By Jeremy Patton
Bob Hail Cave is located in Pulaski County, Kentucky.
Note: I will not reveal its location because caves are common targets for vandalism. Furthermore, their fragile ecosystems get destroyed by heavy human traffic.
Delania and I located Bob Hail Cave on 9/24/16. The day was hot, so the cool cavern air was a welcome reprieve.
The entrance was challenging to reach, but not treacherous. A convenient landing provided ample room to relax, eat snacks and change into our gear. Fossils and small arches adorned the entryway; we also found trash, mainly a pile of old mason jars. Thankfully, the interior of the cave was sparsely littered. A few bats fluttered about just before we set off into the darkness, then Delania cooed, telling them how cute they were.
We trekked first through a winding corridor that was high enough for me stand up in (I am six feet tall). A few outcrops of flowstone jutted from the eroded, multi-colored walls. At a fork in the corridor, we turned right then reached a dead-end. Retracing our steps and taking the left fork, the roof lowered to a stoop-and-crawl. It seemed to go on for a mile, but was probably no more than 100 feet.
We reached a second fork. To our left gurgled a stream passage. The carved channel snaked around the corner into the unknown.
Straight ahead, a dry chute led to an upper level. We scrambled to the top and found a waterfall and 15-foot pit. The waterfall was weak, but the open grooves in the ceiling hinted something more during flooding. Ledges rimmed both sides of the pit, but they were slanted, so we decided to back-track and explore the safer stream passage.
Due to the dry season, the stream trickled in spots and stood in pools in others. I had misplaced my waterproof hiking shoes, so I wore sneakers and straddled the narrow channel to stay out of the cold water. For hundreds of feet, the ceiling rose and fell, making the journey hard on a man’s back.
The stream dead-ended inside the largest room that we found in the cave. Upon closer examination, the stream continued through a passage too tight for human exploration. A mud bank led to an upper level that terminated after a short walk to the left or right.
Delania led the way up the bank then shrieked in the dark, causing me to reach for my pistol. She blurted a string of curses and sighed with relief. I joined her and found a life-sized mud sculpture of a man lying flat on his back…with an erection and a big smile. We laughed at the vulgar prank and wondered who had sculpted it, how long it took them and how long ago. It did not infuriate me, I guess because it was not permanent graffiti, but it still violated the rule of “leave no trace.” When you visit caves, please do not alter them in any way.
The room and nearby tunnels were carved with names and dates of previous visitors. We had found many of the same names in nearby caves, which led me to believe that a group of friends explored them during the mid 1930s. I do not approve of graffiti, but the carvings added historical interest.
I estimate that the cave is 0.25 miles long. We left several crawl spaces and the pit area unexplored. I rate the cave as moderately challenging. It is not particularly dangerous as long as you do not monkey around near the pit. Segments may be prone to flooding.