As we were driving to Knox cave, we discovered that you in fact drive past Clarksville cave on your way there, and if we wanted to be super-hardcore, we could do Clarksville cave on our way home from caving in Knox. We all agreed this was a good plan, and continued on out way to Knox.
We arrived at the Knox preserve around noon, and proceeded to explore the big room and dungeon, which are right in front of the entrance after you climb down the ladder. From the dungeon, we found a narrow but tall slot that we decided to go down. After crawling and sliding for about 15 minutes, it dead-ended and we turned around. After that we decided to explore the half of the cave on the other side of the entrance, since it looked less painful.
After a short side trip that involved climbing up about 10 feet and then dropping down into a chamber with rimstone, we went through the keyhole passage to the rest of the cave. We crawled around the gunbarrel, not even realizing that we had missed it until we were already past it. We then entered the broken room and spent awhile crawling down various skinny passageways until they ended. At one point I ended up in the pit room with the dome, and at another point we crawled down a super-tiny passage until we were almost back to where the entrance was, but of course it wasn't passable. There was an excellent 90 degree corner in part of the crawling, which I am sure that anyone taller than 6' would not have been able to get their shins past. At one part in our explorations, the skinny kids went through a super-tight passage first, and then Kristina and I tried to follow. I got though after being stuck for awhile, and then Kristina got stuck too. It was kind of entertaining, but eventually we all made it.
Finally, we decided that we wanted to go to the Alabaster room, which was apparently the most visually awesome part of the cave, and our last stop. On the cross section map, it looked like we would have to climb some to get to the passage. I found a pile of rocks that looked promising and had Dan go up and check it out. He got to the top of the pile and said it terminated in an extremely tight squeeze that "looked passable, but very bitchy." We decided to come down, and while we were sitting in the broken room at the bottom of this pile of rocks, 4 more people appeared.
The syracuse university outing club (SUOC) was also exploring Knox cave that day. They happened to have someone with them who had done the cave before, and he told us that the tight squeeze Dan had seen was called the "Lemon squeeze," and it was both the tightest passable squeeze in the cave and the only way to get to the alabaster room that didn't involve free-climbing a 30 foot exposed cliff. We all decided to visit the alabaster room together, and one by one began to climb through the lemon squeeze.
A couple of words about the lemon squeeze: It is a vertical squeeze which is about 8 inches wide, and a full body length long. For those of you who are MIT hackers, think "All The Way," but the squeezy section is twice as long. There is no way to use your feet, and there are very few handholds. For the rest of you, it is two vertical slabs of rock 8 inches apart. The most annoying part was that it was extremely easy to fit down the squeeze. You just breathed out and slid down. The problem was fighting gravity to get up through it.
I went last through the squeeze. The girl directly in front of me was from SUOC and had never been caving before, but was willing to try anything. I braced myself in the passage below the lemon squeeze and pushed up on her legs while someone above pulled on her arms. After a good while, (and stepping on my face a few times) she made it through and it was my turn. I made it about halfway through and then got stuck. No surprise there. One of the SUOC guys grabbed my arms and after pulling for about 5 minutes while I struggled, managed to pull me through. We then began crawling through the passage to the alabaster room.
The passage to the alabaster room is a lot like the thook entrance to clarksville cave. It is a tall narrow curvy slot with enough room to crawl on top of the slot. Don't drop your pack down the slot; you will never get it back. The passage was a lot longer than I thought it was, and we were all very tired and sore. However, eventually we got to the crystal crawl, where there were crystals on the rocks on the ceiling of the crawl, and then dropped into the alabaster room.
The alabaster room had some nifty flowstone, which we admired before backtracking slightly on a lower level to see the football room. Finally, we all gathered and debated whether to crawl between two flat slabs of rock for a long time to gain the stream which terminated in a sump. Most of us weren't too psyched about belly-crawling through a stream for 45 minutes, and we decided to head back. On the way back out, Kristina and I did the gunbarrel, a 50-foot long perfectly straight body-sized passage with an annoying feature. The gunbarrel is kind of shaped like a keyhole, so while your body fits through the upper part, your arms and shoulders keep falling into the narrower bottom section and getting stuck.
When we exited the cave, it was raining. The SUOC folks proposed going accross the street to do Ella Armstrong cave, but in the end we all decided to pack up and head to our respective homes. We drove past Clarksville on the way home, but we had been caving for 6 hours, and everyone just wanted to get home and sleep so they could start studying for finals. However, the SUOC people proposed a joint SUOC-MIT speleofest that would involve doing a bunch of caves one weekend this summer, so we can have a super-hardcore day sometime soon. Keep an eye out for it in future trip reports.