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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.


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 Or you can email me directly at I’d enjoy hearing from you.

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“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.

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.

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

·         Need more visibility.

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