Who is Don Cuevas?

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My blog name has nothing to do with my history of underground activity. It's a quirk of geographic coincidence.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interlude: With a Little Help From My Friends 1

I've entered a quiet period in my passion for writing my caving memoirs. I need to do some thinking about how to proceed along the best route ahead.

Fortunately, with a little help from my friends, I can post some additional observations on past events. First up is this edited email from Rodney Tennyson, an old friend from back in the 70's.

My involvement with Janus Pit Cave
by Rodney Tennyson

I met Mike Warshauer about the same time that he became involved with the exploration of Janus; late '75, early '76.  At that time we were both members of the School of the Ozarks Troglophiles; Mike, the seasoned explorer and writer, myself a teenager who, with some high school friends, had spent the past couple of years unraveling more than a mile of passage in Newton Co. Arkansas' Little Bear Cave.  

Together with the Trogs, I learned to rappel and climb rope, and we made a few cave trips together, including a trip to Stone
Co. Arkansas to visit Ennis Cave and the amazing void of Flitterin Pit.

I recall clearly seeing 6 copperheads scattered around the other two guys that were already on the bottom of the pit!  Considering it was Feb. in the Ozarks, the snakes were too cold to be of any threat, but them city boys from the college sure freaked the hell out!  For some
reason, on this trip, I had offered to tote the 400 ft. rope down to the pit so we could rig two lines down it.

Of course, in his enthusiasm, Mike gave us a wide ranging tour of
the countryside viewing large sinks and other sundry karstic phenomenon, before reaching the pit.

My first trip to Janus proper was in 1978, to help survey downstream. Alexia Cochrane, RC Schroeder, Mike and I went downstream as far as the Pictograph Room, where I dug open a very tight connection to the Pantheon. I believe I was the only one small enough to crush
through the crawl. (The Pictograph Room is an  dry, upper level breakdown room just downstreamward from the Pantheon. We later enlarged the tight spot to where it was easy to pass. With that, a semi-loop route was opened but one seldom taken. A good reason was the Arrowhead Drive, a moderately long dry crawl strewn with broken chert blades.-DC) 

I was very impressed by the size of the passages, but the clean washed strollway of Circe’s Canyon was my favorite; blue water and blue stone, a magical combination, interrupted at one point by an inpouring of boulders from the larger upper level, Damocles Squeeze, where I moved a big rock on the way out and made it much easier to negotiate.

That day we surveyed the Pictograph Room and then a deep water passage segment under the Pantheon area, the Razor Bypass.  That required floating in blue-deep water with just enough air space to keep one's head free. (The Razor is the watery slot with limited airspace. The Bypass is the easy way around the normally unnecessary Razor. -DC)

We extended the stream level survey all the way to Omega Lake, the terminal sump, one look convinced me it was surely the home of the 'sucking sump monster' and I declined the offer to pull tape across the pool. Rather, I climbed up a small dome just before the sump and explored a short series of muddy crawls on a level about 20 ft. above the stream passage, a faint breeze suckering us into hammering on a narrow crevice. But as it pinched even more conclusively just beyond, we surveyed that and headed out.

I had borrowed [actually Mike insisted], a thick wetsuit top that had constricted me all day. Once free of the Baffle crawl, I romped on to the the base of the pit, but try as I might, I could not extract myself from that damned wetsuit jacket! So, not wanting to hold anyone up, I just climbed out, wearing it, by the time I struggled up the rope I
had sweated enough to lubricate the inside of the rubber top and with the aid of a tree limb, I was finally able to peel the portable sauna off my lathered body, whew...

My second dose of Janus caving came in 1980, when my high school caving buddy, Larry Flowers, Mike and I made a trip to the far upsteam end of the cave.  A considerable trip, taking a couple of hours of steady travel to reach the final chamber where the cave intersects a major fault zone and the warped and shattered bedrock pinches the cave off. 
Larry and I dug into a very obnoxious lead, the mud so fluid you could crawl through it and it would flow back into the trough our bodies had created in their passing!
 It ended, utterly. We looked carefully for signs of air movement but found none, so we left with little hope of extending the cave in that direction.
(Upstream Janus is so different from downstream as to feel like a different cave: muddy breakdown, slow moving water, dripstones and a fine dome, Vulcan Dome, which is a bit obscure to find and awkward to enter.-DC)

Since that time, I have made only a few trips to Janus. My wife Jeanna and I have made trips to both ends of the cave, savoring this fine cave, just between the two of us.
Our favorite of these excursions was a trip on the eve of our wedding
at the Janus Campground, down to Omega Lake, a very special place.



Dan said...

Presuming that you check this old blog every once and awhile, it seemed more appropriate to write something here than on the food blogs.

When I arrived in New Haven for freshman year at Yale in 1961, I was eager to expand my very limited caving experience. Coming from flat, boring Michigan, even New England caves held some interest. I learned about the Yale Outing Club and there met Ed Gaffney, who was honchoing the almost moribund Yale Speleological Society, the Yale Grotto of the NSS. Between us we eventually conjured up a group of weekend cavers exploring some of the very caves you know so well. Successive Spring Break caving trips to West Virginia expanded the grotto even more. Nothing like the expedition described in "The Caves Beyond," which had excited my high school imagination no end, but it did give us some technical know-how beyond the tight crawls of McFails and the like. Down in the YSS room (in the basement of Farnum Hall) I came across mention of mysterious predecessors, Mike Warshauer & Jack Childs. With the upcoming move down to Fortín de las Flores in western Veracruz browsing the various online forums, I was very surprised to see that the prolific Don Cuevas was, indeed, the mysterious MW, who had made the move SoB years earlier. I spent the better part of the last 25 years in the restaurant business, and appreciate your rambling posts on food too. Perhaps we'll catch up with each other in person some day.

Our current blog is at etepetzin.blogspot.com and I also hope to be posting about renovations at our new home at azuledos.blogspot.com soon

Regards, Dan Huntington

Don Cuevas said...

Dan, I received your comment vis a vis the YSS ca. 1961, on my blog, "We Once Were Cavers". If you would like to exchange reminiscences by email, send a comment with your email address to this same blog.

I won't publish it, but then we can correspond more easily.

Don Cuevas

PS: I left the same comment on your azuledos blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael

Been quite a while since checking your blog, the latest thing I was invloved with at Janus Pit occured in Jan. '07, when I led a large group to Omega Lake to support two divers to push the sump, they penetrated @ 250 and came to a wide gravel pile through which they excavted to enter a widening, before they could assess the continuing low upwards sloping lead, a slide in the gravel closed the exit behind them! They quickly reopened the hole and left, not taking the chance that another slide might occur. The passage continued, it will take stainless steel balls to push it.
Rodney T.

Don Cuevas said...

Good to hear from you again, Rodney.

The Omega Lake dive experience has some similarity to the dive downstream in Flitterin' Pit. Gravel was also the problem there.

I agree, not only stainless steel balls, but a few screws loose as well.