|Jamaican Caves Organisation - Reports|
Troy Trail Escapade
An account of an expedition carried out by JCO machete wielders who made their way through the wilds of the Cockpit Country, (after Hurricane Ivan), from Saturday, December 4, 2004 to Sunday December 5, 2004.
We had left from Last Resort, Windsor at 8:03 am. We did not take a route taxi to Troy, and then walk from Troy to Windsor as was the original plan. We hit the Troy Trail from the Windsor end. If we had gone to Troy, we would have started the walk from Troy to Windsor possibly at about 10:00 am or 10:30 AM, giving us about 7 hours daylight - reasonable with a good trail. Starting from Windsor, however, it gave us a good 9 1/2 hours of daylight. And thinking about other aspects of it, we knew that if we got to Troy at nightfall, it being a Saturday night, things would be busy and transportation would be available to get us back to Falmouth and Sherwood/Windsor.|
We pushed through with good success until midafternoon, clearing hurricane debris from the trail en route, until at no great distance from Tyre, we bogged down in the ferns of Booth.
Ferns to the south of us; ferns to the southwest of us; ferns to the southeast of us, and surrounded by bush. The trail has not melted away. It has downright disappeared suddenly in this mass of ferns.. thick high ferns... five feet high interwoven with prickly bush. Okay, what to do?
We thrash around haphazardly spreading out and searching to no avail. The trail is sealed. I recollect this spot well and know that when we last came through the trail was well defined through the ferns. We cannot pick up the trail. We take a compass bearing and decide to go through the ferns in a south south westerly direction.
We walk steadily on cutting a trail as we go. Mark, the time-keeper gives us the hour mark time - this is an hour from our last break. It is 2:55 pm. I beg off another five minutes as we are near what seems to be the top of a hill. We are there but it does not help. It is not the summit and that goes for quite a way. So we stop and take our 5-minuite water and rest break. We are in the ferns. And we sit... more like reclining for the fern growth is thick and like a huge cushion... quite comfortable. As usual we drink some water and relax. But our normal building of the Hour Marker is thwarted as there are no trees and no stones. There is one shrub nearby and so I tie may last piece of flagging tape on it -a lime green band and inserted the sliver of orange tape I had left tying it in the knot holding the green flagging to this miniature tree.
The trail cannot be seen. The fern growth is thick. I suggest that what we do is simply strike out in a number of different directions systematically and try to pick up the trail, always, however, returning to what we now begin to refer to unwittingly as base camp. So we now return to base camp - that is, the point at which we noticed the trail had disappeared. We knew where this was. In a pinch, this would be the way back home. The pinch was coming.
We struck out next in a southerly direction through the ferns once again. This time we got out of the ferns finally but there are no trails evident just bush and trees and mountain side... rocks. So, back to base camp again. We do a time check. It is 4:30 pm. We set off now through the trees in the hope of getting to the top of a hill that the evening sun is bouncing light off from the higher trees. We estimate that light will be good at this time of year until 5:30 pm. We decide to walk for a half an hour.
We are out a flagging tape and we are now walking through woods so the plan is to mark the trees and cut... everybody cutting anything we pass on the way. We try to keep to the course we set. We are moving fast but not picking up the trail and the hill top has now disappeared from view. We continue. Then we hear Mark's familiar voice, 'Five o'clock.' We stop. It's not just time for a decision. It is time to turn back. But it's so tempting. The trail may be just ahead. If darkness comes we can camp and then move on in the morning. Delroy is an advocate for the position. But soon realizes that base camp is the better overnight option. And Mark had already been pushing the pleasantness of base camp. So we head back after a brief fumble to find our marks. You know, when you stop. You don't really stop. You move around a bit without even realizing it. and because you think you have stopped you are no longer marking. Between bark-cuts on the trees and decimated shrubbery we are back in quick time. We still have daylight. The search for the trail has ended - at least for the day. Now on to the next phase of activity. Preparations for the night.
Stefan in his emails had insisted that we be prepared for the eventuallity of an overnight in the bush. And we knew that this might have been necessary. We had no way of knowing what was ahead as a result of the ravages of Hurricane Ivan and as it turned out, the extra growth that his deluge encouraged.
We had lights, matches, food and water for a second day. It was fire time. Before I could have even suggested it Delroy had a small fire going and some pieces of firewood next to him. That we needed more was evident so Mark and myself set out in different directions to gather dry wood. There was a lot. You know, the work of Hurricane Ivan in September. We made several trips. We knew enough about the Cockpit to know that it would be cold and wet. Cold because the temperature would fall as low as sixties -low sixties Fahrenheit - and wet because of the high condensation levels - heavy dew. So, we needed enough firewood to take us through the night. As we brought more Delroy kept building and stoking until we had a raging camp fire.
It was looking like home now. We bushed out our sleeping area and cut some ferns to provide a base for bedding - quite comfortable actually. As we all had our helmets with lights we could operate independently as night fell. We ate, enjoyed the fantastic starry sky as the moon was not out yet, looked at some constellations, chatted and told stories until we fell asleep. Delroy felt responsible for the fire and did not turn in as early and at about two o'clock in the morning said he needed more wood. When we looked at the poorly fire and felt the cold that it was keeping at bay slithering into our established 'space', we knew it was time for action tiredness notwithstanding. I suppose each of us knew where to find wood for it was not long before we were back with more than enough to carry us through the remaining hours of darkness. We tucked in again, until daylight awakened us. The fire was still going and so we made breakfast - chicken again. We had chicken for lunch and dinner the day before.
The decision was taken that we had done enough to go ahead and were not successful. We had enough water to get us back. If we continued the effort of trying to find the trail and did not succeed we would be asking for trouble. We would turn back. We assessed what we had done.
Our assessment continued. We had encountered SIGNIFICANT hurricane damage on the trail. We had cleared the trail to within about an hour's walk to Tyre/Troy from Windsor. We had put in 6 one-hour markers. We had flagged significantly, especially the difficult sections. We felt we had done a job. And we were going to be the ones to test the work we had done because we were now going to use the trail we had just cleared to find our way back and we would have the opportunity to appreciate the pleasant psychological effect of seeing hour markers as you move through the trail.
We tested the trail.
We left Base Camp on the Ferns at 6:55 am and we arrived at Dango's at 11:10 am - 4 hours and 15 minutes. Yes the trail was sufficiently clear. On the previous days journey with 8:22 am at Dango's and 2:55 pm in the Ferns made the journey 6 hours and 33 minutes. A difference of 2 hours and 18 minutes.
There is more to tell - the story of the hour markers, the system of 5-minute rests every hour whether you are tired or not... something that had us going for hours and not feeling it but that is for another story.
It was an exciting time.
We are sorry we did not get though to Troy but felt we were within striking distance possibly an hours walk away but just could not find the track. Safety instincts kicked and had us take the safer and wiser course.
Another hours clearing of the trail is required. Who is up for it????
Ivor signing off here.
Thank God it didn't rain.
|Resources for the Exploration of Jamaica Caves, Sinkholes and Underground Rivers|