Caving Narrative 1987 - August 9

Mary Laycock, Jim Nepstad, Jim Pisarowicz, Darren Ressler

Duration of Trip:
2 hours

New Cave Surveyed:
206 feet

Alright, the invitations had been sent, "All you Wind Cave explorers out there are invited to join in the official 50 Mile Celebration on August 16 at 9:00 am. We will survey the 50th mile of Wind Cave right at the entrance. About 25 feet right at the very beginning of the cave has never been mapped and so..." - oops - What do you mean we are still well over 200 feet from 50 miles? What to do? Should we cancel the party? Alert the news media to our blunder? No!! Equip an expedition!! Carbide lamp, survey book, tape, survey tabs - check, check, check, check. Compass - check. Inclinometer - check, check, check already! Let's go! Off into the cave they went to hunt down about 200 feet of unsurveyed cave passage.

After almost 30 seconds of traversing a treacherous concrete trail they came upon the first likely spot. Right at the First Crossroads-a point that every Half-mile, One Mile and Candlelight tour passes-is an unassuming little passage that was about to get itself surveyed for the first time. Faster than you can say "Floyd Collins," Wind Cave was 100 feet longer.

At this point, Mary defected from the expedition to go cook some hot dogs. Undismayed by this sudden development, the remaining members of the force valiantly forged their way further along the concrete river-deeper they went, literally minutes from civilization, until what to their wondering eyes should appear but- yes! A jolly old elf and eight tiny-wait-wrong story-Yes! A passage waiting to happen.

Like a flash, out came the equipment. Through the passage like a bolt of lighting they went. Calling out the numbers in a staccato rhythm like a strobe, the explorers (by now blinded by all the light) pushed onward into the not-very-well-known until, faster than you can say "Who's Floyd Collins?", Wind Cave was over 100 feet longer.

A resounding cheer went up from our hardy explorers as the cave now stood at 50 miles minus 11.5 feet, ready and waiting for the big celebration. By now exhausted from the evenings exertions, all gear stowed away, they began the long journey back. Five grueling minutes later hot dogs and watermelon were being greedily consumed by all.

P.S. Cave exploration isn't always as easy as this trip, but the relative ease with which we mapped over 200 feet right off the concrete trail should give every visitor an idea of what a complex place Wind Cave is. There are many other places like this adjacent to the developed paths and, who knows, perhaps as yet undiscovered parts of the cave just down that dark passageway...that one right there...

Report by: Darren Ressler

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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