underneath the entrance at a lower level and reappeared on the right side of the junction.

Ahead was a steep slope down to a lower room and a crawl to the right, all of it decorated in grimy black and brown formations. A few shots later it dropped off into a lower room with no safe way down. But we could see old graffiti on the wall, so we knew there was an easier way down.

Back a few stations at a junction was another drop-off and a high pocket in the ceiling. We backtracked further again to a left-hand fork down a slide and came to another junction. This took us to an overlook of a pit, and a clear shot up to a ledge above which we had been on previously. We closed this loop and left the pit for another day when we’d have some rope. Continuing ahead along a larger lower level, was a left fork over a decaying cat or raccoon, which fortunately ended quickly. Ahead was another left fork that snaked its way back up to the entrance junction.

Straight ahead was a pool and a climb up a rimstone dam to a dead end. After drawing in the end here, we surveyed up the convoluted climb back onto the main level. We tied back to our station near the entrance and continued into the right-hand branch of the cave. Here the cave was much larger and had nice decorations, though they all covered in a dull black coating.

We passed a high lead on the left and straight ahead was a pit. Another high lead on the left, and ahead the passage appeared to go, but traversing the pit looked tricky, so we opted to map the lower level that doubled back underneath. Down in this little crawl, the air suddenly got colder and we felt a slight breeze. It was blocked by formations after less than 30 ft, but the airflow indicated maybe there’s more to this little cave than is known. Perhaps there is a larger system hidden inside the hill, not unlikely given how bizarre and unpredictable this cave had been.

We ended our day with a few going leads and 350 foot of cave surveyed. My head still puzzled by this bizarre little cave. Afterwards, it was back to Bill’s house to copy over all the survey notes into his database. And after all this work, there’s still plenty to be done around there. A cave on the list simply called Dark Cave, listed as being 400 foot long but no other description. Perhaps we’ll go there next time we come to town.

Leah and I decided to head up to WVACS for the night instead of sleeping in the car… or so we hoped. After the two hour drive up to Greenbrier, we got to WVACS to find the gate locked and the place completely deserted. Turns out our friends all drove off to their other favorite hangout spot up in Germany Valley. But that was two hours away. We had already committed to meeting a friend the next day for caving in Greenbrier, so we drove to a church parking lot & were prepared to sleep in the car again. But then through a Facebook thread, we found out some friends were staying at a hotel in Lewisburg on their way to the Old Timer’s Reunion ( An annual gathering of cavers from all over for a weekend of caving, music, bonfires, hot tubbing, and general rowdiness), from a hiking trip in the Smokies. Air conditioning, a fridge to cool my Tecate in, friends and free breakfast sounded way better than staring at a graveyard all night, so we headed down to town. Next morning, we got up and ate breakfast at Biscuit World and met up with a SUOCer (Syracuse University Outing Club) nicknamed Fro. We had a pleasant trip to Culverson Creek, then drove to Elkins for the Old Timer’s Reunion.

Read Nathan’s Story about his trip to the Old Timer’s Reunion here: https://karunaoutdoor.com/2017/10/16/musical-caving-otr/

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