Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little Rhody

Three days in Rhode Island were devoted primarily to cleaning up some leads and furthering information on previously know sites.

Day One: Rolling on in to the Ocean State's southwest region I revisited a small cave (hereafter: Tippecansett Cave) quite close to the shore of a lake. Like many of the cave/cave formations down this way, it exists in the broken portions of a ledge - or bedrock. Frost action along with gravity assist played an obvious part in these caves genesis.

Farther to the south is a series of caves near the State border with Connecticut. One group is located at what is called locally Dinosaur Rock. It was my hope that with a brand new, WAAS enabled, GPS I might finally settle the issue of what state one or two of these caves lay in. At least one - North Dinosaur Cave is sufficiently east of the State boundary to safely say it belongs to Rhode Island. Upper Dinosaur Cave though was a bit more of a problem. GPS coordinates put it about six meters west - into Connecticut. Still not enough of a margin to say for sure. However, later use of detailed aerial photography pinpoints this cave in Rhode Island - by about twenty feet!

Relocating North Dinosaur Cave was a small task as I had only visited it once previously. With that accomplished, it was time to hike north in search of another reported cave. This definitely took me over into Connecticut and it was the new find of the day. Over fifty feet of cave was located in broken ledge and talus, with multiple entrances.

Retreating to the auto and moving it slightly along the access road, it was time to look once gain at the Pioneer Caves and Glacier Cave. The former is some broken bedrock where a small individual might make their way underground. The latter is more accurately a "rock formation" as it is a vertical crevice in bedrock although a very small chamber exists underground.

A short drive was made south to search out an alternate access route to Narragansett Cave whose only previous visit was the summer of 2007. The trailhead was located prior to retreating across the State to Newport for the night.

cave near the Connecticut - Rhode Island border

Cave near the Connecticut - Rhode Island border

Day Two: A somewhat light and relaxing day was planned that kept me in the immediate vicinity of Newport. I took my traditional trip to an all time favorite in Purgatory. Examining its formation, the conglomerate bedrock that takes it name from, I walked down towards the nearby beach where sand lenses can be found within the bedrock formation. Amongst these lenses are found the Devil Footprints and Squaw Tracks as well as many antique carvings done long ago when Purgatory was a Victorian Age attraction.

Within sight of Purgatory are the Hanging Rocks which were ascended. Spectacular views can be found from the top and in it's giant crevasse (sometimes called the Lion's Mouth) is where George (Bishop) Berkeley is said to have sat while writing.

The Newport area does have a number of historical references to caves. On the drive in to Purgatory the location for one such cave was sought out. But upon leaving the area, I stopped to pursue it further. Supposedly located on the shore of a small lake with limited access, I scanned the shoreline from the opposite side but nary a clue could be found. At that point I retreated to the relative comfort of my room for my own writings.

Low tide brought me out to famous cliffs and Cliff Walk to finish up some business, which has been going on for some years, surrounding the former location of Conrad's Cave. Descending to the sea, a careful examination was given to the cliff and adjacent seawall to see what - if any - of the former grotto might exist. But Conrad's has been fully reclaimed by the sea unless the seawall might hide a portion. Unlikely as a 1950's postcard shows the cave pretty much gone at that time.

Pirate caves - circa 1870

Day Three: Before leaving the area, another favorite once again was visited: the Pirate Caves. This is the finest example of sea caves along the Narragansett Bay. Low tide and some minor wetsuit equipment got me into all but the largest of these formations. And my last stop on the way out of town, was the northern beginning of the Cliff Walk. Somewhere in this area is a geographic (geologic?) feature known as Mary's Seat. Although databases list this as a cliff, it may very well be a rock in the shallow ocean at the end of Easton's Beach.

At this point it was decided to return to the southwest and finish what I started on day one. I checked into caves reported along the North - South trail only to find a number of animal sized 'caves' along with one turkey vulture spooked by my climb into the rocks. Finishing up was a hike from the new access point into Narragansett Cave which took me past many giant erratics. Of greater interest was a huge rock lined ravine, once again with animal sized caves.

Upon completion, it was a long trip up the eastern side of Connecticut to hook up with the Mass Pike home

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sheeps Cave, Connecticut River Valley

Sheeps Cave

The Easter 'menu' was to bring a routine investigation to a number of relatively tame sites in the northern section of Massachusetts' Connecticut River Valley. 'Routine' is another of those famous last words that often gets lost along the way.

Reaching an area bordering the west shore of the great River, I intended to take a quick look again at Sheeps Cave which lays in the collapse of a large cliff face. Here is where things got sticky as I ended up wandering a section of woods that were eventually found not even the correct location for the cave! Adjusting my location, I moved on only to find the old woods road to the cave lost. But old notes scribbled on my atlas gave me a clue and upon entering the woods once again, I found the old road to be completely obliterated! However, a vague familiarity with the direction to the cliffs eventually got me there where a much more precise GPS location will negate a future repeat of today's difficulties.

The rest of the day was to be devoted to looking at several rock climbing locations, always a good opportunity to view some spectacular examples of the local bedrock. However, ambiguous directions that did not match road names on my atlas led me astray for awhile. But after aborting the attempt to locate my first site, the access road was located by luck as I was driving on to my second destination.

This ledge was no easy feat to locate - or get to. It is most of the way up a large mountainside where evidence of past quarrying was seen. It took several attempts, and back tracking, but eventually way up in the upper reaches of the mountain a massive ledge of gneiss was to be found. And no short piece of rock was this either as it stretched for at least 700 feet with shorter sections continuing still on further.

Although the access route to the noble ledge was marked at intervals with flagging tape and painted saplings, it proved of little help in either the ascent - or descent. I eventually resorted to bushwhacking my way down the mountain which brought me a great stroke of luck. I stumbled into a major abandoned quarry complete with numerous tool marks and plenty of leftover rough cut rock.

So finally making a descent to my car, it was only to drive down and over the Miller's River to catch the Mohawk Trail back west to the Berkshires.