After actually getting some sleep and waking up at a reasonable hour to prep gear, Tina and I hopped into the truck and drove towards Wes Skiles Peacock Springs. It was cold and rainy but eventually it was supposed to clear up (we hoped). We met Mer at the gate around 8am and she showed us to the parking lot for Peacock 1. We all walked down to the water for our briefing and it was gorgeous clear blue.
Mer went over our plans for the day and she gave us the ok that we could slow it down if we felt uncomfortable at any time. This was a little extra insurance policy that we could cash in if things got too crazy.
For our first dive the plan was for us to go down peanut tunnel as far as we felt comfortable and still be within min deco and gas limits. We hopped into the water and after some chatting and surface drills, I volunteered to run the reel on the first dive. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. In fact I was pretty anxious. It was to be our first real cave dive if I could get past the cavern zone without being too freaked out.
We started the dive and I made the primary tie off in open water super high up on the basin, (like almost on the steps). A noob move, but I didn’t really know where was the best place to tie off and Mer allows us to make just enough mistakes that we can learn from them without making it a bad situation.
My secondary tie off was a little better and I was making my way towards the gold line. I tied into the gold line fairly quickly we were headed towards the cave. I was starting to get excited as we passed the reaper sign and suddenly I found myself cave diving for the first time ever. The water was crystal clear with very little flow. I checked in with Tina pretty regularly as we slowly but surely swam further into the cave. We came to a section where the tunnel gets low but wide enough for two people to swim side by side. Suddenly I had this overwhelming feeling of giddiness. I was smiling so much that I could barely keep my reg in my mouth. The beauty and magic of that cave is hard to describe. It wasn’t dark and scary. Even a little bit of light lit the whole tunnel up. I found myself in visual overload as we swam further down the peanut tunnel towards the breakdown room. (Shown on the cave map as the red line, which also indicates about as far as we went into the system) We realized that if you shine your light up at the pockets of air bubbles that it bounces around like a disco ball or laser beam.
You can shine your light up at the ceiling and bounce the light over your buddy onto the floor in front of them. We saw fossils and limestone formation that were just amazing. Soon I was getting close to my turn pressure and I thumbed the dive. As Mer swam past me I motioned to her by drawing a big smiley face on my face using my finger. I don’t remember too much of the dive on the way out honestly. I Just think we were swimming so slowly on the way in and out soaking it all up.
Once we got to the surface, Tina and I looked at each other and were just in awe. We were speechless and our first words to each other were “Oh My God.” our entire perspective had just changed. Tina and I both went from really questioning if we could do this, to thinking we will do this. We both knew it would take a lot of work but we were determined determined to give Mer all we had.
For the next dive we did a slightly deeper route down the pothole line (Shown on the map as the teal line, and it also indicates approximately how far we went into the system). Tina led this one and it was also very cool but totally different then the peanut line. Just at the back of the cavern you go down what could be described as a near vertical mail slot from 35 to about 60ft. Once you get through the slot, the cavern opens up in a big way. There are pillars and columns of rock everywhere. We saw a blind crayfish too. Tina loves all the cave critters and she almost freaked out with excitement when she saw it. On this dive the intensity picked up and it didn’t bother us. Tina did a great job leading her first cave dive and I was super proud of her. We were really working as a team. After those two dives we got out of the water for lunch and did some more land drills.
Once lunch was over we changed tanks and headed back into the water for our second half of the day. I was going to run the line and we were going to go down pothole. For some reason after lunch I lost some of my mojo and was just feeling anxious as all hell. I don’t know if it was just tiredness or what.
Anyway we started the dive and I wasn’t chilled out at all. I was just making little mistakes, struggling with tieoffs and other little things. We started towards the back of the cavern after tying into the gold line and I get to where we would start to go down the mail slot and I could feel my head wasn’t in the game.
I just wasn’t feeling it at all so I thumbed the dive. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little freaked out. I don’t know what it was. maybe it was the fact that I had made a few mistakes on the way in or whatever, but this dive was not going to happen. We quickly returned to the surface and we all had a chat. I told Tina and Mer I just didn’t feel good about it. Everyone was cool with it. So after about 15-20 mins of chilling on the surface, I said I was ready for a second go. This time we went down peanut again. This is my tunnel. I like this dive a lot. I was much calmer this time and we had a good dive. We almost made it to the breakdown room this time.
For our last dive of the day we needed to tackle pothole again. Tina ran the reel and she did a great job. It’s honestly amazing watching her progression in this sport. We both have our weaknesses and fortunately what she lacks I tend to make up and what I lack she tends to make up. So we make a good team. I’ve very proud of her. We saw the blind crayfish again and even found a fish skull from a recently deceased catfish or something. Our mojo was back, the fire was lit (even if we had a bit of a dampened third dive). The drysuit was a non-issue. In fact I got to the point where I forgot about it honestly.
We ended the day with fills at EE and lecture at the house. On a positive note, I finally made it through a dive day where I didn’t have to change my rental tanks out. Also Braxton our fundies buddy came into town for his TDI cave class and he was also staying at the EE house. So it was good to bs with him.