Monday, August 21, 2006

Return to Tytoona

Although there were others invited, only Amanda and I ended up visiting Tytoona today. Once again, I was astonished at the cool air the cave seemed to exhale as we approached it.


Though much more moist than my previous visit, Tytoona's stream was still dry, except for the portion that appears from underground within the cave. On the outside, running along the cliff edge are stagnant remains of the stream that recently thrived here. Now, all that is left is a ghost stream, with the actual water being underground, out of view. (Until it resurfaces within the cave.)

Upon examination of the stagnant pools at the base of the cliff wall, I realized I was looking right past yet another amphibious friend, the Bullfrog. This individual, a male, was extremely generous and posed for a few photos. After the photos were taken, I reached for him, and just before contact he flopped heavily into the deep stagnant water where he undoubtedly finds plenty of insect life.



It would be no surprise to me if this particular frog was feeding on the bounty of millipedes that crawl around the mossy stones and moist mud. He was certainly eating, jugding by his plumpness. He? Yes, he! You can tell it's a male by the "ears". They are the circular discs behind the eye...and are larger than his eye. If they were the size of, or smaller, it would be a female.


Into the cave Amanda and I hiked, on a path that was quite a lot muddier than expected! Everything was wet, slippery, and creepy. I noticed the trail fork upward on one occassion, and saw handprints and slidemarks. I later came to find (from my father) that many cavers crawl up that clayish sliding board into a hidden room of the cave.

We kept going, to find another left-hand turn, and a section which you would have to CRAWL in the water to enter the next open room. As it turns out, I was just gay enough to keep from going any further.

After a short 60 yard jaunt into the cave, the jitters got the best of me when I heard the un-natural crackle of stream rock in the seasonably dainty cavern stream. With our miniscule flashlights in hand, our pupils grew to the size of quarters and we decided a quick change of direction was in order! And to think, I'd ALMOST made it to the point where you can log your visit! Let me add, only being able to see in front of you (when you think you're being chased in a cave) will probably make the hairs on your neck grow 2 inches. Especially when all that's behind you is a roaring stream, and complete darkness.

Upon our exit, we mutually decided it was best to head home for today, until we had lanterns, helmets, and, well...more people.

UPDATE: I did some research on Tytoona history, and I've found a few sources mentioning large salamanders (I have no idea what species). I've found a few blogs/journals that mention such encounters. One such journal entry I found mentions "anaconda-like" salamanders sliding off the rocks. It mentions the smallest being 6 inches (large enough for me), then a larger, and finally a MUCH larger specimen of which I speak. THAT would be a picture! Unfortunately, now I'm really creeped out. Perhaps that was what caused the bizarre splash in the cave? In any case, chances are if I see a salamander with the head of an anaconda, I'll be dashing in the other direction! Word has it these salamanders can even make vocalizations!

Even with my nature-snooping obsession, not even I would feel comfortable crawling around in a cavern stream in search of a massive salamander. I'd ruin my camera, I'd be scared to death, and upon sighting I'd likely turn and dash in the opposite direction with a sharp girlish shriek.