Carlin K.Aragonite
Diana G.Basalt
Elise S.Bismuth
Emily G.Calcium
Hayden H.Calcium carbonate
Howard H.Carbon
Joanna Y.Feldspar
Ken W.Gneiss
Lisa L.Gold
Mark D.Iron pyrite
Mary W.Marble
Mike B.Obsidian
Nick S.Opal
Rob H.Quartz
Shannon Z.Sandstone
Steve T.Sandstone
Taylor T.Shale
Zeke V. F.Sodium chloride
Guessing game

Let’s see how well the grotto members paid attention on Tuesday night when Chair Zeke Van Fossen began the meeting asking the attendees to name their favorite rock, mineral, or element. How many matches can you get right?

Zeke encouraged everyone to join the grotto and the NSS. Taylor shared the survey results to determine how comfortable grotto members are about meeting in person again, citing an overwhelming number looking forward to outdoor meetings and a majority to indoor meetings. The Museum has not yet determined when groups will meet there again yet.

The June meeting will be held at Mike and Lisa’s house north of Durham, and members are encouraged to carpool and bring their own chairs. There will be physical challenges as a program and possibly Zoom access.

Elise walked the members through her changes to the grotto web site that are designed for improving navigation and increasing content.

Skylar mentioned her brief trip to Links Cave while her dog waited impatiently in the car.

Emily blamed the gas shortage for the delay in her trip to Crossroads Cave.

Wake County Parks and Rec sponsored an introduction to local bats on May 27.

Ken asked those interested in surveying Perkins Cave to sign the Doodle Poll.

Nick Socky hit the ball out of the park with his slide show entitled “Discoveries and Progress of the Great Savannah Cave System, 2020-2021.” Fantastic slides to accompany the extraordinary exploration they’ve been doing in West Virginia.

Zoom Breakout rooms didn’t work so well this time (with Emily in one room and everyone else in the other). That doesn’t mean we won’t try it again in the future.

Officers in attendance: Mike Broome, Zeke Van Fossen, Taylor Tibbs, Ken Walsh, and Elise Sanderson

Other members in attendance: Tine Rassalle

We firmly established that Nick Socky would be the speaker at the May TriTrogs meeting, and Mike was collecting a blurb about the subject.

We then spent a lot of time figuring out how to transport large objects to Cary for a June meeting, but then later we abandoned those discussions.

Eno River Park is open until 10 PM during summer months, and we talked extensively about a hands-on program for an in-person outdoor meeting in June. People should bring their own camp chairs and masks just in case rain demands that the meeting be moved indoors. The June meeting will be held at Mike and Lisa’s house; they will supply rakes and shovels for people to lean on, if desired. (Doing yard work is strictly optional.) The tomato plants are coming up great this year.

We discussed the May 25 agenda briefly and will try to offer breakout rooms at the end of the meeting so that attendees can plan caving trips. Zeke will send the link out on the day of the meeting. Taylor will discuss the survey results and other Covid-related plans.

In attendance: Ken W., Zeke V.F., Martin G., Joanna Y., Emily G., Tine R., Howard H., Mike B., Monica S., April N., Jessica K., Kelly W., Skylar H., Steve T., Taylor T., Zane S., Pete H., Carlin K., Axel R., Diana G., Andre C., Lisa L., Lee O., and Elise S.

Zeke asked everyone to introduce themselves and mention a book, movie, etc. that first piqued an interest in caving or some totally outrageous source that you knew broke the Laws of Caving. Several mentioned Journey to the Center of the Earth (book and movie), but Emily recounted an auditorium of cavers laughing at the whole film. The 2021 movie Finding ‘Ohana features bats flying from a Hawaiian cave, and The Descent features monsters (maybe related to those in Ted the Caver). The nonfiction book The Life of the Cave by Mohr and Poulson was inspirational, and Pete was pulled in by a book about Schoolhouse Cave. Star Trek caves looked fake to several members until they recognized that some caves actually do have those flat floors. Carlin mentioned a PBS special that featured a cave connection trip as inspirational. Skylar shared a link to Jim Eyre’s book It’s Only a Game, and Zane mentioned Luminous Dead. Others took the opportunity to talk about other events that got them into cave exploration.

The introductions revealed several career-oriented cave explorers (archaeology, paleontology, and cave biology). We hope that we get to share time soon with y’all underground, and don’t be surprised if Taylor T. contacts you about sharing some of your work as a future meeting program.

Dues are $15 for one person or $22 for a family unit.

In the Business section of the meeting, Zeke highlighted two items from the April Officers Meeting:

  1. Members should look for a survey with questions about how we might start meeting in person again soon (no word yet from the Museum on their policies)
  2. Officers are considering again the anti-harassment policy that the NSS has in place and whether we should be making any modifications. The officers are also considering how to make it abundantly clear to all members.

No one shared any recent trip reports.

In terms of upcoming trips, Emily described her planned trip to Crossroads Cave while Pete Zeke highlighted the smells and temperatures from their February 2020 trip.

Kelly and Andre are planning a trip to the TAG caving area this coming weekend.

Skylar is planning to head to the Bat Ranch this weekend and offered up Links Cave as a possible trip.

The officers are not planning a big Annual Grotto Trip this summer. Look for a possible announcement about it being held in the Fall. A suggestion was presented that it might be joined with the Fall VAR event if that happens.

Mike Broome will be planning the next month’s program from his basement, perhaps with matching Sockys.

As the April program, Ken Walsh shared zoomed-in views of five world class cave maps (of course not by him) and mentioned some of the cartographic features that he was really impressed by.

Elise mentioned some of the web site management that she is doing right now and her desire to get more people involved in developing content and helping to make navigation easier.

Zeke concluded the meeting by thanking all the new people who had joined us this month and to those who are re-discovering caving after some time in the sunlight.

Officers present: Zeke Van Fossen (Chair), Taylor Tibbs (Vice Chair), Mike Broome (Treasurer), and Ken Walsh (Secretary)

On the morning after the March meeting, the Museum communicated that they had not yet established a pandemic-related policy for in-person meetings for its affiliate groups (e.g., TriTrogs). The officers had no new information about the Museum policy before the Officers Meeting. The officers did not feel that we should be shopping for a new permanent in-person meeting location before we hear anything about the Museum policy, but they did hold a conversation about temporary outdoor locations.

Even if meeting outside, the officers plan to continue meetings for the fourth Tuesday each month. However, locations near the Museum should not be viewed as a Mecca. A more important characteristic would be nearby toilets. Discussion proceeded into some possibilities of backyards and local parks during the summer months.

The officers chose to develop a short survey that will help solicit member suggestions about how to conduct future in-person meetings while the CDC and NC Department of Health continue recommending social distancing practices. It will also allow members to express a desire for a hybrid approach (in person with a limited online component). Mike, Ken, and Zeke agreed to investigate some members’ homes in Raleigh, Cary, and Durham, and Taylor began a survey questionnaire. Ken will also check with the Museum again about policy before the April general meeting.

Because the planning for the Annual Grotto Trip typically falls mostly to the officers, we discussed Covid-related requirements that the individual officers would expect before they would plan on joining the trip. Concerns about vaccine availability for children and concerns about limiting the trip to paid members (without allowing for inclusion of family and friends) led the officers into the recognition that the officers felt that current pandemic protocols would not allow for the type of trip this year that we have been accustomed to enjoying. The officers cautiously look forward to a possible autumn trip but will not engage in any planning until Covid spread rates (positivity rates) decrease substantially.

The TriTrog officers do want to emphasize that CDC guidelines do allow for small group gatherings, of the sizes that most caving trips (four to six people) would see. The officers note that grotto members may plan caving trips but should consider pandemic protocols the same way that they consider other safety protocols for a caving trip. The officers encourage all participants to be open and honest about their expectations/concerns for health protocols on the trip, the same way that we encourage all participants to be honest about their safety expectations/concerns for any horizontal or vertical caving trip.

The grotto officers felt that it was also time to revisit the Anti-Harrassment Policy development that the NSS initiated a few years ago. A policy was not drafted for the TriTrogs, and Mike agreed to follow up to find out what information that group did gather. Ken agreed to contact some other grottoes to try to find out if they have written policies that we could adopt. The officers then had some discussion about possible effective ways to disseminate the information and what would be required to place such policy within the grotto Bylaws and into our web content.

At the April grotto meeting, Ken will be sharing a presentation featuring some award-winning cave maps. A discussion of Mike’s online basement caving adventure suggested that Mike be light-hearted in the presentation and attendees be watching with a beer in their hands.

Zeke will check in with Elise about announcements about the web site content. Mike paid the annual bill for the grotto web site.

A fowl beginning to the March TriTrogs meeting: Lee was painting ducks while Zeke was laying eggs. Then the meeting began in a food-oriented way. Zeke asked everyone to share their names and a favorite food. He began by listing his perfect fluffer nutter sandwich. Andre shared his love for mozzarella sticks, and Lisa couldn’t choose between whiskey and chocolate (after Lee mentioned wine and chocolate). Emily expressed a fondness for chocolate-covered espresso beans, but Mike preferred his home brewed beer. After Zane mentioned massaman curry and Martin ordered up kung pao chicken, Zeke broke in: “I wanted to hear about your ideal cave foods.”

Martin stayed on the exotic side with his call for peanut butter and habanero jelly on burnt toast. Peter discussed how to adjust the ratio of skittles to cherry bites based on the endurance required for the caving trip but then chose a pouch of tuna fish with a spoon as his preferred food.

Diana talked about how she grew accustomed to making sandwiches while in Quebecois caves (like Mike does), and Lee recanted his decantation of wine (no drinking on cave trips). The lists went on from there: Joanna (protein bar), Ken (fresh fruit), Carlin and Karsten (shrimp dumplings, strawberries and not cherries, cheese steaks and quesadillas), and Kelly (Jet A–half pb, half Nutella, cranberries, and crackers).

Membership dues are still $15 or $22 for an unlimited number of family members. Zeke also mentioned that everyone should consider NSS membership as well.

There was no old business. The grotto web site is being updated but has not yet been uploaded. A question was raised about the Museum’s pandemic policy for meetings of affiliate groups [ed. answer came the next day that NC Museum of Natural Sciences will add that topic to their list of policies to sort out right now].

The 2021 NSS Convention will be virtual again this year at the end of July. Diana pointed out that the virtual convention will not be plagued by the mythological meteorological events from previous conventions.

Andre and Kelly shared a trip report about their visit to Stephens Gap Cave. B. Stanley let them camp in his driveway, prepped eggs for them in the morning, loaned them gear, and led a pull-down trip. Andre got some nice photo shots of their adventure and went out and bought a wetsuit for caving right after that.

Lisa led Mike on a tour of the Blue Ribbon Loop in Butler Cave, trying to navigate aided by a map. Previously a crawl that had been dug threw her off, but this time Mike had a compass along. After some heated discussion, they determined that the web site’s overlay was incorrect.

On a second day back into Butler Cave, Mike and Lisa noted that the snowmelt had significantly increased the water depth in the cave before they got back to the Air Dig. Mike noted that the fog outside the cave (from sublimation) was significant.

Zeke looked longingly into a storm drain, and Martin has been replacing pipes beneath his house.

Next month’s meeting will be hosted from Ken’s Zoom account because he’ll be sharing the program.

Emily launched us into a game of Just One that everyone played, some better than others. Hairy crickets and hanging stalagmites were featured, as Emily tried to stump the group think mentality and challenged us to think independently about how to convey caving terms to our teammates.

We had a good turnout for our virtual February 2021 meeting led by Zeke Van Fossen. He introduced himself but told everyone else that they’d have to wait to be acknowledged during the program. Everyone else included Joanna Y., Andre C., Emily G., Jessica K., Timothy W., Diana G., Rob H., Lisa L., Mike Broome, Taylor Tibbs, Mark D., Lee O., Dan LaP., Pete H., and Ken Walsh.

Zeke listed the annual dues, the way to pay them, and a reminder that everyone should join the TriTrogs and the NSS.

Hopefully Elise Sanderson will provide a list of web updates to share at the next meeting if she cannot attend.

Zeke mentioned that Cancelled Events seems a strange topic to have on the agenda. The Weed, California NSS Convention planners may not offer a decision until the end of March. The Spring Grand Caverns Restoration Camp has been cancelled, and Zeke shared a few things that were very special to him about this annual event. Ken suggested that we may be able to plan something in the Fall but wouldn’t know anything until this summer.

Taylor Tibbs briefly described the programs for some upcoming meetings:

  • February: show and tell
  • March: Emily will introduce a cave-themed game
  • April: Ken will be sharing cave maps drawn by different artists/cartographers
  • Mike will take us caving into his basement
  • Everyone should pressure Peter into sharing a talk
  • Looking for volunteers to share more

Because Mark had not seen the January meeting minutes, he asked about the identities of the 2021 TriTrog officers. Zeke is Grotto Chair, Taylor continues as Vice Chair, Mike serving as Treasurer, Ken as Secretary, and Elise continuing as Webmaster. Mark was notified that the meeting minutes are posted on the TriTrogs web site. They don’t go out automatically to the list serve.

Rob H. shared a trip report from a day trip in which he had gone to Balcony Sink Cave and Neversink Cave. 2 hour drive. BSC featured a huge waterfall and a tree growing in the middle. he described Neversink Cave as an inverted Aztec pyramid with glowworms. SCCi owns Neversink, an open air pit 200 feet across. Sign up in advance for access. It’s easy to get great photos of this beautiful rappel. Lots of dead turtles were at the base of the pit. Rob described how one of his team dropped his phone down the pit into deep mud, they formed a spiral search, and the phone in a cheap case was still functioning. Lee O. challenged Rob’s pit depth, saying that Neversink Cave is only 168 feet deep.

This month’s program was constructed as a Show-And-Tell for cavers about caves and cave-related paraphernalia:

  • Zeke began by showing off his first cave pack and crediting Diana G. for its vintage look. He has held to the mantra that “It must go underground” where everything gets beaten to hell. Peter showed Zeke how to use the straps to slide it into a football position.
  • Zeke also carries a weather device that measures temperature, wind speed, and barometric pressure.
  • Tim W. belonged to the Clocktower Grotto in Georgia but now lives in Greensboro. He shared a shiny, new version of the Swaygo pack because caves deal out such a beating on packs. He also shared that he sports the NSS bats tattoo on his ankle.
  • Mike shared that he carries the vintage Swaygo pack and loves using Lisa L.’s Disto for surveying because it makes the trips so much faster.
  • In contrast, Lisa L. shared her Suunto compass and clinometer pair as her favorite cave items. She also enjoys a really good vacuum thermos because liquids will still be hot hours later, a necessity after thirteen-hour trips with Carlin. Lisa L. also shared a beautiful candle setting from Glenwood Caverns where they began their wild caving experiences.
  • Andre C. described a Protraction/Grigrier 1 device that he uses for top rope-rigged soloing.
  • Lee Olson shared a titanium scarab that can hold two people, and Lee only uses one horn at his caving weight of 180 pounds. He also shared a French wrap that he uses as a safety when bees sting him. Lisa admired Lee’s titanium micro rack from New Zealand that gives him a really smooth rappel. Rob asked if Lee planned to rappel fast enough to make the titanium change colors, but Lee has more sense than that.
  • Diana shared one of her vintage flash bulbs that are the size of incandescent lamp bulbs. She offered to let Mike put it into one of his home lamp fixtures. Diana also presented a pair of earrings constructed from a halved cave pearl left over from a scientific study. She also taught the grotto members the French word for formations: concrecions.
  • Mark shared his first cave pack that he bought at his first VAR; he likes its versatility and chooses it over his new pack when sharing packs with others. He also likes carrying duct tape wrapped around his water bottle and found that it survived many washes after years of caving.
  • Dan LaP. promoted the warm glow from his dad’s carbide lamp and noted how its lumens wouldn’t blind fellow cavers. Rob recalled that he needed to be able to assemble and light a carbide lamp blindfolded in order to get into VPI Caving Club.
  • Joanna shared that she is looking for gear and would like to learn more from videos.
  • Emily shared her steampunk clay bat that she molded herself. Although she didn’t have any of Speleosoap’s Cave candles (that smell like the humus near a cave entrance), she did share a candle with the scent of Ridgewalking. Emily declared that the Ridgewalking candle smelled like failure. Not sure about the best marketing campaign.
  • Jessica K. joins us by way of Bear Grotto in Texas and now teaches Geology at Wake Tech. She shared a sliced formation from the Yucatan whose dark bands indicated drought periods and have been associated with the soot from rituals to appease the Mayan god Chaac. She also had a cat-of-nine-tails made from caving rope given to her at her wedding reception.
  • Zeke was relieved to discover that Ken’s Canned Bat did not contain formerly living bat. Ken also shared his short rack that could act as a stop for horizontal cavers because it’s so hard to even get a rope onto.

The meeting concluded, but members stayed online to share more about online videos and how to choose caving gear.

In attendance: Zeke Van Fossen (Chair), Mike Broome (Treasurer), Taylor Tibbs (Vice Chair), and recording Ken Walsh (Secretary)

As the meeting began, Ken updated contact information, checked stats with Mike and Zeke, and submitted our annual report to the NSS.

The January bank statement shows an increase of $15.01 but does not include the PayPal account’s increase.

Mike and Zeke confirmed that the web site’s Chair emails are being forwarded to Zeke.

Taylor led a discussion about upcoming meeting presentations:

  1. NO PROMISES BUT Mike will build a cave in his basement, and it may include glow-in-the-dark, objects not to scale, sounds of dripping formations, and even a cave-like smell. The smell will not be similar to Big Sink Cave, and it won’t be too cold for him. There may be choices along the way that the audience will engage in through a Zoom poll for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure experience.
  2. The February program is Zoom Show-and-Tell, and Taylor will ask folks to quickly share any cave- or cave-related item they may have worth showing.
  3. Taylor will tap Pete Hertl to share a presentation on cave biology. She will offer to be in charge of sharing the images if that makes it easier for Pete.
  4. Regarding cave cartography, Ken was asked to consider Zoom presentations about how to add cave symbols, featuring some cool cave maps done by many different cartographers, and/or a long presentation showing the steps involved in moving from sketch to map. Ken will contact Dwight Livingston about sharing some cool maps with permission in March.
  5. A suggestion arose to ask Jenn Macalady to speak about snottites or another unusual cave formation. Guest speakers should work well in the Zoom format.
  6. Mike Broome will ask Nick or Dave Socky to share photos of the recent exploration in the WVCC’s Great Savannah Cave System (WV). Over forty miles of cave have been surveyed.
  7. Emily could lead a game of Just One-Caver’s Edition. This is tentatively scheduled for April and has worked well in the Zoom format.
  8. Zeke will consider how we might execute a caver’s version of Jeopardy, and the officers already identified one that appears online.
  9. The NSS has a library of slide shows that Taylor can draw upon, but she may save these for dates when the speaker has to cancel.

The officers plan to engage in an online discussion about when public health conditions suggest it’s okay to meet in person again and what precautions we may want to take (e.g., meeting outdoors). They will engage in discussions with the museum when the time is appropriate.

We worked out a schedule for the General Meeting announcements. Taylor will send Zeke a blurb about the meeting program a week in advance, and Zeke will send out the meeting notice on Thursday before the meeting. He will also send out a reminder on Monday evening before the meetings. The Zoom link will not be featured on the Facebook page because the page is open.

As the summer approaches, the officers may discuss a socially distanced picnic and a possible grotto trip.

Happy Pączki Day!

Introductions

In attendance (via Zoom): Andre, Bram, Carlin, Elise, Emily, Janell, Joanna, Kelly, Ken, Lee, Lisa, Martin, Mike B., Peter, Taylor, Zeke

There was a lot of discussion here, but I didn’t take notes. As I recall, it ranged from Lisa’s bad knitting to Andre’s illicit climbing locations to Zeke’s unusual headwear (ran out of tinfoil).

Business

Our treasurer, Mike, reported on our finances. We collected dues for 23 members last year. We already have 21 paid members for 2021. To pay your dues, visit https://www.tritrogs.org/membership-info/ or contact Mike at treasurer@tritrogs.org.

Elections

Each office had exactly one nominee, so we voted to accept the slate as a whole. Our 2021 officers are:

  • Chair: “Zeke” Van Fossen
  • Vice-Chair: Taylor Tibbs
  • Secretary: Ken Walsh
  • Treasurer: Mike Broome
  • Webmaster: Elise Sanderson

Trip Report

Bram spent a week in TAG doing lots of rappelling. He shared some really nice photos.

Introductions

In attendance: Mike B., Taylor, Ken, Zane, Lisa, Ann, Diana, Peter, Skylar, Emily, Lee

Business

We will send out a Doodle poll before the November meeting to try to nail down a day for the December holiday Zoom party/meeting.

Pay your dues so that Mike B. can afford to send our grotto donations.

Some of the NSS websites will be changing as they switch over to … yeah, I dunno, something. Just be patient if you encounter broken links and what not.

Program

Skylar presented Survival of the Fattest, a program about the science of White Nose Syndrome. Don’t disturb hibernating bats; she mentioned that bats wake up slowly, so just because you don’t see them stirring doesn’t mean they won’t as soon as you walk away. Also, maybe don’t eat the cave-aged cheese.

Knot of the Month: Prusik

Carabiner of the Month: Bent Gate Carabiner

Trip Reports

Michael, Elise, Michelle, and Elena picked up trash outside the entrance of Hancock Cave. Using river rocks, Ken and Emily built a couple dozen steps leading up the hillside along the new trail to the entrance.

Skylar went to New River Cave. There were cave goats!

Introductions

In attendance and fun hats: Michael M., Emily, Ken, Mark, Mike B., Bram, Skylar, Elise, Taylor, Diana, Janell

Business

  • Nikki Fox was looking for nice photos of Hancock Cave for the WVCC website (wvcc.net).
  • Feel free to pay your dues via the PayPal link on our website. Mark Little’s name shows up on the receipt, but the funds really go to the TriTrogs.
  • According to Michael M., Dec. 12 is an NSS HQ work day. If you’re interested in heading down to cave country (in Alabama) and doing some hard labor, he might be going.
  • Got any ideas for a TriTrogs holiday pandemic party?

Program

Mike Broome presented Vertical Techniques, a Brief Overview of Vertical Caving and SRT. For related information, check out the tome On Rope: North American Vertical Rope Techniques and the NSS Vertical Section website.

Carabiner of the Month: Modified D Carabiner