Our group of TriTrogs (Ken, Diana, Emily, and Rob) rolled into Natural Bridge, VA, on Friday night to find a cold, busy campground brimming with cavers. There were well over 300 registered for Spring VAR, hosted this year by the BATS. After verifying that Saturday’s guided trips were full, we found Tanya and, eventually, our campsite. Many thanks to Lee for his intrepid campsite wrangling.
Ken got the dirt on a pair of nearby caves, namely Brady’s and Brady’s Hidden. The proximity allowed us the luxury of sleeping in on Saturday while those bound for farther reaches geared up in the cold early morning rain. After breakfast and canopy assembly the four of us were joined by cabin-dwellers Wendell and Joel.
What we saw of Brady’s can be summed up as about two hundred feet of stagnant, foul-smelling cave that showed heavy signs of raccoon use. Two tri-colored bats were spotted. One obliged Rob by submitting to numerous tests of his various macro camera settings. We exited to a light, brief rain and sought out Brady’s Hidden Cave. Rob found it a couple of sinkholes away, below a large triangle of exposed limestone that may as well have been a blinking neon sign. We navigated about a quarter mile of cave, which included a tiny spring, a small, pretty room filled with active formations, short, interesting climbs through large breakdown, and the welcome discovery of an alternative route that prevented my rib cage from suffering the same indignity twice.
That evening we gathered at the Natural Bridge Hotel for dinner, followed by Ernst Kastning’s presentation on the history of Natural Bridge, followed by door prizes. A local band entertained the campground until 11pm. Sunday morning Front Royal Grotto offered an affordable pancake breakfast.
Ken attended the VAR business meeting. The new VAR website (var.caves.org) has a closed cave list that they are trying to keep current. Archived issues of the Region Record are also online, and hopes remain for an index to same. Various conservation projects were mentioned. Fundraising continues for New River Cave. And Walker Mountain Grotto became an official member of VAR and agreed to host Fall VAR this year! At least that’s what we all heard.
Before leaving town we visited Foamhenge, a life-size Styrofoam model of Stonehenge. Only better, because it has most of a life-size model of Merlin the wizard presiding over it. It was totally worth the price of admission.