On Friday I left with several friends to explore the Antelope Springs cave near Delta, Utah. We arrived after dark at the base of the cave and set up camp in the falling snow. I wish I had brought my camera, for while the night was a bit damp and chilly, the morning was beautiful, with a dusting of wet snow and low clouds moving among the cliff faces. As is my way on a one day trip, I quickly broke down my tent and had everything put away before we even started. The others kept their tents up to change in afterwards. It was cold enough that I started out wearing full winter gear: wool base layer, mid layer jacket, down coat and wind breaker. But Trent assured me it would be very warm in the cave, so I changed to pants and cami top and a sweater, but kept the down jacket and wind breaker.
Trent and Bryson made it up the hill first, and I followed after them. Thus I was third into the cave. Trent set up a hand line to help us get into the slippery entrance. He was right about the cave being warmer, and I quickly stashed the down and sweater, opting to keep the windbreaker, for it was lighter and less likely to catch on things than the sweater.
Bryson and I quickly made our way to the base of the entrance chamber. Soon Jayce and Ben were down with us and we opted to explore the small hole at the very bottom of the chamber, though two other holes up the walls seemed more promising. I tried it first, but became nervous about the size. Jayce decided to have a go and sure enough managed to crawl through to a more open space. Bryson, Ben and I followed. The hole was very small, but after moving just a few feet to one side it opened up enough for all of us to fit, then went vertical before splitting off in several directions. We each tried a path, with Jayce and Bryce quickly dead-ending. But my more vertical path opened into a large domed chamber with two wide branches at each end. One, which I believe headed north had a series pits connected above and below. The other headed off roughly south, and at the time I couldn’t see much into the darkness. With paths splitting off, Jayce and Ben opted to head back and check the progress of our group and let them know where we were. Bryson and I remained and just enjoyed the domed room. The ceiling had a few small stalactites whose tips had a metallic glow in our headlamps. I climbed up a side lip of the chamber in an attempt to look closer.
As I started to climb back down I noticed something wooden among a pile of rocks. The wood had stars etched in it. I called to Bryson and moved the rocks aside, thinking I’d found a registry. Bryson said it looked more like a geocache. We opened it and found a book in a ziplock bag. When we pulled it out we found a note on the back:
If you found this treasure it is because you successfully followed the coordinates posted on our website www.thedakeagles.com or you stumbled upon it. Either way, the book and treasure box are yours and I hope you enjoy them. Remember to share your adventure with us on our facebook page ‘The Dark Eagles’ and include the secret code NJ342.
May your life be full of adventures!
David R. Smith
The box and book were so beautiful, and I wanted to take them. But I felt bad for not being a participant in its hunt. Just a lucky passer by. And I was elated at having found such a marvellous thing in such a place. I wanted others to be able to enjoy that feeling too. I wish I’d had a pen on me. I would have signed the back of the note and left it for another person. But having none, I simply decided to leave the box. Jayce and Ben soon joined us and we showed them our treasure. We talked of how fun it would be to add our own books to this spot, and started calling the area “The Library Room.” In the mean time, Trent was leading the group through a different set of passages that happened to join our library from the south end, and we showed them the treasure as well before putting it back and continuing our explorations.
I wish I could describe all the chambers and passages of the cave, but it is something you simply have to experience for yourself. But I will tell you this much. We continued to follow the northern path out of the Library Room, and eventually wound up in a chamber full of stalactites hanging spindle-like from the ceiling. A few broken pieces on the floor resembled magic wands, and as we waited for everyone to climb into the room for a fuzzy picture (only Candace had a camera and in the moist heat it had fogged up), we came up with several names for this room. “Olivander’s” was pretty popular until someone piped up that it should be “The Boom Stick Room.” That one stuck. After pictures as people worked their way back out, Sharon overheard us talking about the treasure book. Somehow she had missed it. We told her which room it was in and assured her we would pass it again on the way out. After more exploring (and in my case many bruises and a scraped knee after sliding down a slope), we believe we covered most of the northern section that we could safely squeeze into.
We headed back to explore the southern chambers and passed into the spacious library room, with me bringing up the rear. I wanted one last look at the box and note, so I could be sure I had the details right to contact the author. Sharon shouted to me that I couldn’t look in the box again and that it would be bad luck. But I just smiled and opened the box back up…only to find a glow stick in it. Sharon sheepishly admitted she was taking the book for me. She insisted that I had found it and that it was now mine. Unable to dissuade her, I also packed up the box. She was even reluctant to hand me to book to store in it for easy carrying, and watched to make sure I was bringing it.
We headed out via the south entrance, which put us close to the entrance chamber. From here a few people opted to head out for a breath of fresh air and some food and water. Those of us who stayed behind were getting tired. But that made us more determined to remain in the cave, for tired explorers find it hard to start back up after a break. It’s easier to keep going, and with a small group still in the cave, the others would be more motivated to return. Trent took the box and his group out the cave, while the rest of us started south. We found the Junction room and explored several of the short junctions before they returned. I particularly liked an upper chamber that had #7 on the wall and required a bit of climbing to get to. Trent soon returned with his group, and we decided to make a push for the Moon Milk Room before our 3pm deadline. Josh had returned with his camera and took a few more pictures. We never did make it to our destination. With time running out, and more people dropping out, the final group, Trent, Sharon, Candace, Josh, and myself finally turned back. Josh and Trent took off for the Boom Stick room on their own. Josh was insistent on getting some shots of those stalactites. The rest of us made our way back out. It only took Josh and Trent about 10 minutes to get to the Boom Stick room and back out after us.
When we exited the cave the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky. Only snow on the north facing slopes had survived it, though it was still pretty chilly. It didn’t take long to pack everything back up and head out. As a final bonus, on the drive home we passed by a small heard of mustangs. This was the first time I’ve seen them. A little further on we also passed a heard of antelope. A wonderful weekend, with wonderful people, and an incredible bonus. I’d love to build my own little box to take back to the cave and leave for another explorer to find.