One of Nova Scotia's most interesting geological features, long known to local area teenagers, lies hidden in the gypsum cliffs of South Maitland: Hayes Cave. Hayes Cave is one of only two known caves Kris and I could find any information on, but what a doozy!
Just down a rough road in the community of Latties Brook lies a small set of white gypsum cliffs along the Five Mile River. Getting to the cave is actually very easy, crossing the river at the right spot lands us on a footpath that leads around the end of the cliffs and the mouth of the cave. It was hard to miss, the small cave opening is surrounding by colorful graffiti. I continued along the path while Kris fastened his headlamp and crawled in. Further up the path climbs to the cliff tops and winds its way around large sinkholes. When I was sure there was nothing more to see on the outside, I made my way underground.
The feeling is a strange one. My headlamp was good at throwing light straight ahead of me, but the rest was pitch black. Light revealed no walls or ceilings close by. In fact, it was somewhat dark below me, too. From the mouth of the cave I made my way in and started descending to the edge of a quiet pond of water. The ceiling was very high overhead and there was no sign of Kris. After some shouting, Kris returns from a short side tunnel and joins me in the black. We were in an enormous underground space maybe 20 metres high and 40 metres wide. I should have brought a floodlight, for the flash from my camera couldn't throw light far enough. I don't think the photos get across how exciting it was in that cave.
We made our way deeper, the daylight fading behind us. The footing was unstable as we walked over boudlers and rocks made slippery by a thin layer of thick, sticky mud. This mud was everywhere and we very quickly resigned ourselves to getting dirty. The deeper we went, the more bats we noticed clinging to the ceiling. They were quiet for the most part, except for the occasional squeak. I also was sad to notice beer bottles and other signs of life no matter how far in we went.
We made our way as we breathed vapour into our headlamp beams. The ceiling gradually got lower and we were careful not to disturb any bats as we crouched. Every once in a while a bat would fly from one wall to the other and Kris would find himself in their way. We had been ambling along for close to half an hour when the passage close up considerably. The ceiling was low and the walls were narrow. We scampered along the muddy rocks until we could go no further. The massive cavern had ended in a small twisting crack that Kris couldn't resist exploring on his belly.
Satisfied that we could penetrate the cave no further, we made our way back. At one point we turned our headlamps off to sit a moment in the absolute darkness. It was a neat feeling not being able to see my hand in front of my face. We slowly approached the crack of daylight ahead when I realized how much better my eyes had adjusted to the cave in just an hour. Emerging from the hole back into daylight left me squinting and dirty.
Exploring Hayes Cave made me wish there were more interesting places like this in the province-- off the beaten path. It helps to remind me that there is still plenty to see in Nova Scotia if you're willing to get dirty.
Just down a rough road in the community of Latties Brook lies a small set of white gypsum cliffs along the Five Mile River. Getting to the cave is actually very easy, crossing the river at the right spot lands us on a footpath that leads around the end of the cliffs and the mouth of the cave. It was hard to miss, the small cave opening is surrounding by colorful graffiti.
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Posted By: rnick
- Tue Aug 03 11:29:17 UTC 2010
CommentI have lived in Bridgewater for 35 years and have never heard of the Hayes Caves because according to the description they are off of the Five Mile river not the Lahave which runs through Bridgewater.
Posted By: The Big X
- Fri May 14 01:06:02 UTC 2010
CommentI haven't done this excursion but after reading the description I thought I might mention something that might be a "game changer" for some people.
In the description, the author states: "The footing was unstable as we walked over boudlers and rocks made slippery by a thin layer of thick, sticky mud. "
If there are as many bats in the cave as reported, and they make this cave their permanent home, in all likelihood that "thin layer of thick, sticky mud"may very well be BAT POOP. No kidding.
... Just so you come prepared ;)
Posted By: Kare Bear
- Mon Jun 23 17:52:46 UTC 2008
UpsideThis is a great review of the cave. I especially like the directions. They seem vague but if you follow them you will not have any trouble finding the caves. DownsideToo bad the writer didn't get a chance to explore the caves in their entirety. CommentHey whats up? I was on google searching for hayes cave that I had visited with my brothers a few years ago and would like to go back. I was looking for directions and I think the ones you have provided will be perfect to help me find the caves again. I read your adventure log about spalunking in the cave and I wanted to give you an fyi (if you didn't already know, you might find this interesting if you ever go back to the bat caves). Not sure if you went down a different tunnel or something then we did but when we entered the cave, we headed to the right wall and stayed as close to the wall as we could during the entire length of the cave. As we continued we found ourselves climbing some quite treacherous terrain and uneven ground, mostly sharp jagged rocks. We followed the right wall of the cave for about 2 hours and when we got to the end we found an opening in the other side of the cave. To get to the opening we had to shimmy up a very narrow, completely vertical tunnel about 10 feet. Myself, being 5'1 and about 150lbs, the tunnel was almost too tight for me to fit through and there is no room to move yours arms or legs at all to pull yourself or climb through. After much physically excruciating effort and the help pf my brothers pushing on the bottom of my feet, I made it through this tiny opening to emerge about half way between the top and bottom of a 1000 ft mountain side. After my brothers made it through the tunnel and out onto the side of the mountain with me, we started our climb to the top. Terrified for my life, we grasped the exposed roots of the trees and used them to pull ourselves up as we climbed about 500 feet to the top. Once at the top we really had no idea where we were in relation to the opening of the cave where we had left our travelling companions, but going back through the cave was no longer an option. We carefully made our way across several deep black cravasses by way of trees that had fallen down that we slowly teetered cross. Eventually we came to the edge of the cliff where we could look down to see the opening of the cave. We made our way to the left side of the huge rock where we found a rope that we used to climb down the side back to then entrance of the cave. I swore that I was lucky to have survived and that I would never do it again, but in retrospect, it is one of my fondest memories that I shared with my bro while he was alive. I thought you might be interested in checking it out again...if you're up for an adventure!