5/14/22: Honey Creek Trip Report - The Otter Slides: Return to BM11

Honey Creek in mid-May. The threat of Summer was looming, but it was cool still, with enough of a breeze to justify encircling the artificial campfire and sharing stories until midnight. That’s about the time I arrived Friday night, found Bill, and asked to see the big map. A group stood around the table, tracing our fingers over the line plot, and recounted the March trip to the BM11 lead where we planned to return in the morning. We had discovered a curious discrepancy between the survey and the actual passage in which we found ourselves. What was described as a small lead that went on for 20 meters, ending in a dig was, instead, an extensive mud tube, interspersed with domes, that we chased for close to 100 meters before running out of time. The lead deserved revisitation and now it was time to return.

The morning of May 14th was pleasant but hot enough to motivate us underground as we baked in our wetsuits, waiting for our turn down the shaft. At 10:20 AM, after reporting to our faithful shaft master, Team Booger Bear clipped in and took the 145-foot ride down the shaft to the stream passage. Andrea Croskey, Grace Borengasser, Patty Calabrese, and I made up the fearsome foursome. At 10:48 AM, With Patty leading, we pushed upstream, headed west toward the Boneyard. While we traveled, we tried to select a fitting team name but decided to remain nameless until inspiration struck. We had predicted a commute of little more than an hour and sure enough, noon found us wading up to the BM entrance. We stood about the left wall where it met the floor, peering down at a narrow mud constriction marked with a fresh, innocent piece of yellow flagging tape and one by one, prepared to slither in. Grace was the first to squeeze, and I followed behind. Sounds of objection, confusion, and bewilderment echoed out of the tube as she struggled her way up and over the first of many slick muddy slides. I tried to offer reassurance, but mostly I laughed. It is great fun to writhe through the BM passageway, which Andrea fittingly named the Otter Slides, but it is even more fun to watch somebody else squirm through.

The way is often not clear, and the floor rises and falls under a low ceiling, forming mud humps that must be crawled up, then squeezed through before sliding down the opposite side into a mud pool that rests in the trough between the mud hump you’ve just slid down and the next. Before long, Grace was mastering the unique set of moves that grant access to the BM passage. The two of us moved forward and Patty and Andrea entered behind us, ready to experience the same splendid obstacles. With everyone acquainted, we wriggled forward in a single file with comparative efficiency. Approximately 20 meters later we arrived at some flagging in a small dome room big enough for two to sit in. Andrea and Patty related the flagging to the survey notes and determined that we were at the final station of the previous survey.

That meant it was time to wash our hands and retrieve our instruments, a proposition that was easier said than done. Attempting to wash anything in BM was a fruitless endeavor. We did the best we could using the muddy stream puddles that collected between the otter slides, but it was ineffective. We tied in and surveyed from BM12 to 13 and as I went to rinse my hands to once again handle the instruments, I noticed something remarkable about the pool I was at. It continued under the next mud hump, and when I stuck my hands in to wash them off, they came out…clean! Or what amounted to clean by BM standards. What sorcery was at work I did not know, but we all seized the opportunity as we crawled by the sacred spring.

The rest of the puddles did not share the same magical quality, and the survey from here on was more vexing. My travel brochure had perhaps left out the finer details of how muddy and wormlike the BM passage was, and I think that was not lost on my teammates. Jokes were cracked, groans were issued, and the occasional lighthearted mutiny was proposed until eventually, Patty informed us that her coworker had a term for this kind of situation. Booger bear. With that, our team had a name. How did we know that we were experiencing a booger bear? To mo