The Butler Homestead from the ridge above the Nicholson entrance. Pictured is Susan Lowry Weller, Duke '70

The Butler/Burns Chestnut Ridge Caving Journey:
1966-68

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." - Henry David Thoreau.

During the wondrous last half of the 1960s, a group of adventurous friends from Duke University, Wake Forest and Randolph Macon embarked on a journey of a lifetime. For those of us who survived the 60s and the war, these experiences deep in the bowels of Butler Cave and roaming the Chesnut Ridge of Bath County, Virginia, formulated who we are today and still haunt our dreams and imaginations. For those who didn't survive - Gary Feichtinger and Emory Cason - this effort is dedicated to you.

Butler Cave, 1966-68: click on the thumbnails for quick loading larger versions, and click here for caption information. If anyone sees a picture below they don't think is in Butler, please let me know.

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The following photos are from a Kodak Photographic Paper 5 by 7 envelop marked in my handwriting "Burns Chestnut Ridge" that I found Dec. 2005 while rummaging around in my attic for old negatives and letters. These pictures, I believe, lay visual claim to the fact that the "Duke Grotto," consisting primarily of Carey Fuller, myself, Emory Cason (from Wake Forest), Susan Lowry Weller, Alan Sloan and a few others whose names I am still trying to gather, penetrated, with the aid of some one or two stick, controlled blasting, into previously unexplored passages in Burns Chestnut Ridge Cave. After spending the spring of 1968 poking into every hole along the Ridge (as the color photos show), Carey determined Burns was the most promising with the volume of its air flow, and we focused our efforts there for the next 18 months.

Carey and I did the majority of the blasting work in the summer of 1968, and he led several more expeditions after that, but the Vietnam War descended on most of us with a fury we have still not forgotten, casting us to the winds. Carey Fuller ended up with NOAA in Australia and Colorado, Susan with the Air Force and myself with the Army, both in Germany, to detail a little of the disruption at the time.

Click here for caption information. Please send corrections and updates to wellerw@ipfw.edu

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Worth Weller
http://users.ipfw.edu/wellerw
Page created: 12.15.2005
Page udated: 12.30.2005