This is my first attempt to post a trip report on the new board. I don't know how this will turn out but here goes...
I drove from Houston to Live Oak, Fl on Christmas day to do some cave diving over the holidays. I met up with three guys that drove down from Cleveland, OH. I got cave certified with one of the guys. We met at Cave Excursions on Tuesday morning. The guys from Ohio had driven all night and were dog tired so they decided to go to the trailer and take a nap before diving. You can rent very comfortable double wide trailers through Cave Excursions. Ours had satellite TV which was perfect for me so I could watch the bowl games at night.
Cave Excursions North (they have another east location near Ginnie Springs) is located about two blocks from Telford Springs and about three miles from Peacock. You can dive Telford for free but Peacock is a state park. You can pay the day rate or buy an annual pass. I had purchased a $40 annual pass last year in December and it was still valid for this trip.
Divers are required to place the park pass and their c-card on the dash of their vehicle. Open water divers are not allowed to carry lights into the water. The park is really set up nice for divers. There are plenty of benches for suiting up in doubles and nice stairs leading down to the water at Orange Grove and Peacock I sinks. Peacock is a low flow cave and except in a few areas like the Peanut line the entire bottom is covered in fine silt. Perfect buoyancy and proper cave kick technique are a must.
After my friends finished their nap we decided to make an initial check out dive. We entered Peacock I and had planned to go to the Pothole sink (500) and turn around. When we got to Pothole we all wanted to keep going so we penetrated 900 ft before turning the dive. It felt great to be back in a cave again. We had a max depth of 64ft, 50 minute bottom time, and water temp of 69F. The viz is as far as your light can reach provided you do not muck up the bottom.
On Wednesday morning we did the Peanut run, through the restriction, jumped to the Olson line and then made our way back to Peacock I. It was a run of 3600 ft. Peanut is a very fun artery in the cave system. Much of it is hard bottom but very small. For several hundred feet the cave is only 3ft tall and 4 wide and the water depth ranges from 20 30 ffw. In this area there is no danger of a silt out but there is a real possibility of banging your manifold on the top of the cave and rolling off your left post or even possibly breaking it. At about 700 ft Peanut drops to about 50ffw and has a silty bottom. The restriction is only about 2.5ft tall with a silt bottom so going through it very slow and perfect is critical. A jump is when you use a reel to jump from one main line to another one. This was a short jump so the lead diver simply clipped a reel to the Peanut line and swam the line over to the Olson line. Once there he signaled the rest of us to follow and the last diver unclipped the reel and reeled his way over to the new main line. One of the most important rules in cave diving is to always follow a continuous line. We had discussed all of this before executing the dive. That afternoon we tried three times to jump from The Peacock I line to the Peacock II line. We wanted to find the well which is a vertical drop down to about 90 ft. We never did find it. On one attempt we went down a very small tunnel and had to turn around. We created a silt out and since I was in the middle I had to use the reel line to find my way out. We finally aborted our attempt to find the well and made a 900 ft run down Peanut again.
On Thursday we planned and executed the Grand Traverse. A traverse means you enter at one sink and exit at another. We entered at Orange Grove and made our way all the way to Peacock. This is a run of 4500 ft. It was an awesome dive. We had a max depth of 64 ft and a run time of 122 minutes. Along this route you pass three sink holes Challenge, Olson, and Pothole. At Challenge you could surface and get air but the reality is that you could never crawl out of there without help, hence the name Challenge. At Olson you could theoretically crawl out but Pothole is way too small to even attempt to use it as an exit. My canister light went out 55 minutes into the dive. I signaled the team and since I was the number three diver we didnt have to change the order. I also signaled each team member that I had two working backup lights. I finished the dive with one of my scout lights. The Challenge line is a very fun tunnel. It winds back and forth and changes depth quite a bit. When I saw the line arrow at Pothole signaling we were 500 ft from the exit I was disappointed the dive was almost over. After the dive everyone was tired so we called it a day. I know, Im a wimp but 4500 ft is a long way to cave kick with while arching your back to the point it hurts.
On Friday we decided to dive Ginnie Springs which is about an hour drive from Peacock. Ginnie Springs is on private property so you have to buy a pass. Cave divers are charged $21 dollars to dive there. There is a fill station but they only pump air. Ginnie is completely different from Peacock. It is a high flow cave which means the water is moving very fast through the cave. I talked to some locals and they told me the flow was about average. There are two ways into Ginnie Devils Ear and Devils Eye and they both lead to the same place. We did both. Since Ginnie is a high flow cave there is no sediment on the bottom. To enter the cave you literally have to pull yourself along by grabbing onto anything you can while kicking like hell. This makes it somewhat challenging to run the primary line down to the main line. Imagine being at Cozumel in a very strong current and going against the current for several hundred feet. There were a lot of divers there using side mount tanks and scooters. Those cheaters, LOL. Ginnie is absolutely beautiful. It is limestone with a lot of iron deposits and some sand and the formations are amazing. The flow in the cave varies with the size of the cave at that spot. In the bigger rooms the flow is milder and in the narrow areas the flow is screaming. On both dives we made our way into the cave until we either got to thirds or someone got tired. On the way out of the cave you simply enjoy the ride. The only problem is at the exit where the flow is literally trying to spit you out of the cave. The challenge is trying to control your ascent rate and manage any deco stops you have.
I had planned to do a tech dive on the Oriskany on Saturday but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. Getting back on a boat in rough seas while wearing steel doubles and two deco bottles is not fun. Im going to plan a trip to the Oriskany this summer and combine it with some cave diving at Jackson Hole. I left Live Oak at 0300 and made it home 13.5 hours later.
This trip made me realize I want to do a lot more cave diving. Unfortunately there isnt any available to me close to where I live. As soon as I got home I started calling some cave divers I know in Houston and started planning my next trip. I need to find a drive, yes I said DRIVE, buddy for the next trip.