Stephens Gap Cave
July 19, 2015 • 7 Comments
i told most everyone on the planet that I wasn’t going to be hiking during the hot and humid days of summer here in the land of Gnomes. However, when opportunities present themselves for a cave exploration how could I resist? Besides, I know that caves maintain a temperature of approximately 54deg F year round so I wasn’t expecting anything too brutal.
After picking up one passenger and meeting two more, I plotted the course into my NAV system and we headed south. Stephen Gap Cave near Woodville, Alabama was our destination on this fine sunshiny day of 98deg F temps and like Daniel said, “1000% humidity”. The gage in my Jeep actually read 100deg F at one point.
Once at the trailhead we placed the permits (yes, you need one) in our windows, packed up, and started heading to the trailhead when I realized I didn’t have my phone. Now we all know it’s an appendage we can’t live without. It’s tethered to most of us like a third arm. After searching and having another person call my phone (which was on vibrate), I suddenly realized it was on the top of my Jeep. I had put it up there for safe keeping. After that debacle we started off on what I though was a very short hike to the cave entrance. Now some might say a mile is short but when my face is literally melting off, anything over 50 feet is a long hike.Trail Sign
Step by step, we followed the path closer to the cave. I felt as though I was creating my own weather system. Sweat dripping, no, pouring down my body soaking every piece of clothing as if I had interrupted the rinse cycle in the washer. We arrived at the split in the trail where the information said was the half way point, I call B.S. Up the dry creek bed and then the hill, profusely expending fluids with only one thing in my mind, “the cave will be cool”! Arriving at the cave entrance, there were two. We assessed both and determined one was for the more hearty and brave souls who would rather trust their lives to a piece of rope and rappel down into the abyss, the other was to make our way over slippery rocks down a steep incline about 200 feet into the darkness. Guess which one we chose?
Stephens Gap Cave Entrance You could feel a cool breeze emanating from the mouth of the cave. It began to get a little chilly after descending only a few feet into the cave. I think our sweat soaked clothes and the mist from the waterfalls inside acting as swamp coolers had something to do with it. The light slowly faded into darkness with every step we took. Making our way downward until reaching the last “safe area”, I stopped and started setting up.
I took several images of my fellow explorers standing on a precipice under the number one opening. I then continued taking photos both horizontal and vertical trying to show just how big the cavern was and also the coolness factor. It was like Mordor from “The Lord of the Rings” without the volcano. The mist and dankness of the cave was very refreshing. The light was such that long exposures or HDRs are a must, I did both.
Exiting the cave was less than fun. Not because of the climb out, but because I knew what was waiting for me. Popping my head out of the ground like a prairie dog, the heat and humidity enveloped me and I once again was looking forward to the other end of the path. My air conditioned Thunder Jeep was waiting for me a little more than a mile away. Once at the Jeep, I shed my wet clothes for dry and off we went.
Another spectacular trip with friends and good times.
Overheated Big Bear out...
Your pictures are amazing!
Love, love, love the dramatic lighting! Very LOTR! :)
Beautiful John! I love your written account as well! Thank you for sending to me!
Pretty cool pictures. Love the painful hiking narrative. I was sweating just reading it.
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