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Gray days, caves provide a beautiful trip

December 17, 2010
By Jim Whipple

As we get closer to Christmas, the more I want to slow time down just a mile or two. The winter is not for away. First of all let me say how much I use to love gray days. The colors were brighter yet the rooms were just a little darker. It was a peaceful gray. As I have gotten older, though, the gray seems to be sadder and the rooms just a little darker.

Another thing that I notice as I've gotten older is that I go back sometimes and try to feel a feeling I had before. I'll give you an example. Have you ever watched a ball game, as the batter hits a long fly ball and the fielder goes back leaps and makes the catch? That has happened to me. One of the best catches I ever made I ran back, leaped and caught the ball. The run was pain free and almost effortless; as I reached the fence I leaped and caught the ball. I think the feelings I'm trying to bring back is that of being young and in excellent health.

When I was a young man I was very outgoing and loved and did a lot of physical things such as hiking and camping. I also loved caving or, as some call it, spelunking. There are caves dotted all over the Shenandoah Valley. A lot of farms around New Market had small caves under their fields.

Article Photos

(Chronicle photo by Jim Whipple)
The entrance of a nearby cave is shown above. Young children as well as adults enjoy spelunking. There are many caves in the Shenandoah Valley that offer a great place for families to explore.

We would always ask the farmers if we could go in the caves and most said it was OK as long as we accepted the responsibility if any of us got hurt. Most caves you had to climb down into, some had to be repelled. Usually the caves were dry and cool. Bones of small animals who had fallen in would be lying around. The average cave had at least two rooms that were small but with a lot of stalagmites. A few had streams of very clear water and were very cold.

Some of the caves had places where fires had been set up and in some caves were old food cans and very old newspapers that had all but turned to dust. On the backside of the New Market Battlefield there is a cliff that dropped off to the Shenandoah River. The cliff was dotted with small caves and in some cases it looked like the area had been dug out and a small rim was there. The rim was big enough to support a person. Also on the side of the cliffs you could still find things from the battle such as bullets, buttons and a buckle or a cap ornament.

One year I was lucky enough to find an old canteen that turned out to be from a rebel soldier. I donated that to the museum in New Market. I bet that if you went down that cliff today you could still find an artifact here or there.

The last cave I was in was here in Jefferson County. It sits in the woods on Cave Road. Some call it Washington's Cave. It was rumored that George Washington and some of his friends started a group of Masons in the cave. In the 1920s the cave was a commercial venture. You can still see a sign of that but mostly it is overgrown.

So life goes on. It seems that I have gone from one adventure to another. Life is still interesting, and I still look for new places to explore. We'll see what 2011 will bring.

 
 

 

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