2009 Winter Jim's Trip Report

For eight days, 21-21 November 2009, 25 cavers descended upon the remote La Camotera plateau near the village of Laguna de Sanchez for exploration, survey, and documentation of the caves and karst there.  And also for some quality socializing, feasting, and enjoying the fantastic scenery and the whole experience that is Mexico.  Others will be telling the tale in different ways in their own trip reports, but as trip coordinator, I wanted to post a brief summary of our activities.

Three vehicles left Austin and San Antonio bright and early on Saturday the 21st.  Drivers were Jim Kennedy (with Tone Garot from Sanderson, TX; Jane Slater from Cincinnati, OH; and Ramona Josefczyk from Knoxville, TN), Matt Turner (with Carol and Joe Zokaites from Blacksburg, VA and Steve Yochum from Fort Collins, CO), and Don Arburn (with Texans Ann Scott, Kathleen OConnor, and Roger Moore (Houston)).  Along the way, we picked up Jennifer Foote (NM), who flew into the Monterrey airport and was picked up by Erick Gonzalez, a Monterrey caver who would be joining us later in the week.  Despite our best efforts, the early nightfall found us getting into camp well after dark.

Sunday was beautiful, and after setting up camp, mainly the unpacking the kitchen and cutting firewood, everyone split up to ridgewalk, start tagging caves, and begin mapping leads.  That night was the first of many great (and huge) meals.

Monday saw us back in the field until about mid-afternoon, when it started raining, which soon turned to hail.  We retreated to camp, ate another great meal, and then went out to rescue Ron Rutherford and his family, Barb, Ashland, Drew, and Kevin.  They drove in to meet us, but the newly muddy roads threatened to send their truck into a nearby cave entrance.  Don and I drove out to rescue them, along with the help of several other brave souls.  Safely back in camp, we continued the nights festivities.

Tuesday was more rain, and a lot of good work.  More entrances were tagged, new caves were found, old (and new) caves were mapped.

Wednesday was more of the same, with the addition of the San Marcos Grotto, Ben and Carrie Hutchins, Ben Tobin, Goni Iskali, and translator Dale Barnard.  Their 2WD vehicle wasnt able to overcome the muddy roads, so they hired a local to shuttle them to camp in his 4WD pickup.  Crisis averted!  After setting up their tents, they took off to map a cave saved from the Dec. 2007 expedition.  It turned out to be very pretty.

On Thursday the weather began clearing, giving us encouragement for the trip home.  Erick showed up from Monterrey, bring a much-needed infusion of beer.  He also brought some excellent soups.  I knocked off the field work early to start preparing the Thanksgiving banquet.  It was an excellent feast, featuring a deep-fried turkey, baked honey-glazed ham, mushroom stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus in butter sauce.  The family of the local farmer, Geraldo, joined us, so we fed about 34 people, and still had lots of food left over.

Friday saw even nicer weather, and lots more surveys.  More pretty (although not large) caves were mapped.  Then we began the process of starting to tear down camp, packing up the non-essentials and sorting personal gear.  We finished up Saturday morning, and were out of camp by 9:30.  We dropped the San Marcos group off at their vehicle, made several important photo stops at some jaw-dropping scenery, and gathered one last time for lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Los Cavazos, costing just 40 pesos per person.  The group began fragmenting then, with individual vehicles working their way northward at differing speeds.  Matts vehicle and mine made a stop in Mty. To check out Ericks bar, the Lov Pub.  It was very cool, and is a good place for visiting cavers to stop by.  Despite some minor problems, like Matt getting held up by a corrupt cop in Mty, and Don and Ron getting extorted at the bridge before the border, we all got home safely and were unpacked and in bed by about 3am or so. 

As far as I can tell by looking through the wad of survey books taken on the trip, we mapped 16 caves, including about 8 new ones found on this trip.  We put tags on over 70 entrances and potential entrances, and still have a lot to go on the next trip.  We got great GPS locations for a bunch of sites, and good tracklogs which we will soon be uploading to the Project website for use by future participants.  The website has already had some updates and improvements, and soon this trip report (and others) will also be there.  We plan to put up a ton of photos, and will also do a UT Grotto program in a near future meeting.  If you havent checked out the website yet, go to www.garot.com/LdeS and see what you missed.

-- Jim Crash Kennedy