Many, many years ago, before I was "into" caving, I was shown the location of a cave on Alma Hill. I was with members of our cycling club out for a ride. I can't remember exactly who showed me the cave, but maybe it was a guy named Lance (last name escapes me) or perhaps the English brothers (Rich and Dave?) who rode with us.
I was led into the woods a short distance from the road at a point of a very obvious (modern) landmark. When you know the landmark you can't miss the location (this is a hint).
We came to a very small rock outcrop with a small overhang and a fire-pit. It looked like a hunters rest stop or a party place for teens. Not much there except for some rocks and boulders.
Then I was led down into the woods further, into or near a ravine or deep cut in the hill. Near the top of this ravine, what looked to be above a spring or creek was a smaller group of rocks or boulders.
Among the boulders was a small hole. I was told this was a very deep cave. At the time, not being a caver, BUT being afraid of snakes (there were rattle snakes in the area), I chose not to explore any further and made a mental note to come back at a later date! ......WAY LATER !
Now, as fate has it (twenty years later), I'm a leader of cave trips, and after having located and/or explored over 100 "wild" caves, this is right up my alley.
Funny how things change. When I was shown the cave, I wouldn't have gone in it for a million bucks, but now that I'm searching for caves to explore, I'd pay good money to find the exact location of the hole.
Actually, I'm fairly confident I can re-locate the rock out-cropping and the cave entrance. With a "crew" I'm thinking we can re-locate this and explore the cave in one long day.
More often than not, my 20 year old memories are dead on when it comes to directions in the woods.
Note: March 4th 2006 we did in fact locate the cave/lead mine/ice cave thanks to my crack crew, and especially Dave Ray.
Here is something interesting I came across on the internet. I'm quite sure this is talking about the same cave or "mine".
Our recent visit to Alma Hill Cave:
Saturday March 4th -
This was a trip to TRY to re-find a cave I've been to many, many years ago. I had my doubts about finding this cave. When I was showed this cave, I was not into caves at all, and I had absolutely no interest in it. It wasn't until years later that I became interested in exploring caves. My memories of the area were old, but amazingly accurate. Or, should I say, accurate enough to locate the cave!
Before I attempted to re-find this cave, I did some research on the internet and came across an interesting story about the Alma Hill Cave it seems this cave had a Seneca Indian legend attached to it. It was supposed to have been a "lead mine", that was mined each year by the Seneca Indians from the Cornplanter Reservation.
Because of the local geology, THAT should be an impossibility, but hey, there isn't supposed to be gold and silver around here and there were/are gold and silver mines around, so what the heck, a lead mine shouldn't be as strange and impossible as a GOLD mine!
Today's trip was me (John), Dave Ray, Amy from Allegany, Mary, Katherine and Jen. A real great crew. Why we get more woman then men on these type of hikes (exploring), I'll never know.
My memory told me that we entered the woods and found a rock outcropping with an overhang cave in the front of it, and then the main cave was west or south west of this first rock outcrop. We walked right to the first outcrop! It was further in the woods than I remembered it. ... Now to find the main cave, or lead mine.
After the first rock area we walked in the direction that I thought we should head, but we got twisted and ended up back toward the road. After checking the map and re-directing the group we headed toward the right direction.
We came upon a second rock outcrop with several promising holes to check out. Mary found a few interesting holes. We found several that might be "bat caves" and porcupine dens. Within minutes, Dave found "THE" cave. But in all fairness to the Indian Gods, I was carrying my "Indian spirit walking stick", the one that saved my life at Zoar Valley. Just before anybody found the cave, I had tripped on the rocks and my walking stick pointed uphill directly to where Dave ended up locating the opening. Was this just a coincidence? I DID bring my Indian walking stick specifically to use to locate the cave. Do you believe the Indian spirits led us to the cave? ... OR was it just dumb luck, a coincidence, and my 15 to 18 year old memory being not so bad after all!
We really lucked out! Factor in, that when showed this cave, we were on a bicycle trip, and I was not interested in the cave or caves at all. But then, many years later, became interested in caves, and specifically locating wild caves. Over the years I have located and visited over 130 caves and rock areas similar to this one. It's absolutely amazing to me that I was able to get us "into the ballpark", let alone walking up to the cave.
I was at first doubtful about weather this was the cave that I visited, some 15 or 18 years before. I may have remembered it differently, but finally I concluded this was in fact the cave. I reasoned that after all the years of people looking for this specific cave, if there were others around (the Alma Hill area) rumors and stories of them would have surfaced. They did not. There are only stories of one cave on this side of Alma Hill.
As we approached the cave, I told Jen that if this was the cave, we would find old carvings outside the entrance and sure enough, we did. In a protected, dry overhang we found a date of 1911 and then we found some obviously older writings with the date 6/'97 ... and YES it meant 1897! It was way too old to have been 1997. There are several old carvings that are likely the date in roman numerals (like outside Hermit's Den Cave).
The opening was an "ice cave" with ice on the floor and around the entrance. Then it dropped into a room, with passages off of that room. Mary and Dave saw a passage that went into another room, but it proved to be impossible to get into, but we may come back, more prepared and try to push the passage again. I got a solid GPS reading outside the cave.
Mary, Katherine, Dave and Amy all went into the cave. Jen and I waited outside.
Was this the infamous Indian Lead Mine? Well, we did see some gray colors on the cave walls that were definitely lead colored. No, we did not find any lead or any traces of lead.
Given the geology of the region and the way rumors and history sometimes tend to "twist" things, it's my educated guess that somewhere along the line, somebody entered this cave and saw the convincingly gray-lead colored rocks in a room that was unreachable and called this a "lead mine". Then to spice the story up a bit, added the Indian story about this being mined by famous Indians.
The photos below really show the lead colored rocks real good. Even though I'm convinced that we DID find the correct "mine", and all we found was lead colored rocks, I am checking with Dar and Sandy Dowdy from the Faithkeepers School in Steamburg NY to see if they have mention of this Indian legend.
I really hate to be the one to de-bunk such a legend as the story of the Cornplanter Indians making the trek from Corydon, all the way to Alma Hill each year, to mine lead from a sand-stone cave, but I'd say the rumor or legend was definitely untrue. NO, there was no lead or evidence of lead or any other heavy metal, BUT there were many rocks colored "Lead-Gray".
I am going to ask everybody who was on this trip with me, to please keep this place a secret, until I find out if my Indian friends have any interest in this. This MAY have been called the "Lead Mine" or "Lead Cave" (incorrectly), BUT still have had some significance to the Indians.
This cave is well hidden, and if you don't know exactly where to find it, it could take many years, or a lifetime to find, like in the instance of Elmer Watson who searched for this cave his whole lifetime without finding it, God rest his soul.
This was an exciting trip and it's a shame some of you, who I know would have loved this, missed it!
There are a few nice flat "table rocks" near by so watch for a spring, or summer "picnic" trip to this location!
Here are a few photos:
Katherine and Mary