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The Phenomenon Part 1: A Day With the Squeeze Box

Curtisy of Jeff Burt01
It started off as a simple idea.
The Chester County Council VOA wanted to take the Squeeze Box to the North East Area 6 Venturing Phenomenon to promote caving as an activity they like to do. What could be more fun? Getting to talk to a mess of kids about how much I enjoy crawling in the mud in a hole in the ground.

Actually this is quite flattering. Some of these kids I took caving like it as much as I do. So they invited me along on their Area 6 activity to help them with this project. The shout went out to other Crews to see who wanted to go.

Once we got our final head count our contingent Crew was made up of Catie McEntee, Allison McEntee,and Elsye Mark from Crew 23 of Downingtown, PA; Katrina Berry, Liane LaPorte, Emily Giacomucci, Christine Nguyen, Barb Grover and Bill LaPorte from Crew 94 of Peonixville, PA; and Martha Giammusso, Steven Rhoads, Damian Paterno, and myself, Allen Maddox from Crew 9 of Honey Brook, PA.

The VOA set this all up. I didn’t have to do much. Drive and supply the Squeeze Box. Easy..

Oh wait, what or who is the VOA?
The Venturing Officers Association is a collection of officers representing the Venturing Crews in the Council. Each Crew has a President and they all are illegible to participate representing the interests and abilities of their Venturing Crew. The “Youth Leaders” are the ones who spearhead and run the VOA activities and this Area 6 Phenomenon.

Fast forward to getting there, we all met up at the Morganotwn exit of the PA Turnpike to go west to Rt 15 south then on to Virginia. We did stop for dinner on the way down, invading and getting seating for 12 was not all that difficult at a Cracker Barrel. Later on we called ahead when we crossed the PA /MD border to make sure the gate to Camp Snyder was going to be open for us when we finally arrived a little after 10 PM. After we cleaned up the paperwork for registration we started setting up tents and finished pitching camp by midnight. By this time everyone was excited but exhausted and ready to get some sleep.

I found it difficult to sleep and woke up early Saturday. I decided to take a walk back to the parking lot where I left the Cherokee with the Squeeze Box on top and gather some paperwork and look over the day’s schedule and see if I could figure out where we were suppose to set up. It was still a little foggy which made everything seem further away than it actually was and hard to make out which landmark was our location. I walked back to camp with my papers and there were a few other people up anxious to get started too. Eventually everyone was up and we all headed for the dinning hall for breakfast together where we saw just how many people were at Snyder. I’d say easily 200 Venturers were there waiting to eat and get started for the day.

As the announcements for each activity was made you could hear whispered discussion from different groups of, “wow, I’m going to try that” and “this is going to be awesome”.

Getting People to Try the Squeeze Box
Click on the image to see the whole photo album.

After breakfast everyone from our contingent was helpful unloading the Squeeze Box and the gear and we ran through real quick how it works and everyone had a chance to try it before other groups started arriving. New comers always look at it with that “what is that” look. It’s tough to explain and showing how it works makes it look real simple. Then they try it. That’s when they get it. Something so simple is so much fun, not only to do but to watch people struggle with the challenge of getting as small as they can while moving from one point to another. From then on we had a steady stream of people wanting to try it. The box went up and down several times as new people arrived. Several people stopped back to see if anyone broke their record. A couple times it was and they would try a smaller squeeze to match then beat it again. By lunch time we had two people who did 6 inches, which was the standing record so far for 14 y/o and up.

The challenge was announced at lunch that we had a 2 way tie at 6 inches and anyone who thought they could tie or break the record should stop by our station after lunch. I didn’t even get back to the station after lunch and there was a small group starting to gather.

The afternoon went pretty much like the morning. Non-stop flow of people stopping by to try the box and see how small they could get. There were a couple surprises during the whole day. A few rather muscular guys did squeeze down well below 7 inches. A couple actually made 6 inches. But we did have a new record in the afternoon. A 16 y/o young lady did 5 and a half inches. Wow. Up until now less than 6 inches was unheard of. Several people who stopped back tried to tie but no one else came close.

We were lucky with the weather. We were closing up at 4:00 as the clouds started rolling in and you could feel the temperature falling. It actually felt nice on my sunburn from sitting out in an open field all morning and then the afternoon. Everyone from our contingent pitched in again and helped get squeeze box and all the gear back up on the Cherokee and strapped down before dinner and the rain started.

Overall it was a fantastic day of showing off a caving skill to over a hundred people and there was nothing I would have changed, well, except maybe to use some sunscreen.

Watch for The Phenomenon Part 2: The Caving Trip coming up in a few weeks.

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Caving From 8 ‘til Midnight. Work Be Damned.

This is a guest post from Christopher Edenbo. Chris is the Chair and Youth Group Liaison for the York Grotto in Pennsylvania.. Chris works at the Diakon Wilderness Center, a part of Diakon Youth Services, which has been a leading provider of specialized services for children and youths from across Pennsylvania. Primarily serving at-risk youths referred by county juvenile probation departments or children and youth services.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Chris Edenbo, Nathan MacLane, Matt Steiman, Daniel Grover, Heather Livingston

Matt contacted me some weeks ago saying that he had some workers around the Dickinson College Farm who were interested in caving. He wanted to take them to “that cave by 81” that Franklin County Grotto folks had taken him to some years ago. After asking a few questions I figured out that he was talking about Peiper Cave. So we began the process of narrowing down a date. Once the date was set and arrived we had to deal with Matt’s last minute realization that the student workers were on the schedule to work later than usual on this day. Matt’s partner at the farm would not let them out early, so our departure was pushed back from 6:00 to 8:00 on a Monday evening.

Really I have a hero to give props to. Nathan MacLane, new member of the York Grotto, came with me on a Boy Scout Caving Trip this Saturday. On a whim I called him 10:00 this Monday morning to ask if he wanted to go caving tonight. He said he’d think about it, but called me back half an hour later telling me that he was in. As the phone chain goes, Matt called me telling me that they would be an hour late. I called Nathan, who had already left to meet us in Shippensburg, to tell him that we would be an hour late. Nathan made it work. Maybe he doesn’t get the hero award. Maybe he gets the “chill-axed,” crazy-cool, laid back award.

Getting to Peiper Cave in the dark was a little more complicated than I gave it credit for. I turned our car caravan down the wrong dirt lane. I started to drive past the correct dirt lane. But we got there in one piece.

I noted more spray paint inside / on the artificial wall, but nothing new in the cave. We entered and went up the rock scramble to the left where I let the group do the leading and route finding (as they had maps). I promised a snickers bar to anybody who could definitively point to where they were on the map. I heard it several times through the trip, “I’m definitely not getting a snickers bar,” or “Chris, your snickers bar is safe.” We stuck together mostly as a group as we ventured up and down the Swiss cheese-like halls. We ventured into the sub-floor and squirmed through the Catacombs. We had a pretty good 4-hour tour of the cave. There was certainly plenty that we did not see, but it’s good to leave a cave wanting more. Matt said to me, “Every time that I go caving I want to do it more.” I love hearing that. I bet we’ll see this group out caving again by summer.

Back at the entrance room we tried our hand at the Slot, but I asked that we make our way out of the cave because I had to work on Tuesday, and staying in past midnight seemed overkill. Daniel took a great photo of Heather as she was going through the Slot. I hope that we get a copy of that. Everybody left the cave excited about the trip and looking forward to telling everyone that missed it that they missed out.

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