By Jeremy Patton
Farmers Overlook Cave is located in Pulaski County, Kentucky.
I will not reveal cave locations because they are frequent targets of vandalism. Furthermore, heavy human traffic can ruin their fragile ecosystems. This particular cave is about as pristine as one can find.
Farmers Overlook Cave is an example of deceiving appearances. Just a hole in the ground, I found it while scouting a nearby cave that appeared far more impressive. I pointed it out to Delania, who stuck her head inside then said “I think it opens up.”
Delania insisted on entering first. She squeezed through the hole, belly down and feet first. After sliding into the darkness, she gasped.
I quickly followed, then shared her astonishment. The hole opened up into a cavern.
Formations adorned it, including a full column. We also found a wonderful collection of marine fossils on the left wall. It was late in the day, so we did not have time to adequately examine them. We shall return.
The cavern opened further into a big breakdown area then tapered to a dry stream passage. We came to a spot where open shafts flanked us from both sides, no doubt formed by gushing waterfalls.
The passage terminated after a fairly short distance. Many more speleothems awed us along the way. We did not explore several side passages, but will do so in the future.
We returned on 11/27/16 to explore the side passages that we had skipped earlier in the month.
The first duck-under in the breakdown area led to a series of fat man’s misery tunnels. We found a beautiful natural arch there that I call Farmers Overlook Arch #1.
Stooping through the tunnels soon led to crawling. Delania scouted ahead of me because she actually enjoys crawlspaces; I tolerate them when necessary. I did not hear from her for a while, so I figured that she must have found something interesting. I took a deep breath then scurried to catch up.
I finally heard her muffled voice imploring me to join her through a tight hole under some breakdown. There were several such holes, and of course I chose the wrong one. I emerged into a cramped space, looked up through the rubble and spotted her perched about 15 feet above me. “How the hell did you get up there?” I asked. “How did you get down there?” The laughs turned to grumbling as I retreated then squeezed my lanky frame through the correct hole, possibly one of the tightest spaces I have ever entered. How my beautiful, busty girlfriend slithered through it, I do not know.
I climbed through a second tight squeeze to join Delaina on the upper level. A short time later, we found ourselves back in the big breakdown area.
Near the end of the area, I climbed up a rocky slope to an opening near the ceiling. I peered inside then shrank back from the seemingly bottomless canyon below. At first, I declared the canyon too dangerous to explore, but after further investigation, we discovered a traversable slope leading to the bottom.
The descent was not as treacherous as it first appeared. About halfway down, we spotted a natural bridge spanning the chasm above us. I wondered what made that remaining slab of stone so resilient. I call it Farmers Overlook Bridge.
Another slope led up from the canyon floor to a seven-foot platform with a concavity beneath it. We gawked at the wonderland of columns, stalactites and stalagmites visible above us. “I have to get up there,” Delaina said.
The problem was that climbing onto the platform was no easy task. The ledge was slick and tilted toward us. There were few steps or handholds for support.
We deliberated on how to climb up without getting injured. I decided to boost Delania up so she could scout and take photos. I remained below to ensure that she could get down safely.
She moved out of view then I heard ooo-ing and awe-ing. She returned and fawned on the area, relating how much she wished that I could explore it with her. We were running out of time, so I encouraged her to come down. Before sliding into my arms, she found a natural projection in the wall that a rope could be tied to, providing an easier climb on a return trip. She also noted that the passage appeared to continue beyond her turn-around point, which made us both excited.
I should note another stunning feature of this cave: fossils. We found more fossils in Farmers Overlook Cave than I have seen in my entire life.
I had vowed for many months to learn more about the geology of the region and try to identify the fossils. I was busy exploring, however, and put the research on hold. My smart sweetheart surprised me with several articles about creatures called crinoids. Not only did they exist hundreds of millions of years ago, they still live on the ocean floor today. They are known as sea lillies.
We did not find a complete fossil, which would be extremely rare, but rather a scattering of fragments. The fragments consisted of small disks with holes in the center, called ossicles.
My science knowledge is limited, but I believe that the fossils are from a time when the continents resided elsewhere on the globe due to continental drift. North America was once beneath the ocean, hence why we found marine fossils inside a limestone cliff…in Kentucky. I have always been interested in Palentology, but found few fossils during my travels. We have found thousands now, so my interest is stoked.
Added 11/17/16 – Updated 12/2/16