A New Mexico Cave Search
The Search For Jurnigan #2 Cave
Once in a while during a caving career, a caver will fatefully end up exploring a "sucker cave." This would be a cave that contains absolutely nothing of interest but the caver doesn’t know that until he has sweated, bruised, and crawled through piles of bat guano. Jurnigan #2 could fit this category. I obtained a permit for a visit to this Bureau of Land Management cave in the Carlsbad area of New Mexico. Prior to this trip, my friends and I made two separate trips to scout the location of the cave because the "step log" to this cave is, well, not good. After two attempts to find the cave via the "step log" we were dismayed. It seemed this was the best hidden cave in the world. "Surely, it must be a gem of a cave," we thought.
The day of the trip, we made one last attempt to find this elusive cave. We agreed that if we didn’t find it that day, we would try no more. To aid in our search, we purchased a topographic map of the area and tried to pinpoint this thing. The search was almost a mission now. I felt we had to find this cave called Jurnigan #2.
We narrowed the area of our search and scoured the ridge for any signs of a cave. Time went on, we couldn’t find it, and disappointment began to set in. Our trip looked doomed. Before we called off our search, a friend of mine took a few more steps in one direction when he saw something shining in the sunlight. "A beer can," he thought. He went to pick it up when suddenly it was clear to him that it was the metal seal of Jurnigan #2 beaming in the sun like a beacon.
"Here I am you idiots!" it seemed to say. From a distance, I could hear words of profanity and excitement from my friend’s lips. At last we found the cave.
My friend opened the gate and soon we rappelled into the sort, circular 12-foot pit. I was first to enter the cave. At the bottom of the drop, a 4-foot passage headed in one direction. As I followed the passage, I checked for critters and noticed the tunnel getting shorter and shorter. Soon, I was on my belly wallowing in silt and guano. Occasionally, the passage was just tall enough that I could stoop and I’m not that tall. I was quickly getting a bad feeling about this cave we had searched so long for. So far, there was no sign of any cave formations.
We continued crawling, hoping to see something of which we could talk about to cavers. Near the end of this one passage cave, we saw them. Finally, pay dirt, treasure, booty, and grandeur. Our eyes widened as we scanned the room while lying on our bellies and bumping our helmeted heads. There they were, cave formations! Draperies, soda straws, popcorn, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, they all were there. These could be called some of the greatest cave formations in the world. In the world of the crickets, that is, for the tallest formation spanned a whole 10 inches in height.
With the cave explored, we contorted our bodies in order to turn around and crawl out of the cave. I’ve always believed that every cave is worth seeing at least once and Jurnigan #2 is no exception. If anything, this cave is a great exercise in crawling and a great lesson in high expectations. Sadly, it seems that when telling this story of Jurnigan #2 the finding of the cave is more of a story than the cave itself.