Who is Don Cuevas?

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Interlude: Tenting Tonight On The Old Camp Ground

When we began seriously exploring the Stone County and environs cave areas, we were living in Springfield, MO. At the time, it was a 4 hour drive away. When we could, we'd camp out somewhere near the cave.

For Ennis Cave, the obvious first choice was in the flat bottomed valley near the entrance. That place would give me the creeps, however, due to my recent exposure to the movie, "Deliverance". (Link to obnoxious Duelin' Banjos Video Deleted.) There were whippoorwills there, as everywhere, giving their ghostly cries. Down on the White River bottom, not far away, the night freight trains added a mournful whistle.

Late one night, early in our experiences there, our sleep was disturbed by carlights, and loud shouts in an exaggerated Ozark accent, "Lookee here boys! Spee-lunkers!". To the relief of our nerves, it turned out to be Hail Bryant, oldtime Batesville, AR caver and friends, out on a lark. Hail was a leader, with Hugh Shell, in the exploration of Half Mile Cave, later developed as Blanchard Springs Caverns. We would eventually get to know one of his protegés, Robert C. Handford.

The then undeveloped Ennis Cave campground was easy to get to, but it was also unbelievably cold in winter. On a trip with Bob Taylor, we shivered and froze for several hours in our non-Arctic sleeping bags, then finally threw in the towel and retreated to Mountain View. There we got a room at the old and unimproved Mountain View Motel for $25 a night. The room featured a noisy heating unit that disturbed sleep. The room was either freezing or sweltering.

Of course, staying in town opened another cafe breakfast opportunity at the Ozark or more likely, the hideous old, cigarette smoke saturated Rainbow Cafe. The food there epitomized the lowest denominator of greasy, bad Ozark cooking. (Years later, after several changes of ownership and renovation, it was greatly improved, although still "Ozark Cooking". It may not have ever been a culinary mecca, but it was hot, plentiful and cheap.)

My wife has reminded me also of the old Junction Cafe, where you could get a plate of eggs and meat even more cheaply, but you'd use several paper napkins first to blot up the grease on the plate.

The really odd behavior was to camp near the cave for the convenience and economy, then drive to town for breakfast. Go figure.

For the Janus explorations, we camped in  a cleared powerline right of way not far away. Jokes were made about the radiation from the humming powerlines overhead, suggesting the risible "Powerline Lineament Theory of Cavern Development", which postulated that caves in the immediate area seemed to follow a pattern closely aligned with the path of the powerline. (If I could let you see the topo map with caves on it, you'd see that it's true!)

BUZZ! Photo by Don Cuevas
We slept in an umbrella tent, purchased at Sears, in non-Arctic sleeping bags, with deer and other wildlife patterns in the lining. At first we had blow up air mattresses later replaced by roll up foam pads, which were not really an improvement in terms of comfort when trying to sleep on the coarse, chunks of chert that make up much of the surface in the Ozarks. 

For camp breakfasts, we relied heavily but not exclusively on ready to heat and serve Campbell's Chunky Soups, which then were reasonably priced and quite tasty. The occcasional, almost totally useless exertion of in cave camping was not only a waste of energy, but the food ran to such stuff as unheated canned chili.  One must ask, "Why?"

Years later, the end to our camping, whether for caving, or for "just plain fun" came to a sudden end when I realized that I really didn't enjoy it anymore. It was inconvenient, uncomfortable and subject to extremes of weather. Before long, I'd sold all my camping equipment except for the sleeping bags and camp mats. The latter were later useful in the freezing mountain temperatures in our thin walled cabin first home, high above Pátzcuaro, México. The end of camping was an omen of the impending end of caving. Later, I'll discuss how that came to happen.

I became a connoisseur of better hotels, each generation increasing in quality and price. The following article describes favorite hotels in Mexico. (Because we can barely afford hotels in the U.S.) This reference is included only for those curious to understand how our life style has changed. Don Cuevas' Top 5 Hotel Picks (Mexico)

We will return to our regular, cave exploration programming in our next episode.

No comments: