The Rat Race, revisited
Since I only did one of the two tunnels the last time I was here, Brei and I made a trip to finish this side of the system.  On the previous visit, Ben and I discovered that this tunnel was definitely "bike-able," so we brought along our wheels this time to make the trip a little easier.

Unfortunately, we didn't bring spare batteries (more on that in the Journal), so the camera was very temperamental and missed out on a lot of the sights.

A little ways into the main tunnel, this is where we started into the section that splits from the main stuff we covered last time. 

Surprisingly, in spite of recent rain in the area, the water was no deeper than it had been on the previous visit.  It was maybe six inches or so for this part, but it quickly thins to a trickle as you move upstream and uphill.

Here is one of many huge depositions of minerals.  This originated from a small pipe that fed in through the wall.  These were present throughout this section, although not nearly to the extent of the tunnel we did last time.

I would love to know more about this phenomenon: the minerals involved, the timescale of formation, etc.  If anyone can illuminate this topic, please write.

Quite a ways upstream (maybe a mile or so?) we reached this split.

There was a rushing water sound to the left, but we thought we heard voices to the right (these turned out to be echoes from our own vocalized speculations about who was talking), so we headed right to check things out.

The end of the side tunnel.

It's hard to see what's going on here, but to my right is a hole in the ceiling where water was pouring down.  It was splattering everywhere, so it was almost impossible to get a decent look up the shaft, but it went up maybe 30 feet.  Where it goes beyond that, it was impossible to say.

Note that I was sweating my ass off in three layers of clothes.  In spite of the near-freezing temperatures above-ground, it was almost warm down here.  Then you have to factor in that we were riding bikes.

At the bottom of the shaft was something I had never seen before, a pool!  This is me dipping my foot in it and not finding a bottom!

Thankfully, eagle-eye Brei spotted a 3ft. long rebar rod a short distance from here, and it turned out to be just the right length to test the depth.  It was almost exactly the length of the rod to the bottom.

Presumably, the pool is there so that the water falling from so high above and with such force does not erode the bottom of the tunnel.

We returned to the tunnel before it split and explored to the left this time.  A little further upstream we found another side tunnel; this was where the rushing water sound was coming from. 

It's a bad pic, but this was just like the dead end we reached a couple pictures ago: water pouring down a shaft, a pool at the bottom, and no easy way to look up.  In fact, there were loads of formations complicating easy entry as well.

And check out the little stalactites!  Note also the sizable formation to the right from the seepage through the joint here.

Finally, we reached the end of the tunnel a little further upstream. Surprise, surprise, it was yet another dead end just like the pair we found previously, only this one lacked the hand rungs present in the first two.  Unfortunately, once again we didn't get a picture thanks to our weak batteries.  Suffice it to say that I will have to return with a wetsuit next time so we can find out what's at the top.  Oh, and to get some more pictures!

At this point we returned to the main tunnel and crossed over to the section I did with Ben last time.

Like I said, the formations in here are incredible.  See, for example, this multi-tiered mineral deposition here.

Also note that the streaks on the walls are minerals, not paint.  There were actually pieces of debris that were captured by the stuff and had this "living" rock form around them.  Very cool!

A little further upstream in this tunnel things grew even "crustier."  You can see the extensive formations throughout the walls and ceilings in here.

In case I'm not making myself clear: You absolutely have to check out this tunnel!

We only went a little further in here before finally doubling back and heading home to get some sleep.

As was mentioned above, additional details about this trip can be found in a more lengthy write-up posted on my Journal page.  Jump right to the account of this expedition here.

Alexplored 11/3/04.
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