An evening pause: From the youtube webpage:
Two architects re-purposed a 100 person marine survival lifeboat; Stødig, into a self sufficient expedition home to travel 3500km from the UK to the Norwegian Arctic in 2019.
Hat tip Cotour.
An evening pause: From the youtube webpage:
Two architects re-purposed a 100 person marine survival lifeboat; Stødig, into a self sufficient expedition home to travel 3500km from the UK to the Norwegian Arctic in 2019.
Hat tip Cotour.
Today I took the morning off to do a hike with Diane and friend Susan. I did this mostly because other caving-related conservation work on recent and future weekends has made it impossible for me to go hiking with my wife. Since she hikes with Susan on Fridays, I decided to join them.
We went to Tucson Mountain Park, on the west side of Tucson, to do one of the more well known trails. The photo to the right, taken by Diane back in 2016, shows the spectacular crested saguaro she discovered in plain site on that hike but had gone unnoticed by us for years.
Everyone knows saguaros for their classic western look that makes it the state wildflower of Arizona. Normally they have a central post that sometimes has one or more arms extending from it. For normal saguaros the tops of the central post and the arms are almost always symmetrical and rounded.
However, in rare cases (about 1 in 10,000) something strange happens and a saguaro begins to grow wildly at its peak, or even along its entire length. Such freaks are called crested or cristate saguaros, and only about 2,200 have been found throughout the saguaro range in the southwest. When you find one it is always with a sense of triumph and wonder.
We began to look for crested saguaros during hikes around 2015, after a friend had shown us two on a nearby hike that we had done frequently without ever noticing this wonder of nature that was right before our eyes. Thus Diane’s discovery to the right in 2016. Today we went back on that same hike and found it again. It had not changed in any way in the past four years that I could tell when comparing pictures. Regardless, it is one of the wildest crested saguaros I’ve ever seen.
No one really knows why this happens. My theory today, in looking at this one, is that it was on drugs.
An evening pause: This pause starts with a heartfelt thank you for the support to this guy’s project. You will never guess what the project involves.
It does prove that, give true freedom, people will derive pleasure from the wildest things..
Though I have scheduled some posts to go up later today, I will not be able to do any live posting until late tonight, as I am participating in a cave conservation project for the day. We are doing a damage inventory of the formations in a cave in southern Arizona so we will know when any new damage or vandalism occurs.
An evening pause: They call this a flash mob, but that’s not accurate. These divers did not mysteriously appear here to move in unison in order to surprise someone. They all planned it together.
Nonetheless where they are and what they do is beautiful. I especially like when they coordinate the pointing of their dive lights.
Hat tip Mike Nelson.
Hat tip Cotour, who added that this is “Without a doubt the most exhilarating and dangerous sport that humans participate in.”
Diane and I are now on our way north to do an overnight hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, hiking down tomorrow. We were unable to go together to the Canyon last year for a number of reasons, so this trip will be an especially nice treat. And since we live in Arizona, we have the advantage of being able to simply jump in the car and go. It would be a mistake not to do it.
The photo to the right was taken by me during our 2016 trip. Diane, the tiny blue speak near the bottom of the image, is hiking ahead of me on the South Kaibad trail, the traditional route down for those doing an overnight down and up trip. We shall do the same this weekend.
I will likely do some posting today, while I remain above the rim. I have also scheduled a bunch of posts for the next few days, so the website will not go dark.
Posted heading north from Tucson.
In our final day of our Wales journey, we spent the day strolling across the beautiful countryside of Cregennan, one of several parks along the flanks of the Cadair Idris range, which runs north-south to the coast. This park is closest to the ocean, so at our highest point we were overlooking the Irish Sea and the town of Barmouth.
The three pictures on the right are only a small selection of the beauty of this region. There were several magnificent lakes nestled amid the mountains and fields. There were pastures with numerous sheep, some eating, some resting like white blobs on the green grass, and some “baa’ing” at each other. It was especially entertaining when a lamb started calling out for its mother, the mother responding, and then the two searching and finding each other.
And of course there were the standing stones and ancient ruins scattered about on several hilltops.
The abandoned house in the second picture is of special interest because it had been the home of an obscure 18th century Welsh composer by the name of John Williams. Williams was actually quite successful in his time, but only recently have some locals rediscovered unpublished manuscripts of his work. They plan a performance this fall.
Apparently his father was a hat-maker of some note, able to accumulate enough wealth to build this large country house in such a setting. Though I don’t know this, I suspect his success came from providing high quality hats to the upper classes, and this in turn gave his son the contacts necessary to become even more successful as a composer.
The last photo was taken as we walked downhill toward the ocean in a forested area beside a flowing stream, passing numerous waterfalls. This area is where our tour leader, Hywel “Taff” Roberts, was born and grew up, so he could give us some extra historical details about everything we saw. For example, the giant tree in that last picture was something that he remembered since childhood, home for birds and animals galore. It is old now, which is why several large branches have broken off.
Tomorrow the tour ends, and Diane and I will be taking the train to London, where we will spend two days before flying back to the states.
After yesterday’s long hike on Mount Snowdon, today was planned as an easier day. First we changed locations, driving south to the village of Dolgellau.
In the morning we heard two short presentations, first about the first discovery of Wales by tourists in the 1700s, and second a more scholarly look at the place names of Wales that appear connected to Arthur. In this case the speaker, Scott Lloyd of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, was focused more on what is really known, and was thus less sure about Arthur’s links to Wales than our previous expert, Gareth Roberts. Lloyd has documented the many place names (see his book, The Arthurian Place Names of Wales), but he has also documented the important detail that most started appearing after the first writings about Arthur started to appear, with most appearing several centuries after Arthur supposedly lived. This suggests that the names were chosen because of the legend, not because the man had been there.
In the afternoon some of us did a short hike halfway up the nearby mountain Cader Idris. The first picture shows the mountain at the top right, with sheep in the center, and a hawthorn tree in bloom to the left. The second picture shows the trail going uphill parallel to one of the many typical stone walls found everywhere in Wales. The land is very rocky, and to make it better for grazing farmers would clear the stones from the fields, putting them in piles to the side. Then, when the enclosure laws were passed in the early 1800s they used those stones to build the walls to define their property lines.
The third picture shows Taff and Barbara ahead of me, with Cader Idris in the distance. Shortly thereafter we stopped to lie on the soft heather to chat and admire the countryside and the grey rocky slope going up to the peak ahead of us. We then headed back down for dinner and an evening in town.
The goal today was to hike up to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in Wales, as well as the island of England. Diane and I didn’t make it, but not for want of trying.
The route we took started at the trailhead of the Rhyd Ddu trail, one of the more popular routes up the mountain. The top photo to the right shows the view from the lower elevations of this trail, and gives a good sense of the beauty, barrenness, and dampness of the day. Though it never really rained on us, the sky was almost always overcast and the cloud cover sometimes came down to engulf us.
Rather than take Rhyd Ddu straight north to the top, however, our route has us head right (east) up the Clogwyn Du trail through the now inactive West Snowdon slate quarry, and then turn left (north) up the nose of a very steep ridgeline to meet up with Rhyd Ddu close to the summit. The second image on the left shows Diane standing on the trail surrounded by slate tailings from that quarry.
The next picture shows Hywel “Taff” Roberts, our leader and the owner of Wild Wales Tours, with the distant mountain floor below us. We have begun the climb up the nose of that ridgeline, with the initial section up a very steep stone staircase cut into the ground. I could not help but think of the stairs of Cirith Ungol from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
The last photo was taken by Taff showing our entire crew, with the peak of Mount Snowdon hidden by clouds at the top center of the image. From left to right we have Pat, Dennis, the sisters Penny and Barbara, our second guide Haf, and then Diane and myself. The peak at the top-left is actually the start of the knife-edge ridgeline that leads to the peak. Where that ridgeline begins Clogwyn Du meets up again with Rhyd Ddu, which follows that very narrow knife-edge ridge to the summit, with 1000 foot drop-offs on either side.
When we got to Rhyd Ddu on that ridgeline Diane and I decided to head back down on Rhyd Ddu. We were now in the clouds, so going on to the peak seemed silly as we likely wouldn’t be able to see anything. Moreover, it was colder than either of us are used to or like. While Taff came down with us, everyone else continued to the peak. As I write this they have not yet returned, though I have no doubt they had a spectacular time crossing that ridge to the summit. UPDATE: The rest of the crew made the peak, but could see nothing for that entire section of hike, because of the clouds.
Not making the summit does not bother me much. I like to get to the top, but also know that we could it do another time should we decide to try. Diane and I have been doing this for a lot of years. We know our capabilities. We don’t need to prove them to others or ourselves.
Besides, the views up until then had been breath-taking, and they continued to be as good on the hike down. This was why we came, and it paid us amply in beauty every step of the way.
Today’s adventure in Wales was a pleasant seven mile hike up onto a small hill, Dinas Emrys, nestled in the pass in Snowdonia National Park that crosses from north to south Wales past Mount Snowdon. Our hotel, Sygun Fawr, can be seen in the lower left corner in the first picture on the right, which I took from the top of this hill. If you look close, you can see the window of our second floor room, looking out at the mountains.
The hike was through some of the lushest green woods I’ve ever seen, as illustrated by the second picture on the right. The trail itself was clearly very old, with stone steps and even a simple bridge made of flat stones and laid across a stream with a single larger rock in the center for support.
The hill itself is associated with Merlin in a number of ways. For example, the pool at the base of the waterfall in the third picture has been called Merlin’s Pool for centuries. Furthermore, Merlin supposedly hid a treasure in a cave somewhere on the hill, which will only be discovered by someone with golden hair and blue eyes and who will be guided to the cave by a bell ringing.
Fleeing Anglo-Saxon invaders Vortigen came to Wales and chose the hillfort as his retreat. However all efforts at building on the site failed, with workers returning daily to find collapsed masonry. Vortigern was counselled to seek the help of a young boy born of a virgin mother; a suitable boy was found named Myrddin Emrys (Merlin Ambrosius). Vortigern’s plan to kill Myrddin to appease the supernatural powers preventing him from building his fortress was scorned by Myrddin who instead explained that the fort could not stand due to a hidden pool containing two dragons. The White Dragon – he explained – of the Saxons would in time be defeated by the British Red Dragon.
The fourth pictures shows Gareth Roberts, our guide who as mentioned yesterday has been researching Welsh Arthurian place names, standing on the foundation of the ruin at Dinas Emrys’ top. To his left and slightly lower down on the hill in a gully was a second foundation and a pool from a natural spring. This spring was another reason this hilltop was a favored site for a stronghold, as it not only gave clear views both up and down the valley, was very defensible, but also had a ready supply of water. A fortress here would withstand attack for a considerable time.
Tomorrow we climb Mount Snowdon itself, The hike’s length will likely be about nine miles, and will gain 2,900 feet in elevation, somewhat comparable to many hikes in southern Arizona. The weather looks excellent, with spring temperatures at the mountain’s base.
Our travels today in Wales took us to three sites, all completely different.
First we visited Bryn Celli Ddu, a neolithic burial chamber, built about 5,000 years ago and shown in the top right photo. After following a well-defined path along the edge of two fields, we all entered this mound and stood in the chamber inside. The entrance shown in the image was aligned with the summer solstice so that the sun at sunrise would beam directly into the inner chamber.
Next, we drove to the northeast corner of the island of Anglesey to climb a flat-topped hill called Arthur’s Table. Our guide, Gareth Roberts, has been doing extensive research on the place names in Wales that appear to link directly to the legend of King Arthur. It is his contention (supported by those place names as well as research by others) that Arthur was actually a Welsh military leader, born of Roman parents (who had integrated into Welsh society) and who united the tribes to fight the Saxon invaders in the sixth century, after the Romans had abandoned the British Isles. He has found more than a hundred place names in this part of Wales named in honor of Arthur. He has also found in the written record much evidence linking Arthur to Wales and the war to resist the Saxons.
This particular hilltop has been identified by archeology as the location of a significant Welsh village from the time the Romans were conquering Great Britain. The middle right photo, taken from the top, looks east across the Menai Strait that separates Anglesey from the mainland, with the mountains of Snowdonia beyond. This strait is where the Romans crossed in their first attempt to conquer Anglesey and Wales.
Roberts’ thinks that the Round Table from the King Arthur legends was a misinterpretation by later French and British storytellers of this important Welsh hilltop village. Instead of being a table where Arthur ruled with his knights, the table was this hilltop, where that Roman invasion was first spotted during their initial invasion. Five hundred years later, when the Saxons invaded and Arthur led the resistance to them, Roberts’ believes the name was given because in some way Arthur was connected to it.
The third image shows slate cutter John Jo as he demonstrates how to split slate into the thin slate tiles that are used to cover rooftops. We watched this demonstration as part of a full tour of the National Slate Museum, nestled within the mountains on the way to Snowdonia, where for more than hundred years one of the world’s biggest slate mines mined, processed, and sold slate. Closed since 1969, the mine facility now serves as a museum. The most spectacular feature of this mine facility was the still functioning giant water wheel, more than fifty feet in diameter, that was turned by a stream of gravity-fed water at its base and was used to run all the belts that powered all the belt-driven machinery in the facility. The video of the wheel, embedded below the fold, shows the wheel as we saw it today. Unfortunately it does not include any people in it for scale, though one of the last shots shows a ladder for accessing the wheel’s top. Trust me, a person seems dwarfed by this wheel.
We then drove up over the mountain pass in Snowdonia National Park to our hotel, nestled at the base of Mount Snowdon. We shall be spending the rest of our trip hiking these mountains. The hike tomorrow will once again be led by Gareth Roberts and will show us further links between Arthur and Wales. On Sunday we will attempt to hike to the top of Mount Snowdon.
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Our journey through Wales continues. Today, as with yesterday, we explored the island Anglesey, which forms the northwest corner of Wales.
The day began going to Anglesey’s northwest coast to hike north to the South Stack lighthouse, as shown in the top right image. At this resolution you cannot see them, but the greyish-green rock faces rising one third to halfway up these cliff faces are covered with thousands and thousands of birds, including the guillemots, razorbills, chough, and puffins. Among them also stalks the herring gull, which is hoping to pick off an easy meal by grabbing the young offspring of the other birds.
We walked about two miles along these high dramatic cliffs to the lighthouse, which unfortunately was closed today because it had been reserved for an elementary school class trip.
We then drove to the little visited ruins of Din Lligwy (don’t ask me to explain how to pronounce it), shown in the second image to the right. These ruins are hidden behind trees on a high hill overlooking the part of the Irish Sea north of Wales and are what is left of a Welsh/Roman village. The ruins include the circular stone structures used as foundations for Welsh homes as well as the square stone wall/foundations used by the Romans. It is thus thought that after the Romans conquered Wales and before their abandonment of the British Isles the Romans intermarried with the Welsh and added their architectural designs to that used by the Welsh. The image shows the largest square foundation, with the two standing stones delineating the building’s entrance. To the left, out of frame, is a Welsh circular structure that to my eye looked exactly like a kiva that one sees in all the American Indian ruins of the southwest.
After visiting a number of other ruins, we then headed to the island’s southernmost point, to the peninsula of Ynys Llanddwyn, also called Dwynwen’s Island. It is no longer an island, because in the 1400s a giant storm, followed by several more, dumped a gigantic amount of sand along the shore, thus extending that shoreline several miles seaward and connecting the island to the mainland.
The bottom picture shows the peninsula’s distance lighthouse, and the ruins of a church (the arch) built to honor Dwynwen, who had been a Welsh princess. According to legend, she had been betrothed but fell in love with another man, who when he found out about the betrothal attacked her. This broke her heart, and she ended up running away to live unmarried on this island for the rest of her life, dedicated to helping unhappy lovers. For this she was made the patron saint for lovers by the Catholic Church.
To visit all these sites required us to cross Anglesey practically from the top to the bottom, generally traveling secondary roads. The land was a gentle rolling terrain, covered with numerous small farms whose amazingly lush and well-kept fields were devoted almost entirely to grazing sheep and cattle. The villages were all small, whose packed trim homes were either built during the 1800s or built to fit that style. Overall I got the impression that though this part of Wales might not be wealthy, its people had a strong sense of civic pride.
Tomorrow we head to Mount Snowden and the mountains. The scenery should get a bit more dramatic.
This will be a short post, as we are about to leave on our second day’s adventures.
To the right is the plane that finally got us out of the U.S. to London, where we had to transfer again to get to Dublin. Twas nice to fly on a 747, rapidly disappearing from the fleets of American airline companies. British Airways however appears to still be flying a lot of them. A super smooth flight on this magnificent plane.
Transferring planes in Heathrow was horrible, as it seems all international travel is becoming. Even though we were never leaving the terminal they still forced us to go through customs.
The second picture shows the view from the coastal village of Rhosneigr at the end of the day. We had met up with our group and had just completed a 4 mile hike along the beach. It seems there are a lot of bird watchers among us. It also seems in a way like we were back at Cannon Beach, without any crowds at all.
Time to go! More later.
Today Diane and I are off for a two week vacation hiking and sightseeing in Wales, beginning with a day in Dublin and finishing with two days in London. During that time I will continue to post, but expect my posts to show up at very odd hours, as I settle into the British time zone, five hours ahead of New York.
Along the way I should also post, as I usually do, some commentary and pictures about our trip and my impressions of this insistently different part of Great Britain. The description of the tour itself can be found here.
For me this trip will be a very different experience, in that in all my other travels I always made all the arrangements, in order to save money. This time we decided to splurge and let someone else do that work. Should be fun, and most interesting.
Posting has been somewhat mixed this week because Diane and I are out in Oregon at a beach-side hotel in Cannon Beach. We and my oldest friend Lloyd and his family are here to visit and see some sites.
On the right is a picture of the beach and Haystack Rock, which rises more than 230 feet above the sea. We did two hikes to its base, one when the tide was out and you could get very close and see the aquatic life in the tidal pools. Quite beautiful.
This location is where Lewis & Clark first saw the Pacific during their expedition. The local museum, the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum, was fascinating. For one thing I had not known that the town was named after an actual ship cannon from the shipwreck of the American Navy ship the Shark, which foundered here in 1846. The crew was all saved, but the ship and its military equipment were lost.
In October 1846, Lieutenant Howison received information through the Tillamook people that part of the ship’s hull “with guns upon it,” had come ashore south of Tillamook Head. The lieutenant sent Midshipman Simes to visit the location. Simes reported finding the wreckage and succeeded in “getting one cannon above the high-water mark,” while two others were left buried.
Then in December 1863, mail carrier John Hobson reported seeing a cannon at present-day Arch Cape Creek. Soon after, this cannon became lost when tides buried it in sand. In June 1898, however, it was spotted once again-this time by mail carrier George Luce. With the help of his Nehalem neighbors John and Mary Gerritse and their team of horses, Luce succeeded in pulling the cannon out of the sand, after which time it stood in front of the Austin House Post Office in Arch Cape for several years.
Hobson by the way spent the last thirty years of his life, from 1864 to 1894, searching in vain for the cannon. It was only found four years after his death.
The cannon is now in the museum. In addition, the other two cannons were finally found in 2008.
An evening pause: I think this video, taken at the equator in Ecuador, nicely proves the Coriolis Effect. In fact, it is remarkable how short a distance you need to travel on Earth to flip the effect.
An evening pause: From the youtube website:
The Atacama desert is home to the darkest and cleanest skies in the world. …The environment is harsh though. Filmed in freezing temperatures, altitudes up to 5000m/16000ft, salt lakes and icy slopes, the Atacama is not friendly to life and equipment.
Hat tip Willi Kusche.
An evening pause: I don’t know why, but somehow I think this is appropriate for election day.
Hat tip Jim Mallamace.
This past weekend I was completely out of touch with the rest of the world as I led a group of eight cavers hunting for new caves within the Grand Canyon. This was the fourth trip we’ve done to this part of the canyon, and on previous trips we were either mapping known caves, or scouting with binoculars the cliffs on the mesa’s walls, looking for potential openings. This trip we focused on rappelling down to the most likely candidate openings.
Overall we checked about a dozen potential caves, all of which turned out to be dead ends, mere alcoves. Oh well. Though this might sound disappointing, when you have to rappel off a cliff in the Grand Canyon, dropping out into nothing at heights ranging from 100 to 200 feet, who can complain? The image on the right, taken by Jeff Watkins, shows me (in the orange shirt) in the midst of one of these journeys. I am rappelling about 160 feet down to the top of the alluvial fill that you can see on the left that slopes down another few hundred feet to the canyon floor. In this image I am about a third of the way down, and am about to reach the spot where I will be hanging completely free of the wall.
Yowza! Though you can’t see it in this picture, behind me and opposite the cliff face the canyon extends out several miles to its opposite rim, with the Inner Gorge of the Colorado River cutting across in between. Once I reached the bottom I then rearranged my gear, using it to climb the rope back up 160 feet.
Nor was I the only one to do this. During the weekend we each got to do at least one rappel, each of which was as stunning and as breath-taking in its own right.
To say the experience was exhilarating is for sure a significant understatement. I used to do rappels this deep routinely when I was caving back east, but then the drop was underground, in the dark, with cave walls relatively nearby. Though that had a majesty of its own, doing this in the outdoors, in the Grand Canyon, is a far different thing.
An evening pause: The music for this short film is by Ex Makina and is also called Breathe. I think it appropriate to show now, as the monsoon season here in Arizona is winding down.
Hat tip Willi Kusche, who helped me open the monsoon season back in June.
I must apologize for the lack of posting the past two days. Diane and I have been up in northern Arizona staying at a friend’s cabin, hiking each day. The picture on the right shows Diane (right) and Jan Jantzer, whose house we have been staying, on today’s hike in Black Canyon, a canyon near Heber that is known by locals but is off the radar for most everyone else. Quite beautiful, especially because the recent rain has brought out the wildflowers. In addition, a forest fire about a dozen years ago cleared everything out, leaving behind a scattering of blackened tree trunks, many fallen logs, and open ground on which new growth has blossomed.
The canyon is also different in that it is wide and open, with sloping grassy walls interspersed with rocky cliffs. Most canyon hikes aim for high vertical walls and sculptured rock. Black Canyon instead was focused on the vegetation. As I said, very beautiful, and another example of why I left the crowded eastern United States for lovely Arizona.
Normal posting shall resume momentarily.
An evening pause: There are so many wonderful places in this universe to see. We just don’t have time. From the youtube website:
Coron is one of the famous beautiful spots of the Philippines, located in the north of Palawan. Palawan is considered one of the best islands in the World, and Coron and the surrounding islands offer spectacular views and beautiful beaches. In this video: view on the way to Kayangan Lake (0:28), Kayangan Lake (0:32), Barracuda Lake (1:33), Twin Lagoon (2:18), Atwayan Beach (3:11), Coron town (3:54), Malcapuya Beach (4:20), Banana Island (5:26), Bulog Dos Island (5:48), view from the top of Mt Tapyas (6:15).
Hat tip Danae.
The annual Perseid meteor shower upcoming on August 12 is expected to be especially good this year because there will be no moon in the sky.
The Perseid meteors seem to come from a single point, the `radiant’, situated in the constellation Perseus, giving the shower its name. This is however just an effect of perspective, as the meteors move parallel to each other, much like drivers see when driving in heavy rain.
The radiant will be visible from around 10pm and at this time there will be the highest chance of seeing `Earth grazing meteors’. These are meteors that skim the Earth’s atmosphere and so have long, blazing tails.
Observers can expect to see a few tens of meteors per hour, or one every few minutes, once darkness has fallen on 12 August. The number of meteors will peak in the early hours of 13 August, when up to around seventy each hour should be visible.
It is worth it to find a nice dark place and stay up all night at least once in your life to watch this shower. Get a nice camp chair that allows you to lie back, make sure you are dressed comfortably, and sit back and enjoy.
An evening pause: In celebration of the first monsoon rain this past Saturday here in Tucson.
Hat tip Willi Kusche.
An evening pause: Music by Kevin McLeod. When I lived in New York and began back-packing in the 1980s I would always spend Memorial Day weekend somewhere on this trail, generally in the Catskills. I understand well what this man felt at the end of the trail.
Hat tip Jeff Poplin.
Yesterday was another of my many cave adventures, but different than most. Instead of exploring and mapping newly discovered or out-of-the-way remote cave passages, I participated in a project of the Central Arizona Grotto (a chapter of the National Speleological Society and located in Phoenix) to remove years of graffiti from Peppersauce Cave. You can see pictures of yesterday’s effort here, published by the Arizona Star.
You won’t see any pictures of me. The younger cavers were far more photogenic.
Peppersauce has become what cavers call a “sacrificial cave.” It is open and ungated, relatively easy to traverse, and very well known throughout the state. Thus, many inexperienced people go there to see it, most of whom know little about caving, the ethics of protecting them, or the proper techniques for caving safely. Yesterday, while we were working to either sand-blast, chemically remove, or grind away old spray-paint (some of which was sadly obscene), I must have seen between 150 to 200 people go by. At least two thirds of them were not wearing helmets. Many clearly had never been in a cave before. Some were not wearing headlamps, carrying flashlights instead (which makes climbing harder because you don’t have use of both hands and can easily lose your light). A few even came in with no lights, depending instead on the lights their companions carried.
Because of this heavy traffic, Peppersauce has been badly trashed. On visits by experienced cavers we routinely carry out bags of trash, only to find that trash reappearing, sometime in mere hours. The walls of the cave had been covered with graffiti, some many layers deep.
Ray Keeler of Central Arizona Grotto (CAG) has organized several projects in the past to remove this graffitti over the past two decades. The effort he is leading this year is the third, and has the help of cavers from grottos throughout the state. This was the fourth clean-up weekend, and the first that I was able to attend (having missed the first three due to scheduling conflicts).
I’ve done similar things before, but never on this scale. It was quite educational using the solvent to remove some graffiti, but unfortunately many types of paint are completely resistant to removal by either sand-blasting or solvent. After awhile I got discouraged doing solvent work. Too often nothing got removed. In the afternoon I switched to our last technique, grinding, and was far more gratified with the results. The grinder, which we do not use on formations, removes only the slightest layer of material, and thus does little damage. It however is very effective in removing all paint, no matter how resistant.
The cave is now about two thirds cleaned. We are racing to finish the rest before the summer, because a typically insane reason forced upon us by the government. You see, according to a law passed by Congress, graffiti that is more than fifty years old is considered historical, and cannot be removed without a great deal of paperwork and complex bureaucracy. Spray paint was invented in the late 1960s (about fifty years ago), and so some of this ugly graffiti, no matter how obscene, is going to be protected by our government beginning later this year. Our goal is to get it removed beforehand, so that the cave can be returned to a more natural state, for future visitors to experience.
An evening pause: The music is “Please Don’t Go” by Barcelona.
Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who rightly calls this “A moment of serenity from Okinawa.”