On the Town Branch, part 2
By Danny Mayer
I first heard about the Town Branch in a geography class at the University of Kentucky, early in 2001. We didn’t talk much about the creek itself. It was the thing that oriented us differently on the maps: our skeletal framework, a northwesterly axis, something railroad ties covered.
It would be another six years before Town Branch appeared to me in all its cavernous damp wonder. While visiting a farm in Keene, Kentucky, I happened upon an urban caver and all-around fire-master—a man who introduced himself as “Thom-with-an-H,” the last three syllables rolling away from the lazy ‘m’ like the sharp uncoiling of a lasso (tom,with-in-atche). Over a long fire that spanned several days, Thom-with-an-H recounted to me stories of cave trips taken beneath the greater Lexington substrata. Several of these stories began or ended nearby the Town Branch Creek; a few involved walking up-creek from the edge of the Rupp Arena parking lot, into the culvert, and underneath downtown.
During that summer of 2007, I sat for hours and listened to Thom-with-an-H talk, marveling all the while at the holes his caves were poking into my Lexington maps. It was quite heady stuff to imagine one descending underground at Cardinal Valley and emerging in Southland, or disappearing into the west end of Rupp only to re-appear one block east of the East End.