story of Eldon French's discovery of a beautiful cave reads like a
young boy's fantasy. It reminded me of those moments in my own
childhood where I would read about pirates secreting treasure on
some lonely shoreline or the discovery of ancient ruins. I would be
out exploring the forests the next day in the hopes of making my own
discovery. Eldon was one of the few whose love for exploration and
keen sense of observation paid off. He had discovered what is
still considered one of the longest caves in New England. Though my
own childhood adventures more often met with great disappointment,
this would be my chance to revisit those fantasies of my youth while
living vicariously through Eldon's story.
In the winter of 1875, 14 year old Eldon French was rapt in an
article on the
formation of caves. As he took a moment to reflect on his newly
gained expertise, he began to wonder if there might be caves in his
town. While peering out his bedroom window, he remembered a location
where water issued from out of the hillside and created a pool that
his neighbor's cows drank from. Eldon grabbed a candle and ran
across the field to the spot where the water exited the ground.
Peering up the slope, he noticed a depression in the ground where
water must have once run. Eldon concluded that if he followed the
dimple up the rise and could locate where the water reappeared
above ground, he might find a cave.
Not far up the hill Eldon located a ravine that contained a brook
that seemed to vanish underground. Under the cover of forest debris
within the gully, he found an
large enough for a person to enter. At first it appeared to be only
a small den. As he proceeded to the rear of the cave he soon
discovered it took a hairpin turn into the hillside. Ahead he could
see a shaft that penetrated deep into the bedrock. The cave had been
carved out of beautiful marble and appeared to be endless.
Eldon spent the afternoon exploring his new discovery until his
candle was almost exhausted. He retuned to the cave several times
with a much more reliable source of light. Eventually he traversed
through its winding passages to its conclusion, later named "World's
End". There over 800 ft into the hill behind his home was a chamber 13
wide, 15 ft long and 50' high. Within this hidden chamber were
remarkable examples of natural beauty. Several tiny water falls,
recesses and grottoes with their own hidden treasures, and various
forms of flowstones and stalactites; all beautiful marble
sculptures created by millions of years of moving water. One
interesting feature consisted of a shallow pool in marble with a marble seat at the
end that was appropriately named "King's Bath".
In 1945 Eldon visited the cave for one last time along with a band
of local cavers. Eldon only accompanied the group for a short
distance. Though nothing more is mentioned of him after this, Eldon
will always be remembered for his sharp mind, youthful sense of
adventure, and bravery that lead to the discovery of one of the
longest and most beautiful caves in New England.
For many years I was aware of this cave. I had
stumble on mention of it while involved in researching other natural
wonders of New England. I knew of nothing other than where it
was located , so I was never sure if it was a true cave or just
another bear den. Due to my lack of information, and its remote
location, I could never find a reason to visit it.
2006 I learned of
Eldon's story and the importance of this cave. Overnight what I
though would be a disappointment to see, had now been advance to the
top of my list. Though I had already confirmed its location on
historical maps, I spent a month doing further research before
venturing out. On previous adventures I've discovered that what may
appear to be the definitive "X" on a map, most often is actually
only an approximation. Also, when out in an unbeaten forest
you don't have signs to guide you along . Though Landmarks and
geological features can be helpful, unless they are
large and obvious, they can be hard to recognize. What can be
seen on a map, often is hidden under growth and forest debris.
Though I would be aided by a GPS, the rock face of the nearby slopes
can make it appear you are hundreds of feet from your true location.
This is where I thank the scouts for the years of training in
After reviewing my maps, geological surveys and obsessively
reading Eldon's story , I was ready to go. Since it would be
dangerous venture into a cave of this proportion alone, I recruited
my faithful hooligan Hooch. He was also an outdoor explorer I've
teamed up with many a time. Though his own adventures were very
different than this, his skills would be a valuable asset. We
both were anxious and excited. We expected this to be a fantastic
following Saturday we headed to the foothills we believe contained
the cave. Arriving around 11:30 and traveled the roads that lined
the perimeter of the forest
trying to size up where to enter. As we blindly circle the area, I
could help but notice the beautiful houses along the way. Well
preserved farm homes to prestigious colonial brick houses, each
stood out from the more modern home, with a dignity seasoned by
their style and individual history.
Soon we found
ourselves driving past what I believed had been young Eldon's home.
The GPS was pointing west and placed the cave less than a mile away.
Once we found a spot we could enter the forest, we returned to the
head of the road and parked the car at a rundown service station.
Quickly we made
our way into the forest. Though Eldon's cave was a historically and
geologically significant cave, it was a well kept secret that was
rarely visited. Where we penetrated the forest we could find no
clearly cut trail toward the cave, but I was certain that we
would start to see some signs beaten paths once we were close
Hooch lead the
way manning his GPS. Since I was confident we would easily
locate the cave, I didn't bring along my GPS nor my maps. I thought
it would be best to pack light as possible since we were going to be
exploring the deep
I had spent so much time reviewing the maps, I assumed that I would
have no problem navigating this tract of land. That was a decision I
would soon regret.
Hooch and I
proceeded WNW until we came to a brook that ran along side a rock
face. There was what appeared to be a trail along the brook showing
us that this area was of some interest to locals. The trail was on
the other side of the brook going parallel to the rock face
west ward and also north along a gentle slope. As Hooch began to
follow the trail west, I suddenly noticed something odd. All around
the forest floor were orange salamanders with brown spots. Shortly
after catching one for a closer look, Hooch returned to report that
the trail appeared to lead to nothing interesting. After taking a
moment to enjoy our new friend, we decided to explore the ledge for
any sign of a cave. Over the next half an hour or more we poked
around every crack and cleft we saw. Though there appeared to be
many hopeful crevices I had a gut feeling we weren't in the right
We took a break
for water and Fig Newtons and a chance to gather our thoughts. Hooch
wasn't as foolish as me and had brought along a topographical map of
general area. We reviewed the map to get our bearings. Since there
was no way of referencing our current location, the map was of
The GPS now was
telling us the cave was north east from our current location, so we
decided to follow north along the edge of the slope for a while and
the follow the bearing of the GPS toward the East.
Soon we found a
precipice longer and higher than the previous. We found a safe path
to the base and once again began to search for the cave. Though this
bluff appear to have even more possibilities, though I could
understand why, I once again felt we were not in the right place. We
spent a little time exploring and then moved on.
disappointed, we decided to trust the GPS, and see where it lead us.
We soon arrived at the destination to fins ourselves in the middle
of a large plateau. This was the last place I would expect to find a
cave. Looking off in all directions, I didn't see anything
resembling a ravine, brook stream bed, or even a noticeable slope in
the landscape. None of the features of the nearby terrain was even
remotely analogous, to my research materials. After circling away
and back to the same location a few time to assure the readings were
correct, we decided to call it a day.
As we began to
head back, not far from the point the GPS lead us to we noticed a
depression or sink hole in the ground. we had passed by before.
Hooch noticed a rock that had been shifted by human hands to reveal
a small burrow. Thinking this might be the cave, I strapped on my
headlamp and stuck my head in for a better look. It showed definite
signs of wear from running water, but seemed to come to its
conclusion about four feet in. It appeared to more likely be a den
for a fox or wolf. Little did we realize, we were very close to the
cave and were peering into fracture that probably drain into
Once we were back
home, I couldn't stop thinking about Eldon's cave. I needed to
figure out what ground we covered and what our mistake was.
>>>> Stay Tuned
for the conclusion! <<<<