On August first, several PATC-Charlottesville members traveled several hours to West Virginia to take an unusual hike. They hiked along a stream that cut under a mountain for over a mile before exiting from under the other side of the mountain.
The Sinks of Gandy is known as West Virginia's most popular "wild cave," meaning one that is not a tour-driven tourist cave. It is located a few miles west of Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia. Although surrounded by lands encompassing the Monongahela National Forest, the cave itself is on private land. That land is for sale, so the hike leader wanted to get back out there in case it sold and the new owners refused access. Fortunately, the land is not cheap, so it has been on the market for several months as of this writing.
The cave itself is flat - no ropes needed - and high. There were only a couple of spots requiring hikers to duck their heads. It was like walking through a stream bed in the dark.
Several in the group had hiked much of this cave before, but could not complete it because they could not find how to proceed after hiking deep into the cave. This time, they started from the downstream end and headed back to the main entrance, figuring that might provide the answer. But after exploring several side rooms, the group did not find a connection to the rest of the cave. So they exited and went back around to the main entrance.
Most of the group made it back to the spot where some had turned around a couple of years previously, still without an answer about how to connect to the downstream end. Unfortunately, the answer did not come until after we all exited, in the form of a New York-based doctor we met at the parking lot who claimed to have grown up in the area and hiked the cave annually since age 10. He described the connection and where we had gone wrong. He said many people get stuck at that same spot. We were too spent to go back in and try again to see if his description was correct. Maybe someday.
The cave actually made it very easy to be socially distant from other hikers.