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Devil’s Ice Box Columbia, MO
Spring 07

Cavers: DJ Hall, Seth Alley, Wayne Fitzner, Daniel Alley, Wayne’s 2 sons.

Our trip to Devils Icebox started with a few snags, but we finally arrived and barely in time to participate. After an introduction to the aspects of caving and canoeing, we followed the guide in our vehicles to the trailhead. We unloaded the canoes and carried them about a quarter mile down to the cave entrance. The cave opens up at a sink about 75 steps down. It took some time as carried the canoes on our shoulders down into the icebox, and launch them into the river.
The cave started out about 12 feet across with a 5 ft ceiling. We paddled single file through the dark waterway. An occasional bat flittered by as we carefully navigated through the winding river. Ten minutes into the expedition, Daniel and Wayne tipped over their canoe and completely dunked themselves and their gear. I paddled back and helped them turn their canoe over on top of ours, dumping the water out, flipping it right side up and putting it back in the water. They struggled hard to keep the canoe upright all the way to the first portage, so Seth and I swapped canoes with Daniel and Wayne.
Seth and I almost dumped over right off the bat, but we quickly recovered and maintained our balance throughout the trip. Several more portages were made before we reached our final destination. When it came time to pull our canoes out of the water, it was at that point I wished I had purchased boots with good cleats. I could barely get a grip on the muddy, slippery steep slope at our landing.
We managed to beach our transport up high, and prepared to begin the trek. There were eleven people in our group including our guide. The cave was extremely wet and very muddy, but not a thick later of mud, just everything covered in mud. There were various formations but many of them were covered with mud and not very attractive.
Our guide initially took the time to explain various aspects of cave wildlife and formations as we got ourselves mentally situated in the cave. We basically followed the river as it flowed through the underground cavern. There was quite a bit of climbing and sliding down mud hills. A few tight squeezes were easily handled and at one point we had to shimmy along the cave wall while wading through waist deep water.
We ran into a group of high schoolers who looking like they were having a great time. It would be a lot of fun to lead a group like that through the cave. We finally arrived at our lunch spot, a beautiful room full of a variety of formations including many columns and rimstone dams.
I tried an MRE and discovered they had not changed one iota in taste nor texture., so I broke out a heater meal and it was pretty tasty, the warm contents filled my stomach nicely. After a good rest, we continued our trek through mostly non descriptive passages eventually looping back and returning to our canoes. We did spot several bats hanging out and many guano piles. The return canoe trip was uneventful except as we returned to the cars, it rained in torrents.