Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Fieldtrip: The Batcave

We arrived back at the picnic area. The teachers had brought along some Match-Light charcoal as it is against the parks regulations to gather firewood. A little plan was formulated. Mrs. B. had two rocks that she was striking together over the fire and I slipped around and lit the fire with a Bic lighter. Mrs. J. yelled a cheer and the kids turned around as with the final clack of the rocks the fire leapt into the air. Soon the fire ebbed down and the kids held their weinies over the fire from the end of a wire clothes hanger. Although I had brought no beer, the S'mores for dessert took a lot of the sting out of the pain of cooking out without a cold beer.

After the meal, the class loaded back up into the Suburbans and made the twenty mile drive down the highway to the other end of the park. We finally made it to the point of the old railroad track. Once at that point, the ranger unlocked the gate and we made our journey down the 10 miles of track to reach Clarity Tunnel. The tracks crossed several wooden bridges and one long concrete one. I could not believe how narrow these bridges were. I had always thought that trains were wider than that but the side mirrors of the Suburbans had only a few inches of clearance on both sides. The kids had been warned of the bridges in advance so there were a few gasps but thankfully no screams.

Once we reached the tunnel, we were able to turn around and park about 100 yards away from the entrance to the tunnel in order not to scare the bats. The class took a short walk down the old railroad tracks and reached one of the bridges to gaze over the canyon beneath. As it was quickly approaching dusk, the ranger led the way back to the tunnel. When we got back, the first of the Mexican Freetail Bats were exiting the tunnel to make their nightly rounds. The ranger had explained that the bats fanned out over a fifty mile radius to forage for insects.

The bats as they were flying out in magnificent columns reminded me of schools of fish. All going in the same general path but taking various routes flying around each other in what appeared to be orchestrated confusion. Most of the bats were flying off to our right but soon the bats started flying directly over our heads, some flew so low that you could hear the whoosh of their passing and the soft beating of their wings. Watching two million bats flying overhead like columns of winged warriors is an experience that I will never forget. It seemed almost majestic in a way.

The trip back home was uneventful. The days excitement had worn down most of the kids so there was very little antics of the morning. I am glad that I was asked to go along. I cannot remember a fieldtrip half as enjoyable when I was a kid. I plan to go back this summer with the whole family to share this experience. There may be bigger canyons and there may be caves with greater numbers of bats but I doubt that any of those can equal this experience that I shared with my son and his class.

( The picture of the bats in flight were taken off of the web. The park does not allow flash photographs of the bats as it is disorienting to them and might in fact make them aggressive. Two million aggressive bats is something that I really did not want to experience.)


michaelm said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip, Fuzz.
Sometimes it is hard to put into words something so powerful.
It's nature at its finest.
I'd have a tough time getting the little woman to go to a batcave though...
She hates 'em.
Cool post.
Still healing?

later on,


ozymandiaz said...

My Bat Experience
A very short essay by me
Once, many years ago, it somehow became part of my work duties to determine the source of a wrather repugnant smell associated with a particular judges chamber in an old courthouse. It was believed to be due to rats. I climbed into the ceiling and found a wee bit of droppings but nothing to explain the strength of smell occuring. Now this was on the top floor of the courthouse in the south east corner and the top of the courthouse had a large squared of type of eaves surounding it. Being that only a two inch layer of styrofoam panal insulation seperated the judges ceiling space and the eaves I busted thru and proceeded to examine this area. So here is the picture, I am now crawling some two hundred foot in the air along this tenuous path in what is essentially a tunnel. Beneath me is a light mettal lattice filled in with a concrete stucko kinda stuff supported by two iron beams along either side and like I said a two hundred foot drop to the ground. On my right is the styrofoam panals and above and to my left massive concrete slapbs butted up against each other forming the roof and the facial of the eaves. So im making my way down this tunnel, strattling the stucko "floor" so I don't fall to my death and I'm hearing a lot of squeeking (ya know, the kind styrofoam makes, like with one of those coolers, same stuff)that seems to get more abundant as i move along and after I'm about thirty feet out into this situation I start to consider that something is really wrong here. I have found more poope, mounds of it in fact. I think to myself, wow, that's a lot of poop, there would have to be a thousand rats up here to make that much poop and I have yet to see a single one. That and the sqeeking going on is way to much to be attributed to the styrofoam that wasn't even moving. Then this little light goes on in my head. I examin again my surroundings. Where the roof cap and the facia meet is a gap that varied between one and two inches. I leaned my head over and shined my flashlight in the gap.
Slap fucking full of bats and they seem quite agitated by my presence. This really icky tingling sensation went down my spine. I was trapped. I was surrounded. I was suddenly not feeling very well which the strong amount of amonia surely wasn't helping.
Just so you know I made it out without incident or pummeling to my death (obviously). I ended up constructing an excluder to remove the bats (as it's against the law to irradicate them and I wouldn't want to do that anyhow) and only had to capture a couple (by hand) in the actual courthouse working space.
I have successfuly performed two more exclusions since then and am often refered to as
You guessed it

ella m. said...

I'd be a bit leery of walking near the home of that many bats, if only for the high risk of stepping in bat excrement.

Glad you made it back in one piece (and had some fun in the process).

Curare_Z said...

Admit it fell asleep on the way home. You don't know if there were any antics do you? :-)

Sounds like a great trip. I would have loved that as a kid!

Mimi said...

I would have surely screamed going over that bridge.

It really sounds like a great trip and I am glad you and your son got to share the experience.The only bats I have seen are the ones that we find floating in my moms pool.

starbender said...

Two million aggressive bats is something that I really did not want to experience-----------
'Cmon, where's U'r sense of adventure?
It would have been the field trip of field trips--we could have seen U on the news!
Sounds like a great trip anyhow! I've always enjoyed the kiddies on these!

guerrilla blogger said...

"and the kids held their weinies over the fire" is funny, it just is....aren't you glad you went now? that whole adventure sounds like it rocked, glad you had a great time...

:P fuzzbox said...

michael: It was a great trip. And I am healing nicely. Thanks for asking. One of the selling points about bats given by the park ranger was that yes bats carry rabies but that skunks were a far greater carrier of the disease. Not much reassurance, I thought.

ozy: I knew you were Batman. There could be no other explanation.

ella: I read one account from a hiker who walked through the tunnel. We did not so as to disturb the bats. On it was a pic of the inside of the tunnel. It looks as if it is two feet thick in bat guano. Yuck.

curare: I probably would have slept if it wasn't for little Danielle continueing her language lessons.

:P fuzzbox said...

mimi: It was hard taking pictures off of the bridge in a moving Suburban. In the shot that I have posted you can see the railing at the bottom of the picture and somewhat realize just how narrow the bridges are.

starbender: I am all for adventure but I still think back to the headlines of last week where a 13 year old girl died of rabies last week in East Texas. All I could think of is Cujo with wings.

gb: I think that I will take along my bike this summer. The trail would be good for it. Though a piece of advice from one site that I saw said to be sure and have fat tires and bring along a patch kit. There are still quite a few sharp pieces left from the old tracks.

Green Eyes said...

Wow, what an adventure, and to know you're taking the family back, seals the experience, doesn't it?

Glad you're feeling better!

Bruce said...

You're a braver man than me, fuzz. My hat's off to ya...

Crazy Dan said...

Sounds fun But you should have brought a net to catch one. I bet the Angry Joyce would love that.

:P fuzzbox said...

green eyes: Thank you. It sort of feels like when your arm first gets out of a cast and is all week and tingly.

bruce: I bet you could handle it. The only part that was actually scary was when we hiked down the tracks that we had driven over. The condition of the floor of the wooden boards was not exactly what I would call great.

cd: She would have loved that ;) I am waiting for that e-mail! I hope you can get it to me tonight. It would make a great Friday post. Three days at the top spot. Luvin' it!!!

siren said...

I would have loved to have seen all of those bats flying overhead. It really sounds like a great experience, and it's nice that you could have that with your son.

Lipgloss said...

I'm envious! Sounds like you had a blast!

Sherri said...

Yikes! Bats freak me out ever since the time we had one fly into the house and land on my back.

:P fuzzbox said...

siren: It is something that I hope will stick in his mind and he will share with his children some day.

lipgloss: It was loads of fun. Thanks for dropping in.

sherri: Bats are really cuties. It is just that they are a misunderstood animal :(

Pixie said...

A great story there Fuzz.
I loved the trying to impress the kids with the lighting of the fire with rocks.
Chester Zoo has a bat cave and I can sit in ther for hours ( well the smell gets a little unpleasent sometimes) but its great to just sit there and feel soft wooshed past your head.
They move so fast that you have trouble seeing them, the large bats sly slower but spend most of theor time hanging in the trees eating the fruit.

Glad you had such a good time, I dont think I would have liked going over the bridges either!

Jim said...

rr tracks are 4 ft 8 1/2 in apart, the overhang of the train on each side is 3 feet, so something more than 11 feet was needed -- the Suburban is over 6 1/2 feet w/o the mirrors, with big mirrors it would be a tight fit --

it all sounded like great fun!!!!!

Catch said...

Awww Fuzz I bet your son will always remember the trip to....its good that you two has such a wonderful time.

About the bats...Im scared of them....I always heard they could get tangled up in your hair....that would put me right pver the edge!!!!

Faith said...

I like Bats. I've never understood people's fear of them. I think they're cute.

Check out my new page

:P fuzzbox said...

pixie: They were easier for the kids to take going back in the dark.

jim: Sometimes you amaze the hell out of me.

catch: Thanks, and might I say that I really like how you have been doing your place up over there.

faith: I know they are great. I will check out your new site.

Bruce said...

I just remember that line from "The Big Chill" when Mary Kay Place's character said, "bats are nothing but rats with wings". I tend to lean toward that sentiment.

David Amulet said...

Reminds me of the breathy Kim Basinger line in the Batman movie with Michael Keaton: "BATS!"

-- david

The Phoenix said...

We need more bats here in the Midwest to get rid of all these pesky mosquitoes. I remember going to San Antonio, and I noticed there weren't any 'skeeters.
A local said it's because the city brought in a trillion bats or something.

As long as they don't land on me, I'm cool with bats.

Keshi said...

Im a bit scared of the bats...tho when I was a kid, I used to play with baby bats :):)

**He started taking pictures with his disposable camera right and left to the point that his entire roll of film would be used up before we even started the excursion.



Ben O. said...

Cool stuff and nice shots - Bats are cool.

Ben O.

:P fuzzbox said...

bruce: Many share that sentiment. I have heard squirrels referred to as tree rats.

david: That was a good line. Thanks for popping in. It has been awhile.

phoenix: In this area the primary food source of the Mexican Freetail Bats is the Cotton Bollworm Moth. This pest can devestate a cotton crop so the bats perform a valuble service to the area.

keshi: I can see you playing with them. Maybe you should be Batgirl.

ben: Thanks. And It's great seeing you.