In attendance: Emily, Ken, Robert, Lisa, Mike, Diana, John, Carlin, Mark D., Summer, Zeke, Steve, Jennifer, Matthew W., Joel. During introductions nearly everyone stated something interesting about themselves, but not so interesting that it made it into the notes. You’re welcome.

Old Business

  • The holiday party date has been set for December 4 chez Mike and Lisa in Durham. Details to follow via email. Party-goers are encouraged to keep the party going until Diana’s done with the holiday pops concert that night. Challenge accepted.
  • Something is still supposed to be done to the email list.
  • As promised, Robert brought in some cave-aged cheese for our consumption. He found it in a local store and it doesn’t taste like cave (one imagines), but it was well appreciated.

Trip Report

Ken was pressured into getting a group into Scott Hollow Cave. Eight of us went up, including Matthew, who now has a new favorite cave and a new favorite cave entrance. There is no natural entrance. Instead, cavers descend via ladder through a hole cut out of the floor in what would be the living room of what looks like an abandoned, threeish-story house. A really cool house. Ropes rigged from a catwalk spanning the top floor turn the atrium below into a possible rope-climbing practice space. Anyway, inside the actual cave, the huge Mystic River passage was really beautiful, and everyone got to appreciate the big light that Matthew brought along. Matthew, Carlin, and Mark got bogged down taking pictures.

The rest of the group went upstream towards the Double Waterfall. This was the second trip to Scott Hollow for Mike and Lisa. The first was ten years ago, back when Mike thought it counted as a muddy cave. It isn’t (some people come out looking cleaner than they went in). We climbed John’s Flowstone which is sort of 50 feet wide and maybe 30 feet up to the first real plateau, then slopes up and back another 60 feet to a group of impressively large rimstone dams, each of which is 3-4 feet deep with 8-inch thick walls. From near the top Mike followed a side passage that led to a little keyhole about 12 feet above the main river passage. We finished with that and stopped for a lunch break and the other group was still back at the sump taking pictures.

Eventually we regrouped and found our way into the Root Canal which was not painful at all but replete with soda straws and gypsum around every turn.

The loose plan was to try to get into Patton Cave the following day, but we were unable to contact the landowner.

Upcoming Trips

  • Nov 14-15 – Hancock Cave bat count / Dead Air Cave
  • Nov 20-22 – Smyth County survey trip
  • Dec 4 – Holiday Party
  • Dec 11 – ?

Program

Ken Walsh attempted to lower expectations before giving a presentation about his recent visit to Lava Beds National Monument, but the caves were colorful and he took pictures.

 

Attendees: Emily, Martin, Carlin, Matthew, Mike, Mark D., Sarah, Steve

Past Business

  • The new website is up and running at www.tritrogs.org.  The next step is to transition the email list.
  • Survey instrument.  Carlin’s goal is to have a working prototype for the Smyth County survey trip in November.

New Business

  • After a brief discussion among potential party-throwers, Mike announced that he can host the grotto holiday party this year.  It will be held in early December.

Trip Reports

Since we skipped trip reports at August’s meeting, these cover nearly two months.  Briefly:

  • Emily went on her first survey trip (Beaver Creek and Rail Valley) and, recalling very few details, may be willing to do it again some day.
  • The grotto trip to Union Cave turned out to be less of a fun beginner trip and more of a 16-person tank haul beginner trip.  Still, some of us would like to go back with a smaller group.  Carlin says it really does open up to nice walking passage.
  • Those who stuck around for the trip to Rehoboth Church Cave were not disappointed.  Mark claims to have video and/or audio of the mud slide amusement.  Salamanders, crayfish, enormous frogs, chert nodules.
  • During OTR Mark and Robert rode an old train.  Then they located and explored a cave called My Cave.
  • Mike and Lisa worked on a BCCS dig at Waterfall Cave, about 70 feet in.  Mike spent two days moving full buckets.  No breakthrough.  Yet.
  • SnoCone survey.  Mike, Lisa, and Dave got through super muddy passage to an area that definitely continues and has air flow.  So they turned around and left.  They saw both slimy and cave salamanders.  Carlin and Mark did a bolt climb.  It was 6:30 pm before they set their first station of the 15-hour trip.
  • Carlin and Dave went to Beaver Creek Cave the next day.  Another 100 to 200 feet and it should be done.

Upcoming Trips

  • Oct 8-11 – TAG Fall Cave-in
  • Oct 24 – Scott Hollow Cave
  • Nov 14 – Hancock Cave bat count
  • Nov 20-22 – Smyth County survey trip

Program

Matthew showed off the light that he designed and built for cave photography.

We started the meeting this month with the program so that our guest speaker could get back to Greensboro at a reasonable hour. That might have been unnecessary given that her fieldwork with bats and mice has required the ability to adapt to an unusual schedule. Our guest speaker was Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, PhD, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in UNC Greensboro’s Biology Department. The program covered a wide range of information. We got to see spectrograms and hear audibilized recordings (slowed way down) comparing the ultrasonic calls of a bat and a mouse, comparing the voice frequencies of numerous bat species, and tracking the progressing vocalizations of a bat flying in for the kill. We also heard about maternity colonies, hibernacula, and roosts, as well as short-range and migrating flight patterns, the threats posed by White Nose Syndrome, wind turbines, and deforestation, and the difficult work and long hours involved in “batting” out in the field.

After the program and the Q&A we chose to adjourn until our September 22 meeting.

For more information about Dr. Kalcounis-Rueppell’s work, visit
The Bat and Mouse Lab website: http://www.mckalcounisrueppell.org/
The fieldblog: http://www.batandmouselab.blogspot.com/

This month’s meeting, like June’s, took place in a room on the fourth floor of the museum. In attendance were John, Ken, Emily, Martin, Carlin, Joel, Robert, Summer, Cheryl, Janet, Peter, Mike, Lisa, Mark D., Keely, Jason, and Zeke.

Past Business
Carlin brought a SurveyBat to the meeting. He’ll have it for a few months so the grotto can play with it, but the housing is neither entirely waterproof nor Martin-proof. Carlin has built his own housing that can stand up to, or sink into, our East Coast caves. Now he’s working on waterproofing the buttons and cable.

The new TriTrogs website has not yet been born. Suggestions and assistance are welcome. Ken has pictures of the museum entrance that will be added to the meeting information page to help direct newcomers and the perpetually lost (yes, I know who I am).

The Annual Grotto Fun Trip: see Upcoming Trips, below.

New Business
A new TriTrog has emerged! Welcome, baby Kartchner!

Grotto dues for the second half of the year are $7.50 a person. Use the Paypal link on the TriTrogs website or give your payment to a grotto officer (Carlin, Rob, Mike, Emily, Mark Little).

Trip Reports
Lisa, Mike, and Peter ascended and rappelled El Capitan a silly number of times each. While Lisa was on rope she was carried some 200 feet from the cliff face by a scary wind. Fortunately it subsided gradually. Mike found a small cave on the descent hike.

Rob and Rachel went to Neversink. They descended the pit in the evening in order to get a good look at the glow worms. Super interesting things luminesced all over the place, causing the floor to move, but in a good way.

NSS Convention. Peter broke four rope-climbing records. Tanya became an NSS Fellow. Mark, Tanya, and Emily visited two Missouri show caves and unanimously preferred Onondaga Cave to Meramec Caverns. Mark, Matthew, Michael, and eMily went to Finley #1, a wild cave with several low crawls around and over a meandering stream passage. Mark investigated some climbable leads in the upper level of Finley that kept going. The kneepadless chose to turn back and missed out on the pretty waterfall and dome rooms. Emily saw a cave salamander. After the convention, Peter and Mark got their picture taken at Indiana Caverns which boasts 42 miles and is getting more added at a rapid rate.

Upcoming Trips
Aug 1-2 – Survey, Rail Valley Cave
Aug 14-16 – Annual Grotto Trip, Rehoboth Church Cave
Sept 3-6 – Old Timers’ Reunion
Sept 21-28 – Survey, Lava Beds Nat’l Monument
Oct 8-11 – TAG Fall Cave-in

There is also a trip to Scott Hollow in the works. Lisa offered to organize an online date poll.

Miscellaneous
Lisa recommends On Rope 1. When she had to replace a faulty seat harness they made the process surprisingly delightful.

Program
NSS grant recipient and NCSU grad student John Wall gave a presentation on LiDAR and its potential for discovering and mapping sinkholes.

Due to a sewage leak the museum moved this month’s meeting to a room on the fourth floor. In attendance were Emily, Martin, Zeke, Carlin, Sarah, Mark D., and Ken.

Past Business
Carlin is building an electronic survey instrument. He has a pile of pieces. The next step is to construct a housing worthy of East Coast caves.

As of this meeting the new website was not yet in use. Carlin gave a quick tour of the new layout. It should be up and running soon.

The Annual Grotto Fun Trip: Carlin was hoping to have it near Perkins, in southwestern Virginia. Sarah pointed out that it would be nice to have a place with some basic amenities, particularly if there’s going to be a feast or a large number of attendees. We settled on August 14-16.

New Business
Ken brought up the museum’s annual BugFest. The date is September 19. The theme bug is the cicada. Peter might not be exhibiting this year due to some climbing thing.

Trip Reports
Beaver Creek survey trip: [Ken and Mark took turns reporting this in a deliberate and successful attempt to confuse me.] Ken, Mark, Dave, Matthew, and Michael went to Beaver Creek Cave. One team intended to survey some of the lower passages, but they spent much of the day stooping through upper-level maze. Matthew contributed by absorbing a puddle that the others would have had to crawl through. Elsewhere, Mark and Dave descended a hand line into some ankle-deep water. They decided that it probably floods fairly often so they took the opportunity and surveyed 350 feet, a lot of nice, long shots through walking passage with well-decorated walls. Ken [and some others] returned [either the next day or the previous day] and saw some pretty rimstone dams that are easy to access. While investigating water sounds Ken squoze into an area that he thought would be horrible to survey, but Dave was able to get a 45-foot shot through. There’s a mud slope, no, a Slope of Mud, and water of unknown depth. It looks promising. Ken’s team surveyed 300 feet and 200 feet.

Martin joined Baltimore Grotto at Grand Caverns. What he expected to be a dig turned out as a leisure trip instead, so it was fun.

Upcoming Trips
July 13-17 – NSS Convention
Aug 14-16 – Annual Grotto Trip
Sept 3-6 – Old Timers Reunion

Program
Carlin Kartchner gave a presentation on the interesting history of Kartchner Caverns.

In attendance: Carlin, Rob, Ken, Dave, Peter, Emily, Mark D., Mike, Lisa, Howard, and Hayden.

Business
Carlin led a brief discussion regarding interest in procurement of a SurveyBat, an electronic survey instrument which, reportedly, is not a flying drone. It’s more expensive than something, less expensive than something else, and the magnetic sensor is separated from the battery and electronics. Ken wanted to know if SurveyBats can swim. Carlin will look into that.

Pete brought up the possibility of group transportation to the NSS Convention, then sabotaged that plan by reminding everyone of the large quantity of gear that he will be taking. Renting a larger vehicle is still an option if there are enough other interested parties. Several other TriTrogs expressed their intentions to attend, but so far only one person had actually registered from NC.

Carlin announced that the TriTrogs will be transitioning to a new website. He didn’t have a date in mind, but it will probably be soon. This will likely mean switching email providers again. The new website design is WordPress-based so it’s more of a blog format. It will make it even easier to post trip reports, announcements, and meeting minutes, and will consolidate the above in one place. An announcement will be made when the time comes. Meanwhile, anyone interested in helping with content should contact Carlin.

Location ideas were casually tossed around for Summer Grotto Trip consideration. Mid-August.

Trip reports
Sport: YTR at the RASS field station. Mark and Rob reported an incident of tree-on-human violence that occurred during the night before the cave trip; it resulted in a broken nose and the loss of a tooth (neither of which belonged to Mark or Rob). They went to Crossroads. Rob got to the cave entrance before realizing he’d left his helmet back at camp. Apparently it was that kind of weekend. Eventually they saw some pretty parts of the cave, but they couldn’t say how much. They also went to Breathing Cave and ate good food.

Boring stuff underground: Mike and Lisa went to Butler Cave for the Memorial Day work weekend. They helped get the outdoor shower working and did some other surface work. Then they went to Pat’s Section of Butler Cave. It’s really pretty, high, dry, kind of canyony passage. There were also some low belly crawls that the trip leader didn’t remember from previous trips. According to Lisa that is The Way of Trip Leaders. They worked on a dig for four hours. The lack of air flow wasn’t promising, but the wall sounded hollow when tapped on with an E-Tool (which, sadly, is not an electronic digging device). Mike climbed into an isolated spot where someone had written “Don’t rise up” on the wall. Suppressing his inner revolutionary, Mike looked upwards and saw a large anthodite looming above his head.

Survey: Carlin returned to Perkins Cave with Martin and some members of Walker Mountain Grotto. This was Carlin’s first time camping there; it was extremely convenient to be able to camp close to the entrance, especially since they spent a little over 12 hours in the cave on the first day. In total for the weekend the two teams surveyed 2000 feet. Carlin’s team started in a really pretty part of the cave. They generated a lot of leads, particularly while surveying through some large breakdown. [Walker Mountain Grotto’s trip report]

Upcoming trips
June 6-7 – Survey, Beaver Creek (Dave)
June 20-21 – Survey, Perkins Cave (Carlin)
July 13-17 – NSS Convention

Program
We watched part of a long (but interesting!) video [8 Days of Cave Diver Training] that followed two divers undergoing training at some pretty cenotes near Quintana Roo.

In attendance were Rob, Emily, Carlin, Ken, and Pete.

Business? What business? We dove straight into trip reports.

Ken was among the 25 volunteers who hauled gravel, painted, cleaned, sweated, and flexed for the tourists at the Grand Caverns Easter Restoration Camp. The tour guides are very appreciative of all the hard work, and they help get the word out to the public. [Here’s the trip report.]

Rob went picnic caving. He went to Newberry-Banes. Again. He’s looking forward to going to Banes Springs for a change, some day. It might be horizontal-ish?

Ken, Rob, and Emily attended Spring VAR at Natural Bridge. They and a few other TriTrogs went to Brady’s Cave and Brady’s Hidden Cave, which were a short drive away and yet devoid of other cavers. One of the caves either did or didn’t have an interesting climb. The other cave smelled really bad, either like raccoon, or not. Ken attended the VAR meeting. [Here’s the trip report.]

Pete was on rope in West Virginia, and it was cold and rainy and then rainy and cold.

Upcoming trips
May 1-3 – Perkins Cave Survey (Carlin.)
May 7-10 – SERA Cave Carnival
May 15-17 – Young Timers’ Reunion (Rob, maybe.)
June 6-7 – Survey: Beaver Creek? Snow Cone? (Dave.)
July 13-17 – NSS Convention

We decided to save the exciting program for a time when more people could enjoy it.

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.

There were no newcomers at this meeting, so we skipped introductions. In attendance were Ken, Martin, Emily, Carlin, Mike, Lisa, Matthew, Sarah, and Mark D.

There was an impromptu sale of the one remaining 25th anniversary t-shirt. Some dues were collected.

There was some discussion about making donations to support New River Cave. The officers will make an announcement about the best way to do that. UPDATE: You can donate using the online NSS donation form. Select “Cave Acquisition Fund” from the fund drop-down list and then be sure to type “New River Cave” in the comments section.

Trip reports ensued.

Dig: Lisa and Mike went to Butler Cave for Pancake Weekend. They were put to work on the Back Door digging project which involved eight or nine people hoisting many, many 5-gallon bucket loads through some less than hospitable passages. Lisa had the most miserable four hours underground of her entire life. Mike wore a wetsuit and was happy. They recommend going up for a project trip to admire the engineering in use (something about a Mars Rover).

Survey and sport: Ken has posted a trip report on surveying in Beaver Creek Cave with Dave and Dawson. Carlin, Matthew, and Rob made up the other survey team on that trip. The steep approach to the cave was actually less nasty with the foot of snow on the hillside. They spent eight or nine hours surveying. While Carlin sketched Matthew followed the sound of running water through a small triangular opening to find a nice deep-looking pool about 15 feet below. Tanya joined them the next day at Boxwork Crystal Cave and Dead Air Cave. The entrance of Dead Air was draped in pretty ice formations. Matthew’s camera batteries died before he got to the really big room, but it was really fun anyway. [Carlin has posted some pictures on the Trip Reports Blog.]

Bat count: Ken and Emily joined four cavers from Walker Mountain Grotto for the Hancock Cave bat count. They counted six live bats and found the remains of one dead bat. They saw no obvious signs of White Nose Syndrome. [Here’s the posted trip report.]

Sport: Carlin, who has recently been certified as a Wilderness First Responder, Laurel, and a few other people met up with Ava at the Bat Ranch for a trip through Tawney’s Cave. Because Ava was with them they “geeked out over every living thing they could find” including some mysterious red, spotted salamander. Carlin ran through Lynx, too. He saw a few bats, including one with visible signs of WNS.

Off-topic awesome: Recently back from Tanzania, Sarah regaled us with a trip report that made up for its lack of caves with a description of her breath-taking ascent to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. While hiking elsewhere in Tanzania, she did see “some sign for some cave at some point” but elected not to investigate due to a lack of appropriate footwear. Sarah promises to bring pictures next time, and she’ll weed out the selfies taken during the badass surgeries she performed while working at a Tanzanian hospital.

Upcoming trips
April 4 – Grand Caverns Restoration (Ken. Maybe Matthew.)
April 24-26 – Spring VAR at Natural Bridge (Emily. Maybe Ken.)
May 1-3 – Perkins Cave Survey (Carlin.)
May 7-10 – SERA Cave Carnival
July 13-17 – NSS Convention

The scheduled program, a video about sinkholes (available online), was scrapped in favor of food, beer, and conversation.

On March 8, Ken Walsh led a group through Hancock Cave. Four members of Walker Mountain Grotto were introduced to the cave during a thorough bat count. We tallied six bats on this trip. That’s three fewer than were recorded last March, but five more than we spotted there in the fall. Bill Grose has posted a trip report with photos on Walker Mountain Grotto’s website:
[link to Walker Mountain Grotto trip report]

Aoogah! Zachary Taylor navigates the Comic Book Hole.
Photo by Emily

I tagged along and got the opportunity to revisit the graffiti cleanup sites that we worked on in November. Our efforts weren’t wasted. The Grantham Room looks remarkably better. Our man-made mud still masks the writing on the sloping walls there. The more vertical areas that we had abraded with wire brushes look a little raw by comparison, but the overall result is gratifying. I didn’t see any signs of new vandalism, unless you count the pack rat rubbish. A lot remains to be done. If you took part in the bat count last fall and you have any interest in a future cleanup trip, you’ll be delighted to know that hauling giant buckets of water into the cave is entirely unnecessary; that was just for fun.

Grantham Room cleanup in November, 2014
Photo by Peter Hertl