H is for Hoodoo Canyon

Funny how trips morph and change! H was supposed to be for Haddox, however poor coordinates that we didn’t double check lead to traipsing up and down for hours in the wrong area. Right mountain, wrong part! What was to be a quick walk, nice pit, relatively easy day in the June heat and humidity of the southern US turned into spending about 5-6 hours out during the height of it all.

In all that time we DID find quite a few caves, I felt like I was starting alphabet caving all over! The first hole one of the three of us stumbled upon, which we thought was Craig’s Crack (it isn’t), we used to locate Haddox. See, the map for Craig’s Crack has a basic direction and distance to the entrance of Haddox, so we thought we had it made! Following it, we didn’t find Haddox, but we stumbled upon Big Sink. We rigged it and Troy went in to check it out first.

It matched the map for Big Sink Cave so we knew we had that. We decided to go back around to what we thought (wrongly) was Craig’s Crack and check it out. It seemed to match the very sketchy map but it’s hard to tell on some of the older ones, because there is very little detail on them. Turns out we had gone into B & T Cave instead! Go figure.

Entrance to B & T Cave

Inside B & T Cave

Inside the limestone was very sharp, and heavily fluted. It was indeed a crack, and it went down in a very narrow and sharp canyon. Okay, so that’s definitely not a “10 x 10 foot hole in the ground” entrance pit that was described to me!

Well considering we’d been scouting about this huge sinkhole we thought we ought to go see the bottom! And we found Circle Cave. It’s pretty-much a circle room, but it’s nicely decorated.

We even found some turtles living in it, which we moved out of the way so we wouldn’t step on them by accident on the mud-covered slope coming down.

Now, I will say throughout this I had noticed the point for Haddox seemed to be on the very top of the sink, which is an odd spot I thought. Most of the entrances around the sink were on the same level, close to but below the contact. I had said a couple times “are we sure it’s not on the outside on the downhill side of the mountain?” but we were checking out the sink first, apparently. We eventually left the sink and starting checking out on the mountainside but other than some promising digs didn’t see much in the quick cursory check. The we heard it…. “Bo Bo Bo!” Brian and I thought Troy had it!

He did…but not what we thought. Not Haddox. But it was a hole, and it did go down, and he did need help pulling out some rocks to get it open!

We rigged a “big friendly tree” (I giggle as I write, if you ever go you’ll see why! It might not be so big…) and it being Troy’s find he ventured in first. The first drop, all the way to the bottom was about 20 feet, getting close to being a cave! On top that, he saw passage off to the side.

If it blows, it goes!

As it turns out, the little side bit, about halfway down the first drop, does go across and then drops into about a 60 ft pit/canyon that is like rappelling in razorblades. The limestone in this cave was sharp and crumbly, and has really tall spires. Crazy tall. Sometimes called Drake Spires because they are typical of this region of where the Hartselle Sandstone meets Monteagle Limestone. The roof of the cave is smooth, and is sandstone. The rest is highly eroded limestone. The most impressive – which I did not get a shot of and may have to return for (if I feel like being chopped up in a grater again) – was a 55 foot tall spire! In fact, you are basically standing on the very tippy top of it for the rebelay to rappel on down.

We didn’t have proper survey gear with us, but we had rope, so we had a good way to approximate distances. That plus a good sketch from Brian allowed me to draw up a pretty good map of the cave to turn into the Alabama Cave Survey for their records. Being of such interesting geology, this is my first map where I attempted to show with appropriate USGS symbols the different layers. I really enjoy surveying and especially the cartography; this is my fourth completed map, and I am sure I will continue to improve my skill and technique.

So I happily present Hoodoo Canyon, so named for the Hoodoo spires out in Utah. I guess I got my H cave after all!