It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ginnie Springs: The Dome Room, V2

We were thinking about going back to Little River on Monday, since the flow was down and we had such an awesome dive there on Saturday. But since we were on a bit of a schedule (flying out that night), we decided we should go to Ginnie since it is close. Plus, there is a lot more of Ginnie to see. So, where to go in Ginnie? I formulated a proposal, which on the surface may seem to be at odds with "there's a lot more of Ginnie to see". We went to the Dome Room, again! And then we went up the Hill 400 line, again! But this time we would take the Hiller tunnel, which bypasses the mainline from the roller coaster line, straight to the dome room line. This path is longer, but lacks flow. Then on the way back, we'd recalculate gas and head up the Hill 400 line, and take the "double lines" jump (which is different than the parallel lines from yesterday... I know, parallel lines, double lines, they kind of sound the same).

We got to Ginnie by 8:30 and it was pretty empty. That was nice. It was also nice and cool for getting geared up. In fact, I think we even did our gear checks at the picnic benches -- it was just that cool. I think that was my idea, since in my little 40 pound wing with 104s full of 32, I feel not terribly comfortable on the surface. I have to inflate my drysuit, so I feel like the stay puft marshmallow man. We were quite efficient at getting geared up and in the water, and after checking the time as we clipped on our stages, I told Rob we should limit ourselves to 3 hours. He claimed we couldn't possibly do a 3 hour dive. I gave him a skeptical look, and we were off. I have been leading a lot of our cave dives lately, and Rob sort of rebelled and said he wanted to lead this one, so I let him. But it was my plan, so was he really leading the dive? I don't think so. The first 25 minutes or so were pretty similar to yesterday's dive, so I don't really have anything to say. We put in the reel, headed up the mainline, and when we got to the Hill 400 line, I went ahead and put in the spool (it was my jump to install, since we would do the jump on the way out, and after Rob's mutiny over the leader role, I wasn't going to get cheated out of that). We dropped our stage bottles on the Hill 400 line, since there is a nice spot to put the bottles right there. Then we continued up the main line and took the roller coaster jump. Now, from there, we were to take the Hiller Tunnel, which according to the map, was a jump to the left just when you hit the mainline, or possibly right before that. But we hadn't noticed the line before, so we weren't entirely sure of the geometry of it. At some point just after I'd seen the 1000' marker on the roller coaster line, Rob pointed out a jump to me, and said he was going to take it. I remembered from the map that the shortcut line (which heads up to the bats) was just after 1000', so I told him I didn't think this was the right line. He pointed out that just ahead there was a little "underpass" with a pit cut out on the bottom, which looked like the end of the roller coaster line. I was still not convinced, but I knew the roller coaster line ended after not that much more than 1000', so I told him to install the jump.

We headed up that line and I was pretty quickly convinced that this was not right. And just then we popped out right on that bats. Okay, now we've seen the shortcut line :) We headed back to the roller coaster and continued up it. As we were heading back, I realized what wasn't right about the little underpass with the pit -- the one at the end of the roller coaster line has a distinct black patch in the middle of the "pit", which the one we saw lacked. Okay, let's try that again. We got to the end of the roller coaster line, and Rob tied in a jump from there and searched around a bit for the Hiller line. He quickly found it, and we were off. I liked this tunnel a lot. For one thing, it was much lower flow than the main line, but I also thought it was quite pretty. Somehow, it reminded me of a mini version of the gallery. I realize as I write that, these words don't make much sense. Maybe I should have been diving some helium, or maybe you just had to be there. I guess the walls were kind of light-colored and the way they were sculpted just made me think that. Anyway, I really liked this passage. Soon enough we popped out at that funny jump off of the dome room line, which is tied into the same rock as the dome room line. We headed up to the dome room. This time I actually followed the line all the way to the wall where it was tied off, since it had been bugging me that I hadn't actually seen where the line ended. Yep, that's the end of the line. We looked around at the room, and then I called the dive on gas. We had slightly weaker fills than yesterday, so I guess on the whole I used a bit less gas going via the Hiller tunnel rather than the mainline (we also had the little side jaunt to the bats). This is definitely the way I'd go to the dome room in the future.

We headed back out to the Hill 400 line and recalculated gas, and headed up that line. As I mentioned, we wanted to jump to the double lines. There is a jump to the left just around the 1000' marker, and then very shortly after that, there is another jump to the right, which was our target. When we were discussing this area of the cave, Mark M. had mentioned that you can just jump directly to the second line to save some time. So that was what we did. I had used my shorter spool to put in the Hill 400 jump, since I wasn't sure how far this jump would be. I believe I was using a 100' spool (I was leading at this point, since I was in the lead on the way out, when we jumped to Hill 400). I installed the jump spool and saw a sparkly weight with a carabiner attached to it or something sitting on a ledge on the left. The last time we were there, I saw this and assumed it was being used to secure a line. I swam over to it and found no line, but quickly saw the line. I ran my line parallel and soon enough Rob started to signal me, with his light on the line. He was trying to show me where the line was. I was mentally rolling my eyes... he thought I had been running line just parallel to another line for 30 feet without noticing it? Really? I eventually calmed him down and kept going, and soon enough the second line was in sight. But the line on my spool was rapidly dwindling. I was starting to think I might have to go back and move the line I had laid to make it use less line. But I got to the jump line just as I ran out of line on my spool. Literally. There were no loops of line left on my spool as I tied it into the line. Phew :)

We headed up that line, which I thought was super awesome. After not very long, it became sort of narrow and sort of low, but not particularly small, and very twisty turny. And the bottom was clay. Then we came to an area that was quite wide, but very low. I really liked this area. Eventually that area ended, and when I came out of it, I had to wait for Rob to come out. There were little plumes of clay in the water as he emerged. Oops. Next, we came to a section that I would describe as being a sequence of little rooms (or maybe vestibules would be a better description) separated by little chutes. I though this area was pretty fun. We got to a set of opposing arrows, and I called it on gas there. On the way out, it occurred to me that the best way to traverse the low, clay tunnel was like going through the halocline -- with the first diver further from the line than the second. The exit was pretty uneventful. When we got back to the ledge at 20', we positioned ourselves there and negotiated the deco. Then we passed the time playing hangman in the wetnotes. I know it's a pretty dumb game, but I find it highly amusing. Especially when I use cat-related phrases and get a big head shake from Rob when he finally gets it :)

We did not do a very good job of not exceeding 3 hours, as I decreed. Well we almost made it. We bobbed around on the surface for a while before getting out, but then we were pretty efficient about packing up our gear. While I was changing on the pavilion near the Turkey Roost, I found another one of those "nudipillars" from yesterday. This one was even prettier (it was yellow), and it was in a more photogenic location. I snapped some pictures with my iPhone. I had just been chatting with Jim Wyatt, and he overheard me telling Rob about the "nudipillar". After hearing a brief description, he said it might be a "saddleback" and that they sting. Not that I was going to touch that thing anyway (though I do have a history of petting caterpillars, I only pet the ones that look like the local caterpillars from when I was growing up). After doing a bit of research, it is not in fact a saddleback, but I believe it is a Whitemarked tussock. The saddleback looks like a really beautiful caterpillar; I would love to see one. Anyhoo, in the course of researching the nudipillar, I came across a page on caterpillars of Alabama (close enough, right?). Apparently there is a whole world of beautiful caterpillars which I never knew about -- they really are like nudibranchs! Also, according to that page, the Whitemarked tussock stings, but not too badly. Good to know. Oh, and a quick warning -- while there are a bunch of beautiful caterpillars featured on that page, there are also a few that are rather creepy looking. So I don't recommend looking at it right before bedtime or anything :P

Sadly, this was the end of our trip and it was time to pack :( We packed up our gear, then headed back to the Country Inn and then EE. We grabbed lunch from the Station Bakery & Cafe. Yum. I love that place. I got a slice of the triple chocolate torte, which is totally awesome. I told Rob that if I ever get married again, that's the cake I will have at the wedding :) Oh and they have adorable decor there, including this kitten art that I snapped a pic of.

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