Hellbender Journal Summer/Fall
By John Stoneman
is a "pit cave" that was rumored for many years to be
a "bottomless pit". I'm an avid explorer and caver so
when I first heard about this "bottomless pit' in Marshburg,
I had to see for myself.
rumor went, you could throw a rock down the hole and you wouldn't
hear the first "click" for about 6 or 8 seconds, then
it would click several more times before it would fade out. This
got my attention, and as with any rumors of a cave or pit cave,
I had to check it out. It took a lot of research and interviews
with old timers to get directions to the hole, and as it turned
out there are two very old stone chimneys near the location.
the directions I got was to locate the larger stone chimney, stand
with my back against the chimney facing up hill and walk in the
two o' clock direction. It worked! I found the "hole".
to explain here that a "pit cave" or "hole"
is a cave or cave system that starts out as just a hole or depression
in the ground. It may be a large elaborate cave system that appears
to be nothing more that just a large ground hog or rabbit hole.
Most of the caves in this area are located in and among large rock
outcroppings, but we also have a few "hole" or "pit
first got to the hole I was excited by the large volume of air coming
from the hole. Then I was disappointed to realize that the opening
was too small for a human. It was just too small. I found a rock
and threw it in, and sure enough It was about six or seven seconds
before it hit. Then there were successive "clicks" until
to be quite a large sized room in there, judging from the echo,
but still the opening was too small. Oh, well, so much for exploring
back after that again on a summers night, near dusk. The hole is
near another attraction I was visiting called "Colosmos Rocks",
a large rock area with a couple shelter caves. I sat near the entrance
to the hole cave, maybe expecting to see bats. Boy was I surprised!
few, then several, then what I called a "cloud" of bats
came out of the hole. This confirmed to me that there was a cave
below that had to be fairly large, if it held such a large bat population.
But still the hole was big enough for bats, not humans.
A few months
later I was hiking the area (Colosmos Rocks) with an old friend
of mine Jo Vermulen. Jo was what you would call a "tough girl",
in my days we called them "tom boys". Jo was the kind
of girl who could do anything a man can do, only better! After we
got done exploring the smaller caves at Colosmos, I told her about
the "bottomless pit". Jo wanted to see it.
to the hole and started poking around, we noticed that tucked under
an overhead shelf there was a second opening that I never noticed
before. It took a sharp eye and some real persistence as well as
some real contortion to maneuver around this large boulder to find
the "upper" opening. But unfortunately this opening was
also too small to squeeze through. Jo was in a very contorted position
and was able to stick her head in. She reported a large room leading
to a hallway.
excited and was wiggling, and struggling trying to get through the
obviously too restrictive hole.
noticed that the boulder she was laying against moved. It was a
triangular shaped boulder laying across the entrance of the cave
at about a 45 degree angle. The Boulder was maybe 600 to 1000 lbs
and located in a small crawl space where you couldn't reach with
a pry bar. It was blocking the top entrance to the cave, and was
held up in place by a smaller rock pinned into a crack. The smaller
rock looked like a giant railroad spike, and was the only thing
holding up the larger boulder blocking the "door."
"kicks" I kicked the smaller rock with my foot. It was
loose! I was able to wiggle the "spike" back and forth
and to my amazement the rock pulled out of the crack! Jo and I rocked
the larger boulder and presto! The boulder slid down a few inches
and the cave entrance was opened.
was opened enough to squeeze into. Jo was the first into the cave,
and probably the first human ever to enter the cave. Jo's persistence
paid off, we were in! I told her the cave was going to be named
after her, "Jo's Hole".
turned out to be a nice sized room leading to a hallway that went
a ways, turned 90 degrees two more times. It was a great averaged
sized cave for around here.
odd about this cave was the temperature. Most all caves around here
are a year round 52 degrees, and this cave was 65. I came back to
this cave different times of the year to confirm this and in fact
this cave is unusually and inexplicably warmer than similar local
caves. It also had a bat population larger than similar caves of
the same size.
A few years
went by when a fellow caver from Salamanca, Kelly Hart, and my wife
Pam wanted to see Jo's hole. We got to the area where the cave is
and to my disappointment, the land owners: The Bradford Water Authority,
built an access road through the area. Then, as we got near the
cave I was horrified! The roadway seem to be right where the cave
was! We searched and searched and found no cave! Could they have
filled in the cave to build the road?
the whole day digging through the brush where I thought the cave
was, but to no avail. No more cave, no more bats, just a new road.
I was extremely upset.
planning to "map" the cave, and also do a "bat survey"
to try to determine how many bats are in the cave, and also try
to figure out why this particular cave is warmer than the others.
I spent about 7 years locating caves in the Bradford/National Forest
area and losing this cave really bothered me. I lost all my enthusiasm
for cave hunting.
was one of the smaller, but still one of my favorite caves. All
gone! Such is progress.
few years went by, and in September I took a few interested people
caving. Jim K. and Wendy D. of the Allegheny Defense Project, an
organization dedicated to preserving the Allegheny National Forest.
|ADP member Wendy Dobrowolski explores a cave in the Allegheny.
Photo by Jim Kleissler
Sugar Cave, Buck Lick Cave, then Colosmos Rocks. Then we were talking,
and Jim asked to see where Jo's Hole was. I reluctantly agreed,
because the loss of that cave bothered me so much. I took them the
long way so we could pass the stone chimneys. We decided to look
one more time for the cave.
with our backs to the large chimney and headed up the hill. Soon
we reached the new road. There was no sign of the cave.
was that the cave was just about at the crest of the hill, but not
quite at the top. From the cave there was still a little more to
climb before you were at the top, flat part of the hill. The road
was just about at the perfect height in relation to the top of the
hill. Then I stood in the middle of the road where I thought the
cave was, and told Jim and Wendy, "this is where the cave is,
nothing to see, just a real wide, smooth logging road.
three hung our heads. I guess it was time to go back to the car.
we searched for the cave it was always on the downhill side of the
road. The road was too close to the top of the hill to search on
the other side of the road. But even though I was sure that the
cave couldn't possibly be on the uphill side of the road, I said
to my companions, "You know, we probably should look on the
other side of the road just once, to rule it out."
I was still
standing right where I thought the cave to be, in the middle of
the road. We all turned to search the uphill side of the road. I
told the other two, that we were searching for a depressed area
in the ground, "sort of like ......."
I was pointing
to a hole in front of me, and before I could say the word "this"
I was looking into the cave!
shocked to say the least! There was the cave that I searched for
several times before, and even all day once with three people. I
was stubborn, and never thought it would be on the other side of
the road that I thought it would be on. Many times I ended up at
the same spot in the road thinking "this is where the cave
is" and I was just 15 feet away!
Jim and Wendy for wanting to see where the "lost cave"
Jim went into the cave. They are both smaller than me and much younger.
It takes some real contorting to squeeze through the entrance and
I was just happy sitting there looking at the cave. I was so glad
this natural treasure was not lost forever. Finding this cave the
second time was even better than finding it the first time!
|The author attempts unsuccessfully to squeeze into Jo's Hole.
Photo by Jim Kleissler
I going to learn to keep an open mind, and to be persistent? We
found Jo's hole.
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