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Sharing One of My Favorite Caves With My Grandsons

A Little Background History

There is a pair of caves on a property that we use to go to regularly. Because of their beauty and the fun trips we had they were very special to me. A few weeks after the last trip there many years ago one of our Grotto members had driven by and there was a “No Trespassing” sign posted with a chain across the drive. The property had been sold and the new owners didn’t want anyone on the property any more.

Several years had gone by with some negotiation with the land owner and a tentative Memorandum of Understanding was being considered. Then the land owner sold that piece of property to a farmer and new negotiations had start up.

We Have A Caving Trip

Almost five and a half years later and we have a tentative permission to enter the property and the two caves that I’ve missed exploring and sharing. Jumping at the chance I secured a date and received permission to enter. I invited a few of my friends from Philly Grotto and Dragon Breath Grotto plus a couple people from another Venturing Crew. We have a caving trip in the making.
One of the caves is not very technical, but for some people the entrance is a bit tight. I wanted to take my two grandsons to see this cave, at least this once, in case it gets closed again. We divided the group into two different groups. One had the younger kids, Andy and I lead that group. The other had the older, high school aged, kids. Amos and Marcy lead that group. The original plan was to swap caves after we had finished exploring the one we were in. Funny how plans don’t always work out.

Getting Inside

I started my slide into the 12 inch entrance with 4 kids stacked up behind me and another adult in the rear. Once inside I was getting the kids situated and comfortable I hear a lot of discussion at the entrance and Andy came in. Two of the adults, who will remain unnamed to protect their anonymity, decided the entrance is just a little tight for their taste.

How Young is Too Young to Start Caving?

PICT0009 PICT0008 Andy and I are in the cave with another adult, Sandy. This was her second cave and she was loving it. We had my two grandsons, Zahne (9) and Aidan (5). This also was Aidan’s second cave. Zahne has been caving with me for about a year and a half and is very comfortable underground. This was Bridget’s (5) and PICT0007 PICT0006 Dominic’s (8) first caving trip and they were both very excited and wanted to see everything. A little later we picked up Kevin from the other group as he was a little uncomfortable with the more technical entrance of that cave.

For Those Who Think Caving Is Too Scary and Dangerious for Kids.

102_0720 You would have thought it was Christmas the way these kids were acting. They were so excited about seeing every part of the cave and sharing it with each other. One of the things I like about this cave is there are no real dangerous drops or holes they can fall into. We can let them explore and experince being the first one in a dark passage without worrying about them. There is also a good variety of formations that they could discover and look at up close. Little drips coming off the “soda straws” and moisture on the columns. They got to see, feel, smell and hear what a cave really is like, first hand, up-close and personal. And they got their picture taken a lot.

Finally Done

We eventually did work our way out and back up the entrance. Of course the adults had a little more difficulty than the kids getting out that little opening. We were generally all tired and it was starting to get a little late. We decided to skip the cave swap and call it a day.

Some from the other group were already out and waiting. A little while later the rest of them came out tired but excited. This is why I like to take people, especially kids, to see these caves. They are spectacular and leave a long lasting impression on them how fragile and beautiful the cave eco system is. Now we just need to plan when we can get back and swap caves.

Want more pics?

Here's the rest of the album. Andy's album is here. Amos's album from the other group is here.

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Don’t Be This Guy

“This Guy”

I received an email this morning from a caver friend from another Grotto in our Region. Apparently he had to make the tough decision to cancel a trip for a Boy Scout Troop because he didn’t feel comfortable with what “This Guy” was trying to get his Grotto to agree to as part of a caving trip they were planning to take in a week. “This Guy” was trying to get around the Guide to Safe Scouting section on caving and the BSA Caving Policies.

The Guide to Safe Scouting and BSA Caving Policies

The Guide to Safe Scouting and the BSA Caving Policies are there for a reason. This helps the Unit Leader understand what is considered safe and acceptable for them to do with the youth he or she is responsible for.
Every time this comes up I think about what it would be like to tell a parent that their child has been injured, even worst, won’t be coming home. I think about how I’m going to explain to a litigator while on trial why I knowingly didn’t adhere to the Guide to Safe Scouting and an accident happened resulting in the injury or death of a child.
The BSA Caving Policies are not there to make it difficult for a Troop to get underground, but to keep the kids safe and to let the adult leaders know they are doing everything in their power to do that.

Not Just Once

What disturbs me even more is not just that this leader tried to get around the policies, but a few weeks before he had contacted me about the same trip. I gave him the same information and the same instructions. I guess he didn’t like my answer and decided to try someone else to see if he could get his way. Just like other high adventure activities, the communities in those activities are tight and talk to each other. Unfortunately “This Guy” has started a not so pleasant reputation for his Troop. Unfortunately this is all that’s needed for some folks in the caving community to see all Scouts as being this same way. As a Scouter myself I find this disturbing.

Help Spread the Word

I know that I’m preaching to the choir and that those who read this blog are very conscientious about sticking to the rules and having a safe and fun trip. But we all know someone who has the potential to be “This Guy”. Please, take some time and share this story with them and tell them to not be “This Guy”.

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Cavers in the making

"Dave and Tracy Jackson are cavers and NSS members, and we build cave simulators in our free time. We love introducing kids and adults to real caving (and to many other outdoor activities). We do lots of free outreach to the public with CaveSim, and we hope you get to crawl through soon!"

This is Dave's post number 5 on CaveSim. It expresses the need to get CaveSim on the road to outreach to people.

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