So here it is, yet another thread for the infamous Howard's Waterfall. All you elite posters have worn your fingers to the nub answering question after question on this cave year after year. When does it end? ...not now. Not ever.
I'll start off with this... this was my first trip to Howard's, and of course all I've ever heard about this cave, besides the tragic scout accident in the 60's, is how kid friendly this cave is. Makes you go... "hmmm". I'm not sure how the cave got this distinction, but I can tell you this, we got to some places in there that I wouldn't take any kid!! Not even if I didn't like the kid. I would say it's kid friendly for the first 150 feet or so when crawling in, right up to the point where you get to the first hole in the floor that drops about 15 feet or so through the rocks. There is a hyper-active 5 year old just waiting to trip and fall right into that drop.
Anyways, we had a blast in Howard's. I wasn't expecting such a spectacular cave, but it was! Of course got lost for just a bit in the first turn to the left, like every other first timer, but eventually found the 4x4 plank that basically tells you that you have found the right way to the rest of the cave. Yes, the 4x4 is still there. Not sure why, but there it lies. So we went the way of the disaster room and got to the junction where the first canyon drops off to the left about 20 feet or so. This is where we didn't have a clue. There was a ledge to the right that you see lit up in the picture below. We searched and searched for a safe way down, and found a few ways down, but none that we felt good about without having at least a handline to get back up, which we didn't have.
There was a couple of tight squeezes that we tested out, one of which was a worm hole style slot in the left wall just before you get to the drop off area. I squirmed in feet first about 8 to 10 feet down at an angle and it then it took a hard 90 degree right turn which I couldn't even get my foot around. Almost got stuck there. The 2nd squeeze was the hole in the ledge area to the right that goes straight down, with the bull horn hand hold at the mouth of the hole. We almost tried it, but couldn't figure out if it dropped out below. We then decided to try the belly crawl through the opening on the right side of the ledge that was about 2 feet high or so. I got about 20 feet in and came to a very tight choke point that was no more than 10 inches wide. I stopped here and looked further down the crawl and all the sudden saw some light in the distance down the tunnel. I told my buddy that I thought I saw some head lamps up ahead. Then the light disappeared for a minute, then it came back. I was confused at this point. So I squeezed through and told my buddy lets go! The crawl went about another 40 feet, and when I finally got to the end, I stood up and the next thing I saw was one of the most awe inspiring sights I've ever seen!!
We were standing on a ledge at the top of a cliff overhanging a canyon that was anywhere from 80 to 100 feet down, with the sunlight shining through one of the other entrances about 400 feet across the canyon. My friend and I sat there for a minute with our mouths hanging wide open, just astonished by the sight before us. There is a pic below of the daylight shining in across the top of the canyon. I truly never expected to see this in Howards. Never saw a pic of it anywhere. Never heard anyone talk about it. It definitely was the highlight of our trip.
So if your still reading, I have some questions -
Which way is the safest way to get down into that first 20' drop into the canyon without any rope? and how do you climb out?
Once you get onto the floor of the first section of the canyon and go around the far corner to the right, does it drop again? because it would seem it would have to drop another 40 to 60 feet to the section we were above when we got to the really high ledge.
Is there a way to climb up from the main canyon area to the entrance where the daylight was coming from? I believe this is the 4th entrance according to the map. How big is that entrance? it looks like it would be huge from the amount of daylight we could see from that far away.
Overall the trip was awesome and it definitely kicked our butts crawling in and out of every hole we found. We were disappointed that we couldn't get down to that lower level to get to the disaster room, but we are eager to get back in there with more knowledge and hopefully someone that knows where in the hell to go!
The ledge to the right above the first drop of 20 feet.
On top of the canyon cliff looking at daylight coming through the 4th entrance. Amazing!
Another shot of direct sunlight through the main entrance.