Sunday, November 30, 2014

CAVING WEST VIRGINIA – UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE! With Calvary Temple Youth

November 17, 2014
Group Meeting Room

I was trying hard not to chuckle as I heard the familiar complaints: “Dude, that is not my foot!” and “I am pretty sure there is no way out of here!” I was perched in a small tunnel opening in the lowest chamber of a cave that we take the Calvary Temple youth group into. We were 100 feet underground about two hours from Calvary Temple in Sterling Virginia (link).
I was trying to be quiet so that I don’t give away my position. Caving Pancake room Even more than the rappelling, chimneying, navigating the pancake room, or lunch, I enjoy the “lights out” challenge the most. The kids are taken to a “safe” passageway in the cave where there are no cliffs or otherwise dangerous drops and then they must turn of their lights, choose a leader and proceed to find me hidden in the tunnel. The roughly 50 yard journey only takes about three minutes with the use of a light but in the chaos of total darkness it can take 20 to 40 minutes.

Lunch Underground
Now if you are imagining a large cave with a flat floor like the mountain guru of the comic strips would live in, than you are mistaken. If you have ever been spelunking in one of the fine limestone caves near the Potomac river in West Virginia you know that they are damp and slippery. The caves in this area rarely have a room or tunnel with little or no slope. The ground water that makes it into the cave is full of very fine sediment that produces super slippery, sticky mud.

When we begin the “lights out” challenge it is fascinating to hear who in the group is chosen to lead. Then the group must establish commands and orders to follow in the dark. The first commands are rather humorous. Directions like “Look over here” and “see where I put my foot” are useless. Those commands are quickly mocked because in a cave without any source of light you cannot see your hand or anything even if it is one inch in front of your face. This is also a good time to remind the youth of the darkness and loneliness of hell and how much Father loves us to keep us from eternal darkness (follow this link to see how to avoid hell). It reminds me of Matthew 6:23 that says that if your light be darkness how great is that darkness. Matthew 15:14 also comes to mind about leaving them alone for they are the blind leading the blind. I could hear the blind trying to lead the blind.
Rigging for a long descent

For a while everybody talks at once, giving their opinion of where they should go or what my last instructions may have been. Some of the teams over the years have been very disciplined, purposing to hold hands and let the leader be the only one speaking. These teams usually succeed rather quickly. The leader then fans out feeling around the cold damp walls for where the next opening in the tunnel may be. Since you are climbing up over sections of rock in the tunnel that could be eight feet tall, the team must work to together to hoist each other up over the obstacles. Tunnels will open into rooms where they must decide, by feel, which is the passage out to the next tunnel.
Caving Tunnel

The trickiest part of the challenge is when they get to the last room. The tunnel that I am hiding in is up in the corner of the room and is difficult to find. It gets very narrow so I have had some leaders get within a couple of feet of my face and turn around because they couldn't tell that it was the way out. It is at this point that they usually get quite frustrated and want to each express their distrust of the leader. The good leaders, of which we have had many, usually stop the group from talking and begin to get quiet.

One of the fascinating things that happens when you lose your sense of sight is that other senses begin to heighten. Your sense of hearing increases. You can feel subtle things, like the slightest breeze. Good leaders stop and listen for the sound of my breathing or the steady dripping of water coming from the large cavern at the opening where I hide. Some have even felt the slight air moving from the tunnel to the large outer chamber.

Jim and I getting our bearings
It is a big relief when they finally reach my boot or touch my leg and I turn my light on.
The team had to organize, communicate, and move through a complex obstacle in a very unfamiliar environment. It is one of the best activities to build teamwork that I have been a part of.
My wife Kimberly and I with some of the gang


Throughout their journey they have had to trust and help each other every step of the way. They have had to learn how to advance between two cave walls where there is no floor by wedging their bodies between the two walls with their feet on one side and their back on the other, a practice called chimneying. Each member of the group has had to trust the one going before him to direct him to hand and foot holds. The person behind him must be ready to support him should he fall.


I have yet to get our senior pastor, Pastor Star R. Scott (click here for link) into the cave. I hope to get him in there one of these days. This is one of the best youth events of the year. It is an unforgettable experience. It teaches teamwork, causes one to learn how to function in a completely foreign environment, and builds community. It is not uncommon to speak to kids that were in my youth group many years ago, who have kids of their own who testify that if they could get through the cave they could do anything!

Reprinted with permission; https://calvarytempleyouth.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/caving-west-virginia-underground-adventure/

Questions?

If you want more information about taking youth groups caving, or you’re just curious about what’s involved with getting kids underground, visit the National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee at www.caves.org/youth. Or you can email me directly at allenmaddox@youcave.org. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Subscribe to our newsletter Join me on Twitter @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,
Allen


“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Crew 363 Lock In

Crew 363 has been doing the Lock In for 3 years and used the Squeeze Box for 2 of those to help them recruit and show how much fun their Crew is. This year I stayed to help.
For those who don’t know what a Squeeze Box is, it’s a tool that cavers use to see how small of a space they can get into, and out of again. It’s also a lot of fun to play with and the kids enjoy this as much as adults do. Probably more. They try to beat each other’s record and try to beat their own previous smallest squeeze.














The one thing I forgot about with Lock Ins is that nobody really sleeps. It was tough to keep up with them.

Questions?

If you want more information about taking youth groups caving, or you’re just curious about what’s involved with getting kids underground, visit the National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee at www.caves.org/youth. Or you can email me directly at allenmaddox@youcave.org. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Subscribe to our newsletter Join me on Twitter @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,
Allen


“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Argenta Cave Trip Report

June 14, 2014
Troop 214 from Helena, Montana participated in a caving trip to the Argenta Cave in Southwest Montana. This trip was the end goal of the Venture Patrol that began last year with a presentation on caving from Vern Bowden, a member of the National Speleological Society, an introductory trip to the Dragon’s Breath Lava Tube in Idaho, several training sessions to practice rappels and vertical rope climbs.
The trip to Argenta started with mapping the location on the USGS quad map with coordinates provided by Vern. Most caves are no longer shown on quad maps due to vandalism. It is recommended to contact the local Grotto to find out more about caves in your area and to enlist a caving guide to assist with training, cave etiquette, and proper cleaning procedures to limit the risk of diseases to bats.
The two hour trip brought the Patrol to a primitive campground after seeing elk, deer, jack rabbits, and a bald eagle. Bear scat was evident in the area and numerous wildflowers were in bloom. It was estimated that snow must have left the site about two weeks prior to our arrival. The patrol unloaded, setup camp and then had a great game of bocci ball to pass the time away. It appeared that we might get rained on, but the storm clouds passed us by. Since the snow was melting at higher elevation, a local creek was running high. A few hundred feet away from the cave entrance, the creek disappeared into the ground.
Vern and his son Anthony (affectionately known as Crunch) arrived at the site about 8am and rigged the ropes, a primary and a backup, at the entrance to the cave. The Patrol finished breakfast, donned caving harnesses & helmets, checked for three sources of light with backup batteries, water, pee bottles, first aid, and snacks. The Patrol members checked each other’s harnesses and we arrived at the entrance to the cave.
The entrance to the cave has a perimeter wooden fence that served as a boundary. Crunch entered the cave first with a cry of “On Rope” and Vern remained behind to ensure that each scout was properly harnessed and gave the proper commands. The descent to the cave is estimated to be about a 40 foot drop. The first part was near vertical with ice clinging to the rocks, making for a slippery rappel. The last 15 feet was pure vertical with no wall to brace your feet on. While scouts were descending on either 8-rings or ATC’s, Vern commented on the ferns that grow around the cave entrance. This is fairly common at the entrances to caves that breathe, helping to maintain a somewhat constant air temperature year round. We used 11 mm pit rope for this and one of the ATC’s could not be used due to the very stiff nature of the rope. This rope is much stiffer than static rope and much stiffer than dynamic rope used by climbers.
When all of the scouts finished their rappels, we proceeded into the darkness. We climbed down a rocky path and observed ice goblins (stalagmites made of ice). Deeper in the cave, Anthony setup another rope to assist with another climb down. This rope was left behind to help us climb back up on the way out. Vern and his family have been to this cave many times in the past and seemed to know their way around extremely well. Vern and Crunch have been to caves all over the country and have found and mapped new caves.
The Patrol took a photo by a large pipe organ formation. Names were seen all over the cave. This is not what we do today as it takes away from the cave. The cave is a unique environment and we leave nothing behind except our footprints. Older signatures from as far back as the 1860’s were observed written in the soot from carbide lamps. Long before batteries lit the way.
We turned our lights off at one point in the trip and made sounds like a cave animal. Thankfully, no answers came back. We did keep out eyes open for bats, but none were seen.
Most of the cave was tall enough to stand in, but to access some locations, we had to get on our hands and knees, and then on our bellies. The Mousehole was one of these locations. To get there, you had to wiggle on your belly backwards for about 20 feet. The Mousehole seemed to be only 12” wide but must have been larger. It is actually 6”x18”. Crunch and Daniel were the only ones able to enter the chamber beyond the hole. Crunch commented that someone appeared to have been working in the chamber as it now goes back another 8 feet from the last time he was there.
Moving though the caves, Vern commented on stalactites that were destroyed by vandalism. It will take hundreds of years to regrow these unique structures that hang from the ceiling. Crunch showed us how the calcite deposits would glow from lights. It would be difficult if you had to rely on the light provided by others in some of the tight crawl spaces.

We climbed up to the “Lake” by climbing up about 12 feet to a ledge and then climbing up another 10 feet or so. We crawled on our hands and knees to the “Lake” where we crossed while attempting to stay dry. The “Lake” is a puddle that is about three feet wide and around 6-9” deep. There is no way around the “Lake”, so we had to go over the top of it. Most of us got wet. Right after that was another small crawlspace that required you to wiggle on your belly to get through.
This opened up to a larger chamber. Coming out was a lot easier that going in, simply because you knew that you could do it. This was described as being a little larger than a birth canal. A caver’s terminology.




One part of the cave had old spikes hammered into the wall with a rope hanging down. Daniel and Brandon each made it to the first ledge and then guided back down with words from Ed, an experienced mountaineer.
Other small holes were accessed and smiles were evidenced on all, including Mark and Jake. “This is fun” was heard from more than one scout as well including Logan who had nothing but happy thoughts.
In all we learned new skills, overcame our fears, and pushed ourselves to places that we never thought we would go. Lots of encouragement was shared all day and this helped us to continue on. No one was pushed into places that they did not want to go.
We arrived back at the entrance and put on the ascending part of the harness. Most of us used the Frog system to ascend, and two used the ladder system. The Frog system is typical for cavers, and is comprised of a chest mounted Croll and a hand ascender with a foot loop. The ladder system is mostly used by mountaineers and climbers and uses two hand ascenders and a foot strap. Individually, we climbed vertically up the rope for about 15 feet where we met a ledge where the rope held tight to the rocks. To get past the ledge, we had to detach the hand ascender and reattach it to the rope past the ledge. We continued up past the ice towards the light and near the end we were able to climb without the use of the ropes. Safety was adhered to at all times and no one was injured.
A group photo was taken at the end. In all we were in the cave for about 6 hours at a constant 41 degrees. If you asked any of us how long, we wouldn’t know if it had not been for watches. I’m not really sure if time stood still while we were gone or if it sped up. The outside world was foreign for only a few seconds while we readjusted to the warmth and the light of the sun. Even though it was obscured by clouds and a slight snowfall.
The Boy Scouts are fortunate to have members like Vern and Anthony who are willing to share their experiences with us. We will preserve the caves like we preserve our memories. Leave only footprints.


Questions?

If you want more information about taking youth groups caving, or you’re just curious about what’s involved with getting kids underground, visit the National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee at www.caves.org/youth. Or you can email me directly at allenmaddox@youcave.org. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Subscribe to our newsletter Join me on Twitter @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,
Allen


“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dragon’s Breath Lava Tube Trip

By Ethan Wheeler, Life Scout, Troop 214, Helena, MT

I was elected Patrol Leader of the Venture Patrol and was challenged with coming up with a high adventure activity. I talked to the patrol about some options and they voted for a caving trip. We were connected to Vern Bowden through a message left with the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto.

On September 25, 2013, Vern came to a meeting with the scouts planning on going. He brought lots of interesting pictures, brochures and a slideshow explaining the rules and concerns with caving. He also handed out equipment lists for the trip. He explained what to expect at Dragon’s Breath, and we were excited to check it out.

The actual caving date was set for October 18-19, 2013. We ended up having 6 scouts and 2 adults go on the trip, plus Vern. We followed him out to the camping spot. The area seemed like a desert wasteland. It was hard to imagine anything interesting being out there. We set up camp and cooked dinner. There was an awesome sunset that night and it cooled off quickly, down to 14 degrees at the lowest point-frost points!

The next morning we got up and after breakfast, Vern helped us get our helmets ready, made sure we had the gear we needed, and also showed us how to properly wear a harness, which we hope to make use of on a future caving trip.

We drove to a spot near the entrance and geared up. We still couldn’t tell there was a cave out there. As we walked closer, it finally showed up. It was a big rubble pit with a small opening at one side.

We had to squeeze in through the opening, but once inside, it opened up into a very large area. We had to climb down a rubble pile to get to the floor of the tube. From there, we had to cross more rubble for a short time, and then got to level ground.

Many of the walls and ceiling had lots of melted rock that almost looked like plastic. The floor was a variety of colors with an orange channel through the middle.

When we got to the end of the tube, we had lunch and rested. It was dead quiet. After awhile we headed back to the entrance. Everyone had a great time. It was like a whole different world in there.

A few comments from other scouts:

The caving trip last summer was a blast! I loved the waterfalls that we saw on our way to the desert in Idaho. It was not challenging but that probably just left us with more time to awe at the parts of the cave that the tour guide showed us. Overall the camping experience was fun–especially with all older boys– and the leadership was good. The rides to and fro were exciting (mostly through the desert wondering if we where going to a Zombie cave.) One of our best campouts. – Logan

Jake a man of few words, said “it was cool, caves....dark & fun”. He said it was fun because it was a small group.

Questions?

If you want more information about taking youth groups caving, or you’re just curious about what’s involved with getting kids underground, visit the National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee at www.caves.org/youth. Or you can email me directly at allenmaddox@youcave.org. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


Subscribe to our newsletter Join me on Twitter @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,
Allen


“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Youth Groups Liaison Committee (YGLC) Report Q3 2014

Youth Groups Liaison Committee (YGLC) Report
Q3 2014

Regional Reports
·         Arizona Regional Association – No RC
·         Mid Atlantic Region – Allen Maddox
Caving Program for Camp Horseshoe at a stalling point.
Checked-in with Grottos about putting YGL information on their web sites. Some have responded positively, but I haven't seen changes yet.
There was some interest in a cave geology program in a NJ school.
There is an interest is a caving program for BSA Area 6 V-Week (summer camp).
I have solicited to a local YMCA camp to help develop a caving program for their summer camp.
·         Mississippi Valley-Ozark Region – No RC
·         Northeastern Regional Organization – No RC
·         Northwest Caving Association – Debbie Spoon
·         Ozark Valley Region – Eric Edelman
·         Rocky Mountain Region – No RC
·         Southeastern Regional Association – Lewis Baker
·         Southwestern Region - Deanna Younger
·         Texas Speleological Association – Mark Alman
Pretty quiet summer here in Texas.
My kids and I took a local DFW Boy Scout Troop caving in Austin in August and I gave a cave talk at a Powderhorn Course south of Waco earlier this month.
·         Virginia Region – Joey Fagan
 I continue to field requests from youth organization leaders for information on caving by facilitating contacts with cavers who live near the inquiring group(s) and supplying information on cave conservation and safety.  A majority of inquiries seem come from scouting and church groups in the northern Virginia Area.  
The NSS publication "A Guide to Responsible Caving" is a good general introduction that I generally pass along electronically to those who request information.
Earl and Cheryl Suitor have been a valuable resource to offer assistance to some of those groups from time to time.  Cavers from the VPI Grotto and Blue Ridge Grotto (in particular, Marian McConnell) are leading occasional trips for scout groups.  The Blacksburg, Virginia Recreation Department conducts occasional caving trips for youth around Blacksburg (their outdoor program is coordinated by Travis Coad, an NSS member and VPI Caver).
The recent acquisition of New River Cave by the NSS will benefit NSS caver-led youth group caving efforts. 
The VA Region Coordinator NSS website was recently updated, with future updates planned.
·         Western Region - Steve Deveny


Old Business
·         I have been asked to review and submit suggestions for revision to the “Caving: A Policy Statement and Guidelines on Caving Prepared by the Youth Groups Liaison Committee of the National Speleological Society and the Boy Scouts of America”. This is in progress.
·         I have been asked to work on a “Caving Program Feature” for the Boy Scouts of America.
·         I have been asked to review and update YGLC web site and links. This is in progress.
·         I would like to develop some kind of online database for the YGLC that keeps track of contacts for cavers, grottos, and youth organization contacts in specific NSS Regions. No new progress.
·         I would like to change tactics with the YGLC. At this point we have been taking a more passive approach to interfacing with youth organizations. We have a web page that shows what we have to offer youth organizations. From what I have been told that web page received about 100 views last month. With the millions of youth organizations members across the US this is not good. I would like to take a more aggressive marketing approach and actually reach out to other organizations to show them what we have to offer their programs. More details to do this will be explored and reported on later. No new progress.
·         To pull off the last two bullets the YGLC will need some type of budget. I would like to explore how to raise funds to do these and other projects in the future.
·         Looking for Regional Coordinator for Arizona Regional Association.
·         Have a potential Regional Coordinator for Mississippi Valley-Ozark Region
·         Looking for Regional Coordinator for Rocky Mountain Region.



New Business
·         I have tried to increase activity to generate awareness of Youth group caving on social media sites. Some success.
·         Starting to look at what resources are needed to increase the outreach of the YGLC.
·         Starting to look at what would need to be in a budget for 2016.

Problems
·         Need to get more Regions and Grottos involved in the YGLC.

·         Need more visibility.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Boy Scout Halloween Events at Lincoln Caverns, Pennsylvania

Lincoln Caverns has great activities for youth groups. I want to share with you their calendar of events for Boy Scouts. If you want to make a reservation for any of these activities, send them an email or call 814.643.0268. Let them know where you saw this. Enjoy these great activities design specifically for your Scouts.


Announcing...2013/2014 Great Events for Great Boys at Lincoln Caverns! 
Pennsylvania's Scout Friendly Cave



Registration is now open for 2013/2014 Scout Events at Lincoln Caverns!
Events for Cub Scouts, Webelos and Boy Scouts of All Ages and Interests! 
 
FALL 2013 EVENTS...


September 20 - 22, 2013 - Boy Scout Geocaching & Mammal Study Camporee  *NOTE DATE CHANGE
October 12 - 13, 2013 - Boy Scout Ghosts & Goblins Party with Geology Merit Badge
November 9, 2013 - Webelos Geologist Day
November 9, 2013 - Cub Scout Geology OR Map & Compass Beltloop & Pin Day
November 16, 2013 - Webelos Geologist Day
 
WINTER/SPRING 2014 EVENTS...
January 24 - 26, 2014 - Boy Scout Geology & Geocaching Winter Indoor Camporee
March 8, 2014 - Webelos Geologist Day
March 15, 2014 - Cub Scout Geology OR Map & Compass Beltloop & Pin Day
April 26, 2014 - Webelos Geologist Day
June 6 - 8, 2014 - Boy Scout Geocaching & Geology Camporee

 
How to register...  

Now is the time to plan a great weekend of fun at Lincoln Caverns!  Small troop?  Enjoy meeting Scouts from other areas?  Register today for one of the great events listed above.  No minimum fees apply!  Full descriptions are available in the Scout Leaders Area of our website.  Now register online by clicking on the event of your choice in our online calendar Of course, reservations are also accepted by phone, fax, or mail, too!
All registrations accepted on a first-come/first-serve basis.  Don't delay - contact us today!

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 Individual Troop Programs...  

Any Day...Any Time...Year Round...Subject to Date Availability                                              
Troop 36 at LC
Customize your program to suit your troop's interests, needs & budget...

Individual Pack and Troop programs for Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts are available year round.  Minimum program fees apply.  Lincoln Caverns offers indoor slumber party style lodging and seasonal camping on site.  Other group camping and lodging options in the area are also available.   
Lots of choices for one day programs...
Geology and Map & Compass Belt Loop & Pin
NEW SCIENCE Belt Loop & Pin features water, rocks, & caves in a hands-on 5 ¼ hour program, including cavern tour!
NEW WILDLIFE CONSERVATION Belt Loop & Pin includes endangered, species, bats & cave life PLUS bat house building and cavern tours for 6 hours of fun!
 
Webelos Geologist Badge
Our Own Geocaching Program for Webelos
Our Own Junior Cave Explorer Patch Program
Geology, Mammal Study (All About Bats), and Geocaching Merit Badges 
 
Combine two for a great overnight experience...Combo Choices for Cub Scouts, Webelos & Boy Scouts!     
 


Scout Out Huntingdon CountyWe are a proud partner with Scout Out Huntingdon County Heritage Trail Patch Program!  A five segment patch program exploring some of the lesser known areas of our spectacularly beautiful and diverse county - Hike, bike or canoe between some great campsites and visit us along the way for the Badge program of your choice!  Visit Scout Out Huntingdon County at Raystown.org for all the details or give us a call today!  
More Cub Scouts   
Lincoln Caverns has been providing quality programming to Scouts since 1990.  It is our goal to exceed your expectations and to provide program in a safe and comfortable environment for you and your Scouts.  Directed by a Girl Scout and Cub Scout veteran with over 30 years of volunteer experience, Lincoln Caverns' staff members are first aid and CPR certified, have criminal and child abuse clearances,follow the strictest safety standards and guidelines, are registered Merit Badge Counselors, and have completed Boy Scout Youth Protection Training.
 
 
Visit our website for all the details or call 814.643.0268 today!
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30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION!
 
GHOSTS & GOBLINS 2013
 
Pennsylvania's ULTIMATE HALLOWEEN EXPERIENCE!
The ideal fall event for your pack or troop!

FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS, October 4th through 26th, join Lincoln Caverns, Huntingdon, PA, for their 30th Anniversary  Edition of GHOSTS & GOBLINS 2013, Pennsylvania's Ultimate Haunted Experience including Cave, Trail & Hayride. 11 AM - 5 PM Saturdays enjoy a very special one hour family tour through two beautiful crystal caverns, one HAUNTED and one NATURAL, followed by a family hayride
6 PM - 10 PM FRIDAYS and SATURDAYS experience the totally spooktacular haunted caverns, horrifying haunted trail, followed by the new haunted hayride. 
Gift shop, picnic pavilions, party rooms, primitive camping, and gem panning too!  Group reservations anytime - advance tickets,on sale September 4th!