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Caving with Troop 1

Troop 1 from Wayne, PA has the claim to be the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout Troop in the US. There’s a lot of rich history with this Troop. Check out their web page for more information about them
We started planning this trip back in July of 2011. Yes it does take time to coordinate a bunch of volunteers with the Troop’s schedule, but we did it. Finally agreeing on a date we planned on meeting near the cave that Saturday morning. The Troop leaders wanted to make this a special trip, and since we can’t take all of the 55 members of the Troop, they decided to make it an activity for the Color Patrol. This Patrol has the distinction of taking responsibility of the flags and banners for Troop 1. The members from the Color Patrol meeting us that Saturday morning are Doug Miller (adult), Jack Zambinski, Zack Kravitz, Luke Ditton, Ross Cochran (adult) and Clay Cochran.
We arrived at the designated parking place for the cave where Andy and Will were waiting to help Amos and I with the trip. The weather was clear which helps with changing into our caving gear and getting ready. We pulled out the helmets and headlamps then got everyone suited up and tested before we walked to the cave.
PICT0010 Inside the entrance we talked a little about the cave, how it was made, what they may see, and a few thoughts on cave safety before we started into the cave. We made our way in and to the first break down room. Here we split into two groups. Amos and I took Clay, Ross and Doug. Jack, Zack and Luke went with Andy and Will.
At first I lead our group through some basic walking passage that had very little crawling. Being that this is a Pennsylvania cave there’s not much of that. Tight crawls and mud are more common for this area. After a very short while our group became comfortable with being underground and Clay became more curious about what was behind each turn and hole. There were a few places that Clay could fit that the adults could not. Amos made sure he explored safely while I took Doug and Ross around to great him as they came through the crawls.

We all did go through the “Catacombs” and up the “Chimney” which they thought was exciting. Clay and Amos did the “Key Hole” and the “Wishing Well” while we watched and cheered him on. We did see most of the cave and we were in there the better part of three hours. It was a good tour.
Outside the other group was waiting. They moved faster than we did and saw pretty much the whole cave. They were bushed and hungry and we were too. We all decided to call it a day and get cleaned up.
These guys worked well together. You could tell they were comfortable with their team and made the trip a lot of fun for us. The boys are taking back stories and pictures to the rest of Troop 1 and try to encourage more of them to go caving. I hope they do. It would be good to see them underground again.

For more picture of this trip go to

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Caving Levels the Gender Playing Field

Somewhere around 2002 I started helping to guide caving trips for Boy Scouts through the Philadelphia Grotto. With my history as a Scoutmaster I had experience dealing with Scouting issues. I just needed to develop my caving chops, and my friends in Philly Grotto where helping me do that.
After a couple years and some very successful caving trips with the Boy Scouts one of the women in the Grotto asked, “Why don’t you take Girl Scouts caving?” The only answer I had was, “Because they don’t ask.” I had to look into this some more.
Wind Cave B 6-10-05_0000
Generally, caving at this point is a male dominated activity. There are some women in the grotto, but it is mostly guys. Maybe that has something to do with it.
I went on line and looked around for local Girl Scout Troops that I might be able to talk to about this. HHmmm, that’s not that easy to do. I asked everyone I knew to ask around for an introduction to someone involved with the Girl Scouts. Apparently there’s a mistrust of some old guys saying, “Hey, you wanna take your girls caving?” It’s just a little too, how do they say, “pervy”.
There were a few things I had to learn along the way. One is the language. Just because it’s Boy Scouts of America it does not make it Girl Scouts of America. It’s GSUSA (Girl Scouts of the United States of America). And Boy Scouts are “chartered” (or franchised) and run by community organizations. Girls Scouts are all solely part of a larger Girl Scout organization called Service Unit (SU). While women can be Scoutmaster in BSA, men cannot be the number one Troop Leader in a GSUSA Troop. Starting to learn the lingo helps, a little.
Then there were the things that were not said. As I am a volunteer for BSA it was assumed by some GSUSA Leaders that I would eventually try to recruit girls into the Venturing Program, the new co-ed BSA program for High School aged kids. HHHHMMMM…
It took some time but I did get my foot in the door, so to speak. Of course this was with the help of some new caving friends who were also GSUSA Leaders. I still have not taken a GSUSA Troop caving, but I have helped a Troop to go caving which opened the door for other outdoor possibilities for them. This is all great stuff.
But in the meantime I’m still taking more and more boys caving through their BSA Troops. Then the Venturing Program started to catch on in my Council.
GSUSA girls starting joining BSA Venturing Crews to do high adventure activities that were not available to them, for one reason or another, through their GSUSA Troops. There were a lot of guys in the Venturing program already. Mostly they were guys who were board with their Boy Scout Troops. They needed to do things that their 12 y/o little brother could tag along with them on. Caving is one of those activities that BSA deemed to be age appropriate for 14 y/o and above only. This tailored caving to be a good activity for a Crew to look into trying.
As more and more Crews tried caving the word spread and I was invited to talk to more Crews and Troops. A few of us even formed our own Venturing Crew. We did even more caving. It was a good mix of girls and guys, but mostly guys still doing the caving and other high adventure activities. Then something changed.
I’m still not sure why. I don’t even want to speculate. But it is worth noting and maybe looking to see if this too changes. This past year, 2011, caving activities have been joined in by more and more girls. And they enjoy it and are very good at it.
Maybe it’s that not one body type is good at all caving. Maybe it’s that there’s something in caving that pretty much everyone can enjoy. Maybe it’s the great staff of friends I have from all ages of both men and women that help run these trips. Maybe it’s a combination of all these and more that just level the playing filed so caving is enjoyed by may different types of people.
I guess there is one common trait among such a wide variety of people. That’s a strong sense of adventure and having fun even in adverse conditions. Also being able to develop a team mentality with the people you are with, no matter who they are. Not competing against, but playing with the folks in your group to have a good time and explore new realms.
Either way, all my new friends from the Troops and Crews we’ve been getting underground are spreading the word about how much fun caving is. You don’t have to be tall; you don’t have to be short. You don’t have to be old; you don’t have to be young. You don’t have to be guy and you don’t have to be a girl. Caving is for everybody.

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Caving with Westtown School

I met up with Amos, Andy, Marcy, Hanna, and Dave at McDonald’s. The day started out sunny but rain is in the forecast. It wasn’t long till the rain started and the driving was a little less than ideal. Along the way Hillary called and said she’d be meeting us there.

We met up with Michael and the rest of the Westtown gang at a rest stop along the way. We talked a little and introduced ourselves to everyone and they introduced themselves to us. A few of them had been on our trip last year and one had done a little caving up in New York. But most had never been underground before and were looking forward to trying this.

When we got to the cave it was still raining though not as hard. It was enough to make getting changed a little miserable. We suited up and we all met up in the cave entrance where it was just a little drier, we did a check of helmets and headlamps and all the light came on. Onward through the entrance and the first little squeeze. This is always great to see how the newbie’s move and negotiate this. There were a couple helmet issues which were quickly corrected. Up to the top of the Breakdown Room to get adjusted and divide into groups.

We had enough cavers to split up into 4 groups. And off in different direction we went. Hillary and I lead the “slow” group with Michael, Andy, Caleb, and Eli. Caleb and Eli were defiantly not slow and pushed everything we went to too. Caleb and Eli even went around and did a couple more loops while the rest of us were squeezing through.

Later on we met up in the Break Down Room and had lunch and talked. A few wanted to take a personal break and go back to exploring. A few chose to quit for the day. So we regrouped and went in and explored more of the cave.

I think that over all we all saw most of the cave. We coordinated to meet back outside at 4:30 and changed back into our dry and clean cloths. Well and dry and clean as we could for a raining afternoon.

Michael and I talked about doing a more advanced cave for a smaller group of kids who have done this trip a couple times already. Maybe something in the late Fall or Winter.

As always Westtown has great kids with a great sense of adventure. I hope to see them and maybe some new kids next year. You never know, maybe even see a few a Grotto meetings in the future.

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Brandywine Red Clay Summer Camp Caving Trip 2019

Every year I take kids from the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance Summer Camp Program on a cave exploring trip. I look forward to this trips ever...