In attendance: Emily Graham, Rachel Saker, Michael McBride, Julie, Bill, Mark Little, Carlin Kartchner, Mike Broome, Mark Daughtridge, Andy Chang, Lana, Hastings, Boone, Zeke Van Fossen, Kim Parks


Emily’s last question to the group: How many cave trips to you plan to go on in 2019?

Lana: New, never been caving

Boone: New, never been caving

Mark L: uncertain

Bill: 1-2

Julie: 2

Hastings: 2.5

Zeke: 4

Kim: 7.2

Andy: 6-9

Carlin: 6+

Mark D: More if there wasn’t global warming (11?)

Emily: 12

Mike M: 12

Mike B: 12 (although math is hard- might be off)

Rachel: 10 planned before May, so let’s extrapolate to 30 (Math is definitely hard…)

Which, if you figure all the new and re-newed members try out caving once, results in an average of 7.3, rather close to Kim’s 7.2. Shoot for average!)




  • Do pay dues. A signup sheet was passed around to record your name if you have already paid dues for 2019 or were signing up at the meeting. Member is $15 for an individual, $22 for a family. There is a PayPal link through the website (note: this includes only an email address. Please also pass your name along to the treasurer to be marked as a member for the year).
  • A member of the Perkin’s survey trip left behind two towels at Tanya’s. Mike McBride thinks they may belong to Pete.
  • Dave Duguid has some cat litter buckets up for grabs if anyone is interested. They are sturdy, and excellent for hauling dirt out of caves.
  • There is a remaining check that is outstanding from reimbursement for food on annual grotto trip. The check amount is $23.94. Don’t forget to cash your check.
  • Thanks goes to all the officers that served in 2019 (especially to our president). Do relay thanks to Eric as well for setting up an excellent series of programs.
  • 2019 marks the 30th anniversary for the Triangle Troglodytes grotto.
  • The treasury report for 2018 was relayed by an email from Martin. With some questions and follow up items remaining, the report is currently ongoing and will be conveyed at a later date.
  • The NSS is initiating an anti-harassment policy in response to two events that were reported in 2018. Each grotto can accept the policy as-is, or modify as needed to suit their needs. A motion was made to form a committee to craft a policy appropriate for out grotto. Mike McBride offered to spearhead the initiative. Look for an email from him shortly calling for TriTrog input.


Trip Reports 

  • A group of 9 Tritrogs meet up with Jason Lockney and team to continue the effort to survey Perkin’s Cave. They split into 4 survey groups, with Ken, Dave, Carlin, and Jason each leading. There was one cave passage that was recorded to have two positive inclinations, and the consensus from the meeting is that it should bear the moniker ‘uphill both ways in the snow’.

Mike McBride braved a bout of bronchitis and surveyed nonetheless, though at one point he attempted a squeeze and decided it might not be best, only to be told he better fit as that was the way forward.

Highlight of the trip? Carlin was able to make a handshake connection and mark a survey station that can be reached when the stations on the other side advance to that area.Notable spots included the beautifully decorated sparkle room, and a great crawl that has a flat calcite floor with some texture to it.

After an arduous 12+ hours underground, the crew stayed at Tanya’s 45 minutes away (much warmer than camping at Perkin’s).

  • On the last weekend of 2018, Low Moor Cave hosted Emily, Mike McBride, his girlfriend and her daughter, and Eric and his daughter. The group went in through the quarry entrance, which was mined to have a natural roof with rock pillars on the side to support it. The main quarry was 100 yards off to the right with walking passage that have a ceiling 100-120 ft above you. Mike was able to test his 3000 lumen dive light to fully illuminate the epic space. The main cave has areas where the quarry has dug into it to create vast overlooks into the quarry itself. The group spent about 6 hours in the cave, making it to Fossil Alley and beyond. Along the way they saw 8-12 individual bats, other spots with obvious guano, and a few salamanders. One crawl that dumps you out into a 6-7 ft pit that is spanned by a metal ladder offered a fun challenge for the girls, though Mike opted against testing the precarious holding on the far side that is supported mainly by sloped earth. The water was up, but the stream at the entrance was still low enough to drive through.
  • Rachel headed north to join with WVACS, and the couple inches of snow did not discourage them from spending 10 glorious hours in Windymill. It took about two hot hours (they were moving fast) to reach the leads they were pushing, but surveying went quickly since they were aided by DISTOs. Overall they added about 300 – 400 ft to the map and saw two crawdads. There is a return trip scheduled in a couple of weeks.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • Feb 9: Frick’s Cave Membership Appreciation Day (Georgia). This cave is only open one day of the year, though some areas remain roped off to protect the endangered grey bats that reside here. Near the entrance it is a huge, open cave that will narrow to a stream cave further back. The day usually includes a good presentation and it is possible that vendors may attend as well. Must be a current SCCi member or guest to attend
  • Feb 16 – 17: Big Sink Cave survey (Marion, VA) with bat count to follow on Sunday at Hancock Cave. Great beginner’s trip. May want to wear a wet suit or at least wet suit bottoms at Big Sink.
  • March 16 – 24: Rachel will be caving in Mexico near El Salto/Monterey. The plan is to fly into Austin then drive 8 hrs south. There is a 100 ft large wall, and rappelling areas are 20 – 30 ft.
  • April 6: Grand Caverns restoration (Grottos, VA). This is a commercial cave that sees heavy traffic. Work will be done to spread gravel into divots that have formed and scrub formations to remove growth that has amassed due to the artificial lights. Afterward, you are allowed to visit the nearby caves Madison and Fountain. Do check out the shields in Grand Caverns (big discs that form from hydrostatic pressure) and enjoy the free food.
  • April 25 – 28 Spring VAR (Wytheville, VA). Large regional gathering of cavers. Caving, vendors, feast. All you ever need.
  • May- girl scout trip. Emily’s niece is part of a girl scout troop that has previously been on a number of caving trips. Although there is no additional room for kids, there is still a need for ‘adults’. Hancock cave is a possible destination.
  • May 24 – 27: Speleofest (KY). Hosted by the Louisville grotto.
  • June 17 – 21: NSS Convention (Cookeville, TN). This national caving convention is hosted in a different site every year, with 2019 being comparatively close to NC. There are additional caving camps before and after the event.



Congratulations to the new officers for 2019!

Chair: Rachel Saker

Vice Chair: Ken Walsh

Webmaster: Carlin Kartchner

Secretary: Mike McBride

Treasurer: Mike Broome


In attendance: Emily, Rachel, Mark Daughtridge, Pete, Kim, Michael McBride, Jason Smythe, Dave, and Ken

Emily brightened up the group by asking what headlamp we use. The consensus was that the group either owns a Zebra or wants one, and Black Diamond and Petzl don’t hold up well in caves. Emily happily sports a Phoenix with a battery pack. Mark supplements his Zebra with a Marble Mountian 900 lumen (great power!), and Mike supplements his Zebra with a Streamlight 900 lumen he picked up for less than $20. Pete is partial to his Nitecore, with the nice feature of having a big button that you can use even if you have gloves on. Kim follows everyone else’s light, and Jason and Dave are in the market.



  • Do pay dues! The PayPal link still works, and Martin requested you email him before you pay. Money goes to grotto trip, cave gear, donations, etc.
  • Donations: $200 to Appalachian Cave Conservancy (owned cave where we had the grotto trip) also a $50 to the International Association for Geoscience Diversity for access for people with disabilities.
  • Darwin day: thank you to the people who helped with Darwin Day (Mark, Peter, Ken, Eric, and Diana). With more than 4,000 people in attendance, it was more than the museum expected.
  • The business card stock is mostly depleted. Ken will place an order to replenish since he has previously ordered the business cards.
  • This year the holiday party will be hosted by Kim on December 8th, 6:30 pm at 423 S. Riverdale Dr. Bring good cheer, and food. Kim will send out a sign up sheet for food shortly. The building of a squeeze box is a solid maybe.
  • Start thinking about nominations for officers next year. Elections will be held at the January meeting. (Reminder: we do not meet in December)
  • Rachel signed up TriTrogs for a fence project at Clover Hollow Cave. There is a barbed wire fence in disrepair and it would be nice to put in a few new posts. VPI may be able to get some of their trainees to assist with the project. If there is enough wood, the group could build a stepladder.


Trip Reports

Ken, Dan, Hunter, Taylor and Peter scouted Scott Hollow with camera gear in tow. The house on top of the entrance was built by a caver, complete with a trap door to provide access to a culvert that leads to the cave. The passages trends down for a long time, maybe 500 ft, but Pete described it as not too noticeable. The group was underground for about 10 hours and made it down to the lower section with a stream. Since it was a photo trip, there was a decent bit of standing while the photographers worked their magic. Pete got a quick glance at some of Hunter’s shots while he was editing that night. A must see. After shooting, they explored the cave and tackled a challenging climb over flowstone. Ken led onward to some points of interest. Overall, lots of stream walking though luckily the water was mostly shallow.

The next day was a shorted bout through Piercy’s Mill to clean the mud off the cave suits. Not the wade-through-a-shallow stream kind of clean off your boots. Think: chest-deep crossings bordered by muddy banks that required sticks to provide enough purchase to make it up (the discarded sticks at the entrance proved to be indispensable). Ken, ever the excellent leader, forged through the stream first to find the deep spots and submerged rocks. All crossings were successful, with only one unintentional bath that cleaned off Ken’s whole cave suit. The trek was worth the treasure. Piercy’s Mill is a highly ornamented cave with rimstones pools. Some dry, some still retained water, some quite deep. Pete highly recommends going to take a look.


At the end of October, Rachel traveled north to VPI and started with a surveying trip in Culverson Creek Cave to expand some of the upper attic. The next day yielded a sport trip to Maxwelton Sink Cave, accessed near town by an antique shop. Plenty of formations, and the middle of the cave has a rather large canyon. Continuing to Blacksburg, Rachel ventured into Starnes Cave (with so much rain outside, even the chandeliers were dripping) and Pig Hole (a nice pit, saw a beautiful rimstone pool dubbed Queen’s Bath). The next day brought a rappel through a waterfall into Clover Hollow. With a nod to the cold temperatures, they rappelled on the side opposite from the waterfall itself. In some of the pits the bolt placement wasn’t ideal and necessitated some rerigging.


Ken and Emily spent some time ridge walking, following up on report to Tanya from a D.O.T. worker who mentioned that he saw something that might have been a cave. Despite numerous briars for Emily and two ticks for Tanya, no cave was located. On Saturday the hunt for caves continued, this time for caves that had been mapped previously but would benefit from a resurvey. They found the wife of the landowner, then later an uncle that provided a landowner’s cell phone number. Based off Tanya’s topo map, they were able to drive to Big Sink cave, which was visible from the road. The entrance was about half way of the sink and the smell wafted up, the culprit being the abundant animal (raccoon?) feces. Between the miserable condition and the fact that soon-to-be-85-years old was accompanying, they decided to call it a day but not before noting two lucifuga near the entrance.


Mike McBride took a few people who had not caved in a while to Ellison’s Cave. After admiring all the petrified wood, they dropped the warm up pit. There was an unfortunate amount of trash for a cave that is visited many by cavers, though some of it may be wash in. The old rope, batteries, and bolts clearly speaks to caver trash and warrants a clean up effort. Of note, the bats are beginning to return to this cave. Mike reports seeing a significant increase in Little Brown Bats compared to his previous trips.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • Dec 8: Holiday Party at 423 S. Riverdale Dr. 6:30 pm
  • Weekend of Dec 7-9: Rachel will be joining in WVACs festivities and extended an invite to carpool if anyone was interested.
  • Possible trip over New Years? Will plan out details at the holiday party.



Pete regaled the group with everything we always wanted to know about cat rats.


Eric (and his taco hat) lead the by initiating a debate over what factors affect the cooking time of pasta. He finally reveals the question of the day- What is more heinous: glitter or cat hair?

Glitter haters include: Eric, Rachel, Zeke, Kim, Mike Broome

Those that despise cat hair: Hunter, Emily, Pete, Sarah Dotson, Diana, Mark Daughtridge

Ken was also in attendance but chose to answer a different question (What are you?) by explaining his Scottish (not Irish) garb.



  • Thanks goes to all BugFest volunteers!
  • If there are any outstanding balances from the grotto trip, please make sure you are reimbursed.
  • Pay your dues
  • A general reminder: make sure someone not going in the cave knows where you will be and what time you are expected out.
  • Volunteers are needed for Darwin Day. Pete will have an earthworm table, and TriTrogs will run a bat table.
  • This year the holiday party will be hosted by Kim on December 8th. Bring good cheer, and food.


Trip Reports

  • 23 Big Brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were recorded at Harris Lake County Park during a bat count. All were in good health.
  • Mike, though he missed the chance to share a trip report, did go caving. Somewhere underground.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • Oct 26: VPI trip with Rachel
  • Nov 3 – 4: Scott Hollow Photo Trip WV
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day
  • Dec 8: Holiday Party



Flamingos were raced, costumes were judged, speleobingo was played, and much fun was had at the Halloween Party.


In attendance:

Emily, Rachel, Eric, Zeke, Mark, Michael, Julie, Carlin, Diana, Peter, Vardell, Joani, Kim

When asked what animal we would like to see in a cave, the group answered with its usual variety and extravagance. Pack mules, narwhals, Robin (from Batman, clearly), sasquatch (who wouldn’t want to see him anywhere?), dragon, giant isopods, luminescent animals, olms, unicorns, cave rats (so cool!), spiders like in an Indiana Jones movie, a wish-granting monkey, and a turtle that could be rescued this time around.



  • BugFest: rescheduled for October 20th. Unfortunately, Pete will be out of town that weekend and will not be able to attend. He is still looking for volunteers for the Orthoptera table.
  • Darwin Day: November 10th. This will be a more subdued version than BugFest (think earthworms!) but volunteers are still welcome.
  • Upcoming programs: Join the Halloween party in October. Be prepared for a mystery program by Pete in November.
  • This year the holiday party will be hosted by Kim on December 8th. Bring good cheer, and food.


Trip Reports

Mike McBride travelled near and far (from AZ to TX to WV) and stopped in a few caves along the way. Wave Cave, near Phoenix, was so named for a sand stone rock with a wave-shaped rock near the entrance. Sex Cave, near Austin, was so named… er. Sex Cave, near Phoenix, had fresh flowstone and draperies that were within the sunlight from the entrance. In total there may have been a full 60ft of cave. Goat Cave was mysteriously named as there was no goats in the cave. It was within a karst management area. Rock Cave, in WV did at least have rocks, although in a creepily symmetric layout and a super smooth entrance. It was way back on someone’s property and was maybe 80ft by 30ft. There was a huge round boulder about 300 ft by 40 ft.

Also saw multiple starlings working together to tear apart and eat bats.


Mark, Emily, Ken, Mike, and Lisa ventured out to OTR to check out some of the WV caves.

Hamilton has about 4.5 miles, though it may have only been 4.5 ft tall for most of the route they took through the cave.  At the first junction, they decided to go right and encountered a lot of crawling and tight spaces (maybe left would have been better?). The cave was laid out in a grid pattern with most of the passages perpendicular, making it relatively easy to find your way back to the entrance. The downside was that there were a lot of balloons hanging from stalactites. New Trout was a very different cave despite being very close to Hamilton. Even the dirt was a different color and the air a different temperature.

Mark returned to Sinks of Gandy. Because of the recent rains, the group was in water the entire time, but luckily there was almost no gear to decon.

Surveying on Stillhouse Cave continued, with Emily, Ken, Mike, Lisa, and about 15 others participating in the efforts, splitting up into 3 groups of 5 each. Emily ended up in a group with a visually impaired surveyor and Katie on sketching. They were tackling a resurvey, asking if a particular stream went somewhere. Emily is not sure they figured out an answer.


The Rail Valley survey is complete, though Carlin wants to return one last time to revisit the blowing hole that has decent potential. The problem is that investigating the lead would require breaking some rocks. With the hole being 6 ft up, you can easily chimney up to check it out but it poses a problem for rock breaking, especially since the worst rocks are in the ceiling. It may be dangerous to dislodge those without the proper purchase. Although the dig is close to the entrance (maybe 100 ft), you would still have to carry any tools along the ¾ mile hike to the cave itself. Other interesting mystery that is left unsolved is the liquor cabinet: it is noticeably colder there, with air movement that cannot be pinpointed.

After finishing at the cave, they stayed at Tanya’s with some other cavers. Carlin drove Terry out to Radon Cave at 10 pm and it started pouring as soon as they got there, but he still went and was back in time for breakfast.

They also did some ridge walking, but this time of year everything is rather overgrown. They did spot a spring coming out of a 4-5ft cliff, but there were no obvious caves. Carlin would love to investigate some of the other springs along Holston River and explore the dips in the topo maps.


Diana, Eric, Rachel, Andy, and Jess attended Fall VAR and spent about 8 hours underground in New River Cave. Tuxedo proved to be a bit tight (especially for Andy) and the meat grinder brought out the requisite barrel rolls.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • Sept 28 – 30: Fall into the Gorge. Kayaking, caving, rappelling. $20. Run by KY Karst Conservancy
  • Sept 28 – 29: Fall MAR (PA)
  • Oct 4 – Oct 7 TAG Fall Cave-in (GA)
  • Oct 20: rescheduled BugFest
  • Nov 3 – 4: Scott Hollow Photo Trip
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day
  • Dec 8 Holiday Party



Mike McBride regaled the group with stories over overnight caving and how to pack appropriately.



Emily polled the group by asking what kind of caving we are most drawn to:

Sport: Mike Williams, Jimmy Survey: Carlin, Mark Photo: Hunter, Vardell, Matthew, Andy Vertical: Jennifer, Pete Naked: Lisa, Eric Conservation: Emily Float: Zeke

Those that can’t follow instructions and made their own choice: Ken (Horizontal), Martin (also horizontal), Kim (underground), Taylor (Horizontal). Also in attendance: Mike Broome, Joan, Stacy


  • Do pay your dues! Dues help pay for the grotto trip and other TriTrog-sponsored activities/items. You can pay through Paypal account via the TriTrogs website, and please follow up with an email to the treasurer (Marin) at in order to track current members.
  • Thanks to all that joined on the Grotto Trip. If you paid for food, give Martin your receipts and he can reimburse you.
  • Upcoming programs: Ask Mike McBride about overnight caving in September. Join the Halloween party in October. Be prepared for a mystery program by Pete in November.
  • This year the holiday party will be hosted by Kim on December 8th. Bring good cheer, and food.
  • Bugfest: If you want to volunteer, Pete needs to turn in the volunteer sheet sometime next week. You get a free tshirt, and lunch if you sign up for multiple shifts.

Trip Reports

Mark and Brian lead a beginner trip through Low Moor cave. With a destination of Fossil Alley in mind, they ventured in through the natural entrance and discovered about 15-20 bats flying in the area between the natural entrance and the mine. Further in, they discovered writing on the wall that alluded to a lake room (might warrant another trip to figure out if the promise holds true). Once in Fossil Alley, they were rewarded by the sight of a 6 – 7-inch segmented fossil, which speculation as to what it may be continued until dinner later that night. All enjoyed the excursion underground, and as usual the trip to Low Moor included a visit by the friendly campground cat.


Tawney’s Cave was the destination of the renowned group of cave photographers (Hunter, Ken, Dan, Matthew Weiss, Michael, Mark DeWitte, Matthew Lubin). Hunter learned the valuable lesson not to overload yourself with gear unless you want to be a Sherpa.


The NSS Convention got Mark Daughtridge underground more often than he was above it. Preconvention, he got to 10 caves, inside 6 of them. Notably, the nicest was Maribel with beautiful formations. The Cave of the Mounds near Madison, WI harbored a 6 ft cephalopod fossil. The commercial cave Crystal Lake in IA was, not surprisingly, touristy. Spook Cave was good for kids (you enter on a boat!). Crystal Cave offered an excellent educational piece on bats given by a great guide. Eagle Cave was not open (commercial cave) despite hours being posted online.

At the convention itself, Mark was able to limit himself to just 3 caves:

  • At Wagner’s Cave, the approach was best. You had to scuttle up a huge rope that came off a ship to climb the last 25 ft to the entrance, hopefully ignoring the dead pack rat and rat nests hidden inside.
  • Lewis and Clark Caverns proved sporty for a commercial cave, even allowing cavers to slide down a stone slide at one point.
  • Garrity Cave was off the beaten track, requiring a high clearance 4-wheel drive. Think: No roads, all rock. They almost drove right into the entrance, but stopped in time and instead rigged from the car to drop about 50 ft into the cave. When leaving, the sun was coming in at the perfect angle to take a fabulous picture. Less exciting, they ripped a 3-inch gash in their tire and had to change the tire to get back in time for the remnants of dinner

Other convention tidbits:  Next year the convention will be held in Cookeville, TN and the following year is in WV. The gear decon situation was the same as last year: the Decontaminator 5000. Bag up all submersible gear, then they dunk it, and you collect later. There was loaner gear and helmets, some of which was dedicated to each cave. Last but not least, Rob won 2 certificates for vertical caving!


A successful annual grotto trip descended to the long and sporty Gilley Cave. The 22 attendees divided into 3 groups to explore the 5 miles of cave. It was big enough that the groups only saw each other in passing. One group did a handline drop into a very decorated room (crystals, popcorn, pool with ‘almost cave pearls’). The group that was in there the longest made it all the way to the stream (400 ft below the entrance) and saw a few of the chert hoops (might they actually be stromatolites?). Zeke said it was 61.5 degrees according to his possibly uncalibrated thermometer (regardless, it was warm). The cave housed one bat, one salamander, and now 6 less D cell batteries and many less 80s coke cans and other trash.

Despite the rodeo at the campground that lasted until 2 am, some checked out Natural Tunnel State Park on Sunday.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • Aug 30 – Sept 3: OTR (WV) Old Timer’s Reunion will run from Thursday at noon to Monday morning. This will include lots of contest, vendors, 1500 people, campfires, some caving trips. Local caves on Saturday get crowded. If you plan on joining, you need to either be a member of The Robertson Association or a guest (ie 2 TRA members vouch for you and send in paperwork).
  • Aug 31 – Sept 3: Cave fest in TN, approximately 9 hrs from here.
  • Sep 8 – Sept 9: Smyth Co. Survey Carlin is going to Rail Valley (it’s a 0.5 mile hike in, but flat). It’s under a railroad. Some crawling. It’s an open area where they will be surveying. You will need a little bit of vertical knowledge. 30 ft drop.
  • Sept 15: BugFest. Peter sent out an email about volunteering as a way to give back to the museum for allowing us to meet there. You get to hold a grasshopper or a praying mantis.
  • Sept 22 – 23: FALL VAR in Blacksburg, VA
  • Sept 22: Bats, Bear, & Bluegrass
  • Sept 28 – 30: Fall into the Gorge. Kayaking, caving, rappelling. $20. Run by KY Karst Conservancy
  • Oct 4 – Oct 7: TAG Fall Cave-in (GA)
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day: Emily brought in the Darwin Day poster. Posed to the group- does anyone want to redesign the poster?
  • Dec 8: Holiday Party. Bring food. Kim claimed she will do a squeeze box (Mark/Mike offered to help design)

Ken wants to do another photo trip.



Matthew gave an introduction to cave surveying.




In attendance: Emily, Ken, Dave, Jimmy, Jennifer, Hunter, Carlin, Taylor, Andy, Zeke, Diana, Eric, Mark, Dan, Matthew, Kim

Emily spurred the group into action by asking about our favorite caving verb. As cavers, we trudge, thrutch, walk, wallow, slide, climb, survey, crawl, squeeze, chimney, begrudge, abseil, stem, portage, and meander.



  • Do pay your dues! The rate is now reduced to $7.50 (or $11 for families). Dues help pay for the grotto trip and other TriTrog-sponsored activities/items.
  • Upcoming programs: Learn about surveying from Matthew in August. Ask Mike McBride about overnight caving in September. Join the Halloween party in October. Be prepared for a mystery program by Pete in November.
  • Sign up for the grotto trip if you plan to attend. Currently there are about 11 people already signed up. A link to signup has already been circulated and will be emailed out again. The trip will take place at Gilley Cave in Lee County, with camping nearby at Leeman Field RV Park and Campgrounds, which offers showers. Suggestions are welcome for Sunday activities (Ken mentioned biking the VA Creeper Trail)
  • This year the holiday party will be hosted by Kim on December 8th. Bring good cheer, and food.


Trip Reports

Carlin, Ken, Dave, and Dawson travelled back to Rail Valley Cave in Smyth County, VA to continue surveying. Of the muddy crawls through Smyth Country, this one was muddier than most. To complement the mud, the deep rumble of the train overhead made it sound as though water was rushing in.

Although most of the leads didn’t go anywhere, one opened up through a fissure into a 40 ft wide, 30 ft high room complete with 20 ft column and other large formations. There was also a larger 30 ft pit but they unfortunately lacked the gear to cross. After surveying the liquor cabinet, the group decided that the cold had finally sunk in, and they will return to survey the rest with proper gear and more help in tow.

Other interesting facets of this trip included some noteworthy bugs, salamanders, and the interesting trek to get to the cave itself. After failing to obtain the key to the gait when the property owner was not at home, they scouted alternate ways of entry that involved crossing the river. Carlin was rather excited to discover that there were resurgences where the river went through the mountain, and sticking his head into one of the voids, he could hear water running though about 15 ft below. What did Carlin do all morning? Look for caves, of course. Eventually they ended up hiking in past the locked gate, but the tree growth would have prevented vehicle access regardless.

The next day brought another survey trip, this time through Staley’s Cave. For reference, this is on the same property as Snocone, but lower in the valley. Tanya came out to help survey the entrance, and in total they logged about 200ft of the L-shaped cave. In additional to the extra footage, they also gained new insight on Carlin (he doesn’t like caterpillars).

Eric and his daughter went to the bat ranch and were joined by Alexa and her daughter. The group explored Tawney’s Cave, starting at the larger entrance that went into the formation room. After getting lost and climbing a lot of mud, they found the semicircular moon room with the stream that flows along the edge. They did make it all the way back to the sinkhole, but missed the connection to the emerald room and instead found a dead cow. The following day brought Lynx Cave and lots of sideways walking and crawling.

Ken and Emily ventured back to Gilley Cave for a cleanup trip. They made excellent progress removing some of the graffiti from the entrance. Afterwards, Emily joined some of the other cavers on the crawl back to Echo Lake. It turned out to be a low, wet 40 ft crawl the ended with some of the younger girls wading into the lake. Upstream, they found some 4 ft hoop formations (Emily’s tape measure came in handy) and walls of gypsum in the dry sections. They encountered one slimy salamander and one E.  lucifuga, but no bats.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • This weekend: Photo trip to Tawney’s: They group (~8 people) will stay at the bat ranch, driving up Friday and coming back Saturday.
  • July 28 – Aug 4: NSS Convention (MT)
  • Aug 17 – 19: Mark leading beginner trip
  • Aug 25 – 26: Annual TriTrogs Grotto Trip: Gilley Cave, camping in Pennington gap at Leeman Field RV Park and Campgrounds
  • Aug 30 – Sept 3: OTR (WV) Old Timer’s Reunion will run from Thursday at noon to Monday morning. This will include lots of contest, vendors, 1500 people, campfires, some caving trips. Local caves on Saturday get crowded. If you plan on joining, you need to either be a member of The Robertson Association or a guest (ie 2 TRA members vouch for you and send in paperwork).
  • Aug 31 – Sept 3: Cave fest in TN, approximately 9 hrs from here.
  • Sept 15: BugFest/ Peter sent out an email about volunteering as a way to give back to the museum for allowing us to meet there. You get to hold a grasshopper or a praying mantis.
  • Sept 22 – 23: FALL VAR in Blacksburg, va
  • Sept 28 – 30 Fall into the Gorge. Kayaking, caving, rappelling. $20. Run by KY Karst Conservancy
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day



Diana took the group through some of the gorgeous caves she has visited.



In attendance: Emily, Carlin, Eric, Ken, Mark, Peter, Jimmy, Hunter, Dan, Dave

Question: How many machetes do you own? Pete comes in as the clear machete expert (with no less than 6), Dan has 3 (one for each hand), and Emily mysteriously has a half of a machete.



  • Pay your dues! Starting in July the price goes down. If you don’t know if you paid, go ahead and pay (… or ask Martin).
  • Upcoming programs include a stint by Diana next month on an unknown but sure-to-be enthralling topic. August promises a surveying extravaganza. Every wonder about how to prepare for an overnight caving trip? Ask Mike McBride in September. Join us for a Halloween party in October where odds are there will be at least one item with a bat on it. In November, Pete will enchant the group with an unknown topic. If there is ever a need, the NSS has webinars that we could resort to for programs, including one about splints for fractures, another about how ropes are made, another about TN caves.
  • BugFest is coming up in mid-September. Help the museum (and Pete!) by volunteering at the Orthoptera table.
  • Kim volunteered to host the holiday party this year.


Trip Report (and grotto trip considerations)

Emily, Diana, and Eric went to Gilley’s Cave to scout it out as a possible location for this year’s annual grotto trip. The cave is in Pennington Gap, VA, which is about 5 hours from Raleigh. Gilley’s is owned by the Appalachian Cave Conservancy and has a gate that needs to be unlocked. Unfortunately, it has a lot of graffiti and broken formations, but it also holds beautiful popcorn, crystals, and gypsum.  Lots of waterfalls as well. The cave itself was mostly walking passage, and all crawls (some of which were tight) were voluntary. Further into the cave, there was a lot of breakdown. The cave offers about 4.5 miles of mapped cave to explore.

Gilley’s can probably hold 18-20 people, and Emily is currently looking into an overflow cave option.

Where to camp? Natural Tunnel campground is only 0.5 hr from the cave, but the primitive group campsite (which still has water and a shelter) only holds 12 people. Additional campsites are 0.5 mils away. There is camping in Bristol potentially.

Pete posed the question of potentially returning to the Rass site from the last annual grotto trip and do different caves. This would require getting permission to enter Porter’s again. The larger shelter would come in handy if it rained.

Ken suggested that we will have a sign in sign out list at the cave entrance.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • June 29 – July 1: Survey trip in Smith county, possibly Rail Valley. (Contact Carlin for information) The railroad tracks are about 30 ft away, you feel it if you are in the cave. Original survey had ~800 ft (not the best quality). There is a blowing lead that goes into darkness and extends into limestone so it has potential. It’s a horizontal trip. Plan to get damp as you go in, have some extra dry layers. Ken found 6 leads the last time, he might not be able to follow unless they are dug out a bit.
  • July 2: Eric may take his daughter up to the bat house and go caving
  • July 7: Gilley cave graffiti cleanup (will try and document the graffiti since some of it is really old, 1800s)
  • July 7: Carlin going to the bat ranch and may go to Smoke Hole. It’s tie dye weekend.
  • Later July: Ken wants to do a photography trip
  • July 28 – Aug 4: NSS Convention (MT)
  • Aug 17 – 19: Mark might do a small Low Moor beginner’s trip
  • Aug 24 – 26: Annual TriTrogs Grotto Trip
  • Aug 30 – Sept 3: OTR (WV)
  • Sept 22 – 23: Fall VAR New River Junction, Blacksburg, VA
  • Sept 22: Bats, beer, and bluegrass hosted by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. Chickamauga, GA
  • Sept 28 – 30 Fall into the Gorge (KY). Limited space. $20 to attend. Camping, kayaking, rappelling, and cave surveying.
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day at NC Museum of Natural Sciences



Kim: Everything you never wanted to know about Cave Salamanders


In attendance: Emily, Ken, Nathan, Gillian, Hunter, Dan, Brenda, Eric, Kim, Diana, Peter, Mike B., Carlin, Jimmy

Emily posed the question: If there was a merchant in the depths of a cave and he was selling just one item, what would it be? The almost-unanimous answer was food, from ice cream to a hot bowl of soup, two different kinds of cobblers, cold beer, and to complete the mix, wifi.



  • Pay your dues!
  • Eric followed up from the program last month about making caves accessible to all by adding the message: keep an open mind.
  • Another program follow-up: as a reminder, If you agreed to donate to the grotto in exchange , don’t forget. You can donate through PayPal.
  • Upcoming programs include Salamanders, surveying, and overnight trip planning. Eric would appreciate any input for a November program.
  • Spring VAR recap: Great representation from TriTrogs. 279 people registered, with 20 or so TriTrogs among them.
  • NSS Directors Ballots are out. Don’t forget to vote- you can read all about the candidates online.


Trip Reports

Ken lead a trip through Hancock cave at VAR. Accompany Ken on the trip was a family of five, including a teenage son with Down’s Syndrome who out-caved both parents. Although he didn’t speak much, they established nonverbal ways of communication.

Emily led a second VAR group (Jimmy, Jennifer, Andy, Kim) through Hancock Cave. The first time cavers in the group happily tackled the mud and explored the highlights of Hancock.


SnoCone and Buchanan Saltpeter welcomed VAR-goers Diana, Carlin, and Carlin’s dad. The group also briefly looked into Cold Sink. Although they didn’t venture in, another group found virgin cave in the area before the crawlway to heaven, relatively early in the cave. There was some digging initially, but clear once you access the area. This cave is known to flood, requiring you to move some of the mud that settles. There was a 2nd group in SnoCone that did the tight sections and vertical drop, and Diana and co made it back to the sump. As a tribute to the merit of SnoCone, Mark Hodge mentioned it was the most beautiful cave he has seen in VA.


On Friday night at VAR, Hunter and Mike McBride made it to Worley’s cave. The caving continued on Saturday with a trip to cave ridge to explore Dead Air cave with Mark and capture some beautiful pictures.


Sam 6 cave was explored by Eric and his daughter. Although not visually interesting, the kids loved it. Another family brought along an 18 month old.


Lisa and Mike led a vertical trip to Rollin Creek Cave, accompanied by 5 other people. Tanya thought it would be a through trip, but they didn’t do it as one. After the GPS took them to the wrong house, they crossed a creek with more water than usual and scrambled up a hill to the cave entrance. Inside, they tackled the two 50 foot vertical drops the cave had to offer. No one saw the owl (that was around when surveying), but there was a bird’s nest up on wall. Mike McBride helped Charity since it was her first vertical trip (she did great!). Though the lesson to take home is always that vertical gear will always be more efficient when it’s fitted properly. They did find a blue sheath samari sword but decided to leave it for the next cavers.


Pete accompanied the group on the Dead Air trip and explored with Mark while Matthew was taking pictures. There were handlines rigged to allow to navigate some of the muddy slopes. Some mapping activities have been initiated to update the map, though never concluded. When it gets really dry and there is a drought, more passages are revealed.

Also went to Hancock (and got up the slope without using the handline!).


In a separate trip (not at VAR), Emily took 10 girl scouts to navigate the passages of Low Moor cave. Additional cavers on the trip included Brenda, Kim, Sarah and her boyfriend, Diana, and Sandy. The trip started off with a setback when a handline Sandy was using snapped, a strong reminder to question any gear left in caves. Mostly unscathed with just a minor injury, she sent the rest of the party on to visit the natural entrance instead of trekking through the mine.

The scouts loved the cave pearls 50 ft or so inside the entrance, as well as the salamander and bat. In true scout form, the girls cleaned a lot of graffiti, mostly in the beautiful mine entrance (surrounded by arches of rock).


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • May 25-28: Speleofest (KY)
  • May 26-27 BCCS 50/60 Butler Cave Conservation Society: 50th anniversary, 60th anniversary of when the cave was discovered
  • Ken: memorial day cave trip? Let him know if anyone wants to go caving. Sport/Photo trip?
  • June 8 – 10 KARST-O-RAMA (KY)
  • June 22-24 OCR (PA)
  • June 22-24 OCR Spring MAR Field Meet (PA) Mar: Mid atlantic region
  • July 28 – Aug 4: NSS Convention (MT)
  • Aug 25-26: Annual TriTrogs Grotto Trip
  • Aug 30 – Sept 3: OTR (WV)
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day: At Museum.

Fall VAR: end of Sept, VPI is hosting it

Carlin: Survey trip in June. Haven’t set a date. Perkins, or may go look for new caves.



Chris Atchison: International Association for Geoscience Diversity


In attendance: Mark Daughtridge, Mike McBride, Martin, Mark DeWitt, Mike Broome, Matthew W., Zeke, Hunter, Kim, Dan, Diana, Ken, Peter, Kevin, Carlin, Dave, Devon


Emily posed the question: What is the oldest piece of caving gear that you own?

Among the group (and discounting Kevin’s claim to his son Carlin being the oldest cave tag-a-long), there were several pieces of gear that date back to latter half of the 20th century. These include Pete’s battery pack from the ‘70s, and Dan’s goldline braided climbing rope from the ‘50s.




  • Spring VAR: (Virginia Area Regional)
  • Location: Lutheran camp adjacent to Hungry Mother State Park
  • Look for the banner that Ken will bring up
  • Ken is leaving the Raleigh area around 11 or 12pm, Mike M will also arrive early
  • Registration starts at 2pm
  • Possible cave trips may include Perkins, Buchanan Saltpeter, Hancock, etc
  • Friday evening there is a speaker (talking about geology)
  • Breakfast is only on Sunday, not Saturday and Sunday as previously mentioned
  • Pay your DUES! $15 online or give money to an officer
  • Carlin has paid the web posting until next April
  • How old are the TriTrog loaner helmets? Petzl says there is a 10 year expiration date, and three of the four TriTrog loaner helmets are over 10 years (they existed already before Mike B joined in 2003). The fourth was donated by Mike B.
  • Mark still has a helmet from the Rass field station, and may try to return it at VAR.


Trip Reports


Ken: The annual Grand Caverns cleanup was a success. The majority of the day was spent hauling gravel, allowing the pool that people were slipping into to be filled in. On Sunday, there was a geology talk for those who were interested. The date for next year has been set for April 6th.


Emily and Kim attended the OCR training class at Chimney Rock State Park. This class provided hands-on training for what procedures to follow in order to rescue someone from a cave. The focus of the course was securing the patient into a litter and transporting through a cave. The powerpoints of Friday night and Saturday morning were followed by an obstacle course where you practiced carrying a person on a litter. Of the 20+ people who attended, more than half were cavers and the remainder were firefighters/EMS. Mock rescue in the cave was cancelled due to the weather, but they may offer a future mock make up date.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • April 27-29: Spring VAR
  • May 3-6: SERA Cave Carnival (Scottsboro, AL)
  • May 11-13: GirlScout Trip
  • May 25-28: Speleofest (KY)
  • June 8 – 10 KARST-O-RAMA (KY)
  • June 22-24 OCR (PA)
  • July 28 – Aug 4: NSS Convention (MT)
  • Aug 25-26: Annual triTrogs Grotto Trip
  • Aug 30 – Sept 3: OTR (WV)
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day: At Museum.

Ken might go somewhere for memorial day weekend.

Dave might do a survey trip at some point.



Much gear was traded and bartered at the Gear Swap, that was held before the business portion of the meeting for ease of setup.


In attendance: Emily, Eric, Hunter, Mike B, Mike M, Carlin, Julie, Kyrie, Kim, Matthew, Ken, Diana, Peter, Mark

Emily successfully established that cavers should never bestow their children with cave-related names, as poor Rocky, Whirley, and (yes….) Death Pit may face life-altering challenges. Mica might have hope, though.



  • Next month: The program will be the gear swap. There is a signup sheet posted online. We will start with this first (before the business meeting) so that friends and family can join. Invite all!
  • Spring VAR: (Virginia Area Regional) early registration still open until April 30th.
  • Gather of cavers that camp out on Friday and Saturday night and go caving.
  • Camping at Hungry Mother Lutheran Camp (open field, no individual fire pits so bring a camp stove if you want to cook!)
  • Group dinner will be provided on Saturday night, and continental breakfast on both days. Meals are included in registration if you preregister.
  • There is a great guidebook available this year.
  • Two vendors will be in attendance if you are interested in purchasing and additional caving gear.
  • Most of the caving is generally on Saturday (there is a meeting that happens on Sunday, but you are welcome to cave on the way home).
  • Mike has flag and canopy (when you get there, look for orange flag and NC license plates)
  • Usually about 200 in attendance
  • Orientation to Cave Rescue. April 13-15: NCRC OCR: Chimney Rock
  • Annual grotto trip: Maybe Gilly’s?
  • Pay your DUES! $15 online or give money to an officer


Trip Reports

  • Mike M. travelled south to attend the FL Cave Cavort hosted by the tampa grotto. First stop was Lance’s Cave, where there was some necessary floor and ceiling digging to cement it’s claim as a cave. Next on the list was Ocala Caverns, complete with a rich history that includes joints as a commercial cave and a training facility. After an interesting search for the entrance, they discovered the cleverly concealed 30 ft pit entrance. After exploring some additional smaller limey Florida caves (some with fledgling vultures in the entrance), they found themselves in another previous commercial cave that with concrete steps to a 60ft by 200ft room that housed crystal blue water. One long crawl and steep ladder across a crack later, Mike discovered dozens of bats roosting in the entrance to the lake room. The lake itself was about 12ft by 16ft, and at 8 ft deep one can easy cannonball into it. An exploration of Dame’s cave and Peace Cave completed the trip, though these two smaller caves (<400ft) were well populated with locals.
  • Lisa and Mike B. ventured out to Hawaii and discovered the draw of lavatube Unlike solution caves, the formations within lavatube caves are from the liquid rock itself that has cooled into shapes. The ceiling is adorned with roots since you are never far from the surface. They entered through a ceiling collapse and continued along the horizontal routes with a downhill trend, with some side passages into the inner sections.The cave was a balmy 65°F, similar to the outside temperature, and was situated on the southern tip of the island in a community with about 6 cavers. At 65°F, the cave was too warm for the bats to be affected by WNS.
  • Lisa and Mike also attended a small party rescue training in Burnsville, VA, with classroom exercises on Saturday and Sunday they focused on rope work for vertical rescue with pulleys and hall systems. Originally it would have been in a cave, but the 6-8 inches of snow meant they practiced their rope work in a two story-garage.
  • Ken, Dave, Emily, and Jason successfully surveyed Dutton’s Cave along Cave Ridge. The scrambled down into one room with three pits on three different sides of the room. Using a cable ladder to drop down to the lower level, they came across the main room adorned with lots of fins. There was a pool at the base (which was about 4 ft lower than the previous scouting trip) and alongside were some stones that had been pulled there to form a kind of platform. By the end of the trip they logged 32 stations.
  • The group continued to Radon Cave, where Ken learned he couldn’t quite squeeze through the initial crawlway. Leaving Ken to dig out the initial crawl, the rest continued and Dave rigged a cable ladder that led to an area at the top where there was barely enough room to take your harness off. After another pinch, it opened into a long room with a ceiling of about 75 ft. Animal life included one bat, one groundhog, and the remains of something else. Nothing looked promising for other leads from the larger room.


Upcoming Trips and Activities

  • April 13-15: NCRD OCR: Orientation to Cave Rescue (Open to beginners)
  • April 21: Grand Caverns Clean Up Ken will be helping out. Oldest commercial caverns in the US. Sunday: offering tours with a USGS geologist at 10 and 1 pm. Cavers get to join for free. Contact Ken if interested. Might be cleaning off algae, putting formations back together.
  • April 27-29: Spring VAR
  • May 3-6: SERA Cave Carnival (Scottsboro, AL) It’s a TAG event
  • May 11-13: GirlScout Trip to Lowmoor Emily’s nieces girl scout trip Ken, Diana, Kim
  • May 25-28: Speleofest (KY)
  • July 28 – Aug 4: NSS Convention (MT)
  • Aug 25-26: Annual Grotto Trip
  • Nov 10: Darwin Day: At Museum.



Emily hosted a wonderful game of Speleo Bingo.