On May 11th, 2019 at 9 am, Missouri Stream Team volunteers and cavers from several Missouri grottos gathered at a local truck stop in Ste. Genevieve County. Leading up to the day of the clean-up we had gone back and forth several times on postponing the date due to rain, but we ended up deciding to tough it out. The weather man was not wrong as it was already drizzling and everything was thoroughly wet. A large turn out was not expected, but surprisingly more than 20 people showed up. The clean-up was organized by the Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy as the cave was recently leased to the MCKC by the landowner.
At about 9:15 am everyone hopped in there vehicles and we caravanned over to the cave. The cave, Grandpa’s Hole, lies out in a field and has two entrances. One entrance is a vertical pit about 60 feet deep. This entrance has fallen victim to historic tire dumping. The other entrance is large sinkhole next to an old homestead. It has fallen victim to historic residential trash dumping, but is a walk-in entrance. Due to the wet fields, most of the volunteers parked along the landowner’s driveway near the cave and got a ride down to the entrance on more capable vehicles.
The walk-in entrance is a steep mud slope down to a large trash pile at the dripline. The trash pile continues steeply into the cave. Here there is a false wall that is either climbed over and down about 20 feet on the other side or gone under via a hole dug through the trash. On the other side of the false wall is the beginning of short hands and knees crawl that is littered with broken glass that has been washed in from the entrance. Beyond this crawl lies the bottom of the pit entrance, a mound of discarded tires, and large walking cave passage. Unfortunately the cave ends in a large chamber shortly. The only possible continuation is a tire clogged canyon leading out of the chamber. It is believed during flood events, the surge of water rushes down this canyon and takes the tires with it. A small, active stream always flows threw the cave otherwise.
The walk-in entrance area was the focus of this cleanup. We had intended to setup a haul system to pull tires out of the vertical entrance, but did not due to the wet conditions. Everyone got right to work as they arrived at the entrance. Some people started gathering trash that was scattered about the rim of the sinkhole while others headed into the cave and started attacking the massive trash pile. The weapons of choice were garden tools, buckets, and mesh bags. Buckets were used to collect the vast amounts of glass. This was piled into the old foundation of the homestead that sat next to the sinkhole. The landowner plans to fill this in with dirt at some point. Actual trash was gathered in the mesh bags and piled on the surface for disposal. Any large bits of metal were piled separately for recycling.
As the day progressed, everyone naturally found a role. Some formed a bucket brigade to hand trash up the entrance slope and bring supplies into the cave, others focused on collecting glass, and the remaining found a spot in the pile and dug in. Over the next few hours we worked diligently to collect and remove trash. The weather outside had improved for some time, but ultimately it began to rain steadily. This turned the dripline into a shower for those walking in and out of the cave. Outside the ground was becoming trampled and sloppy with mud. Foot holds were dug in the slope to make it easier to carry trash up. About mid-day we stopped for lunch. Some took this as an opportunity to explore the rest of the cave while most were ready to eat. One caver was generous enough to bring his grill and BBQ several dozen hotdogs and provide a pop-up so everyone could get out of the rain. As lunch came to an end, the person in charge of the Missouri Stream Team side of the volunteers asked that we head over to the vertical entrance and begin pulling tires out from around the rim of the pit.
We had not expected to be able to do any work on tires initially. As it turned out, this individual specialized in tire collection and disposal. He has an “operation” of sorts at home where he takes the tires to be cut up and cleaned before taking to proper disposal company. He had brought with him to the cleanup a large, walled trailer to haul tires with. The group made their way to the pit entrance and got to work yanking tires out of the small, wooded sinkhole. The rain was still coming down steady and everyone was getting soaked, but all were in high spirits. The rain was actually not so bad as it kept use cool and kept the bugs down.
Volunteers worked feverishly pulling tires out and stacking them around the sinkhole as others loaded them on the landowner’s truck. As one would expect, most of the tires were full of stagnant water, soil, and other mysterious things. Every so often someone would cry out in disgust as they caught the backsplash of a tossed tire. In no time there was quite the wall of tires built up around the sink and still many more untouched. The haul trailer was at capacity unfortunately so no more tires were being taken. The group returned to the other entrance and resumed work.
We worked for another few hours before calling it a day. We had made quite a dent at the cave entrance, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It will take several more cleanups before a noticeable impact is seen throughout the cave. Since the cave is now leased by MCKC, visitation will be allowed through a permit process. The cave, although short, provides a great place to lead trips for prospective cavers. They will get a taste for a variety of cave characteristics (mud, crawls, climbs, borehole, etc..). The site will serve well for survey workshops and vertical workshops as well for several area grottos.