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Dave and Penny’s Cavern/Intro Cave Course -The Completed Report Jan 2006

January 25, 2006

I’ve been procrastinating on this, so I’m going to write this in installments! Here is Part 1: The trip down with some background of the area.
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On Friday Jan 20th, Dave, Penny, and I drove down to Florida so that they could take a cavern and Introduction to Cave course from Mike O’Leary. We rented a minivan so that we’d have more room to stretch out, and could take a bit more gear with us without being packed into a midsized SUV. It took us 12 hours of driving (not counting stops) to get down to Northern Florida and we arrived at Dive Outpost in Luraville around 10am Saturday morning. I tried to do most of the driving through the night, since Penny and Dave had worked all day. There was a section in the middle of the trip where Dave drove for about 4 hours and I dozed off a bit.

Much to our delight, the room was already ready to move into. Cathy initially didn’t think it would be ready until around 2:30pm, so it seemed like a good time to catch a nap. HOWEVER…. instead we decided to drive 45 minutes over to High Springs to see what we could do with Penny’s dive light. How that story turned out is covered in another thread. Leaving High Springs and heading back toward Luraville, we were all running on little sleep, and I was getting really silly and a bit punch drunk so everything seemed funny. Anyone seeing us would have thought we were inebriated.

On the way, we stopped in the town of Mayo so that I could show Penny and Dave the dining opportunities we could avail ourselves with. There was a BBQ place that I remembered, so we stopped there. Being a little too tired to be thinking clearly, I ordered the ?all you care to eat? Ribs and Chicken, with generous portions of sweet tea. (Ya see, up north, sweet tea is a very rare commodity, and even more elusive is to find a really good tasting glass of it!!) Dave and Penny were much more sensible in their choices, so they rolled me out of the restaurant in a cart, and after dumping me in the back of the van, headed up the road back to Dive Outpost.

Arriving back at Dive Outpost, we unpacked and then I took them to the PeacockState Park where they’d likely be doing their cavern class dives in the Orange Grove Sink and Peacock 1 Springs. Walking around, we looked at the gear benches, steps, and entrances into the systems, as well as various other sinkholes around the park. While there, Janet, one of the Park Rangers, was nice enough to look up the information for my lost annual pass and upgrade it to a family pass so that all three of us could use it cheaper than Penny and Dave having to pay for their dives one day at a time.

I also had the opportunity to meet some friends like Mike McCaulife, and a couple of instructors that I see talked about from time to time like, Jim Wyatt and Johnny Richards

Peacock Springs State Park:
The Peacock Springs Park is a popular training system for cavern, intro, and full cave course. It contains many of the things necessary for training without driving to many disparate sites. It has nice caverns at Orange Grove and Peacock 1 for those that are getting a taste of the overhead environ. It also has many of the types of environ that intro students need to encounter, and many of the things useful for Full Cave students to practice in.

Accomodations in Luraville:
Considering that Peacock is such a popular system, there are only a couple of close choices for gas fills, and accommodations, Dive Outpost and Cave Excursions. They are each unique and good in their own way. Bill at Cave Excursions has a few mobile homes that can be rented. He also fills air, nitrox, and trimix as needed. I’m making some generalities here, but Bill’s place is good if you are going down in a self-contained group (instructor traveling with students that want little interruption and a degree of isolation). Cathy at Dive Outpost has a much different and cozier feel. There is only one kitchen in the main lodge along with a few bunk beds, as well as three cabins/trailer scattered on the property that have various numbers of beds and bathrooms. If you want to cook, you have to head back up to the lodge, which gives you a wonderful opportunity to mingle with other cave divers and make new friends. Cathy also fills air or nitrox, banking 32% and charging by the CF (like Bill). Each is good in it’s own way, but I’ve grown to like meeting new folks at Dive Outpost.

The Corner Country Store:
There is a nice little country store in Luraville that is a good place to pick up a fresh breakfast sandwich, a sub for lunch, or to sit an enjoy some sweet tea while listens to the men in “Liar’s Corner” talking about the state of the world. They are a funny group of guys and it’s a great way to start a day listening to them raz on each other!!

Part 2: Diving in the Luraville area
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On Sunday morning, we got up bright and early so that Penny and Dave could prepare for their first day of class. Unfortunately, Dave is a VERY early bird! His alarm on his phone was on the other side of the room and I think Penny and me heard it more effectively than he did! We were in a cottage with 3 beds in the same room with an attached shower/bathroom, so WE became Dave?s alarm clock as we shouted him out of his slumber.

After getting all the toiletries orchestrated, we headed up to the Luraville Country store and got some breakfast sandwiches to go. Mike was just arriving at Dive Outpost when we got back, so Penny and Dave skittered off to gather their class materials. I thought about sitting in on the lectures, but after a few minutes, Mike suggested that since they wouldn?t be getting in the water until late afternoon, that I might be able to find someone to dive with at Peacock. My cave instructor was staying around the corner from us in one of Bill?s trailers, so I?d visited with him and other folks the night before. I?ve dove with some of them in Ohio, and they had came down to dive with Tim during his class. I?d seen them drive by just a few minutes before Mike?s suggestion, so I darted out and shoved off to get an AM dive in.

At Peacock 1, I joined up with Brian, Heather, and Bill for an easy tune-up cave dive. It seems that Heather had been out of the caves for a few years due to medical issues. On my way back from the van, a man with white hair and a long white beard walked up to me, and Brian yelled over that he was by himself and was looking for someone to dive with. I?m always leery of cave diving with someone that I haven?t been in OW first with, so I himmed and hawed around a bit saying that I needed to talk with Brian first. Brian informed me he?d dove with the guy before and he was really good. So after a minute or two I walked back over to the gentleman to see if he was still interested. He had temporarily planned on diving with a cavern class, and said that he?d be happy to, especially since he was wanted to get a good dive in before he took off for Atlanta that afternoon. After our introductions, I quickly realized that I was going to dive with someone VERY familiar with the Peacock cave system. He asked where I’d like to go, and without a map, I tried to describe to him where I’d never been.

We quickly geared up and did safety checks with each other, then headed down the Pothole tunnel. The first jump to the right was made down the Nicholson tunnel, and then another down toward Cisteen. I?d never been this far in Peacock or along this route, but it was very beautiful and relaxing. It was cool to jump off on the line toward Cisteen and see line that looked like some of the original white line placed in the system (not the main gold line used elsewhere). In fact, there still was debris hanging on the line from the last flood. Likely, this particular tunnel doesn?t get viewed very often by divers, as it seems pretty pristine compared to other sections of Peacock that get used often for training. I enjoyed hugging near the bottom of the tunnel and glancing to the sides to see passages running invitingly far back on the sides, but a bit too small to squeeze into without making a mess.

I was reminded throughout the dive why I enjoy cave diving. This was way cool stuff!! Dang this awesome!!! It was also cool to be with this particular diver, and how easy he was to dive with. Later, he told me of early discussions in cave diving when he and others first started using cave arrows, and even his first attempt at using a ?lost line? drill for real when it was just a theory thrown around among instructor buddies. I am appreciative for having had the neat opportunity to meet and dive with Forrest Wilson. He was very sharing, and never condescending in his comments or recommendations. After I got a picture of Forrest, he laughed that I should have gotten one of him while he was still in his suit since he looked a bit like a drowned rat after his drysuit neck seal burped and leaked down the front of his shirt.

When I got back to the Dive Outpost, Penny and Dave were going through gear checks with Mike. I was still grinning from ear to ear, so Penny commented that I was glowing. ?Was it a good dive?? Oh? you have nooo idea!!! The afterglow lasted for a couple of hours!!

Penny and Dave got ready and we headed over to Orange Grove for their first skills dives and some light cavern work. They were unable to get as much done as they?d hoped because of delays from an equipment issue, but were able to make it up the following day.

After some air-sharing exercises, the group headed down to about 65ft and headed down the Orange Grove cavern to the stop sign and turned the dive.

That evening, we headed over to the Mexican restaurant about 20 miles away in Live Oak. Penny and Dave were hilarious as they entertained the Guatemalan and Mexican staff with their Spanish. I felt like I was caught up in a scene from Helen Keller as Dave would ask the names of items or would excitedly rush over to the beer cooler and identify what we wanted. What a hoot!! The staff got into the flow and played along, almost welcoming Dave?s curiosity. (Personally, I think she was flirting with us!!)

The next morning, Mike had the class head over to Peacock 1 which has a nice cavern area to practice in. This provided a good opportunity for Dave and Penny to run reels for the first time underwater. I caught the moment of their ?firsts? and put the pics in my member gallery. It was nice to NOT be involved in the class situation and be entirely relaxed as an observer.
http://www.zendiving.com/gallery/showgallery.php/cat/559
After a long day of diving in the cavern, they finished up with some ?no mask? line work in the basin of Peacock 2. This was hilarious because the rocks were heavily covered with moss and muck. Pretty soon, it was hard to differentiate Penny and Dave from their environment!!!

The students had a great deal of homework that night, so I was able to talk extensively to one of the staff of Dive Outpost about his survey work and experiences in one of the local cave systems. It?s neat to hear about work going on along the ?off-beaten? trails.

When my stomach could take it no longer, I talked ?our students? into a food run down in Mayo. Because places were closing earlier than we expected, we just barely got our order in for Pizza at a place that was ready to turn its lights off. They needed to finish/continue their homework, so we took it back to the lodge, so I continued to relax in Cathy?s nice recliners and read about cave diving history while they toiled!!

The final day of diving started us off at Peacock 1 for a jaunt down Pothole tunnel for some ?lost buddy? practice, where I got to hover above the group and practice my ?spiderman? imitation. I also tried to minimize my impact on their group by keep my light emissions to a minimum so that they could see what to expect ?light-wise? from a group of two or three in a team. Later, we went down the Peanut line for ?lights-out? air-sharing exits. I gotta tell ya? I really enjoyed this part of their class. It was good practice for me as well, and I was able to move myself to a point where I could see the faint green glow from the cavern exit, and see other teams come in and go past me without seeing me, yet remain contact with Mike, Penny, and Dave!

After lunch, we ran over to Cow Springs and did some diving in one of the downstream areas. I?d only been to Cow once before in May 2005, so it was nice to go in and see it in a class situation where I could take my time an ?soak it all in?. The system has reddish/white walls which is very different from the walls in the Peacock system. The class did their lost line drills here, and after I escorted Dave out (for low air), I was able to do some additional reel practice in the basin.

Cow is a very primitive/undeveloped system, and I love ?pristine-ness? of this location. It?s a bit difficult to entry and exit from, but the diving is nice. However, to do so, you either have to be a student in the right class, or a member of the NSS-CDS. Cathy at Dive Outpost has the liability waivers and the key for the gate.

I?ve intentionally left out details from class, as I figure it?s up to Dave and Penny to fill those in. I was merely an observer of the class, so I don?t feel it?s my right to publicly comment on what I saw of the students. Again, I?ve placed photos of their dives of Peacock and Orange Grove in the member gallery (I forgot my camera on the Cow dives).
http://www.zendiving.com/gallery/showgallery.php/cat/559

That night we went over to the Mexican restaurant again for another good meal. The following morning, we took our time getting loaded up and reluctantly started back up the highway toward the cold weather in the north.

It was a very enjoyable trip with very easy to get along with folks. Of course Penny has her nickname of Princess, and Dave took a new one on himself… hmmm… what does wb mean for you??? I earned a new nickname as well… but hopefully I wasn’t overbearing in my attention to details on the trip!!!

Looking forward to the next trip down!!

bob… wb… LM!!!
(Logistics Man)

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