Introductions

In attendance: Zeke, Emily, Stephan, Peter, Ken, Lisa, Alex, Diana, Louis, Carlin, Mike, Taylor O., and Ann

Business

  • Yearly dues go to half-price at the beginning of July: $7.50 for an individual or $11 for a family.
  • The grotto officers will have a meeting primarily to discuss the annual grotto trip scheduled for the weekend of August 13.

Trip Reports

Peter, Ken, and Stephan went on a sport to Hancock Cave. Stephan found it easier getting in than coming out. It probably didn’t help that he had formed himself into a spineless corkscrew at some point in between. They went to the top of Witch Glob Pit to see if anything had opened up near the surface; nothing had.

Mike and Lisa went to Gneiss Cave at Chimney Rock State Park. They appreciated the shade.

Mike and Lisa explored Blue Grotto, a sea cave in Italy. They had to lie down in a rowboat to get inside. The guides sang.

Upcoming Things

  • July 30 – Horizontal sport trip (see Ken)
  • Aug 13-14 – Annual Grotto Trip
  • Aug 20 – short tours of Perkins Cave (offered by ACC)

Program

Louis conducted a casual interview with 2nd and 3rd generation cavers Taylor Orr, Carlin Kartchner, and Emily Graham.

Introductions

Triangle Troglodytes in attendance: Zeke, Emily, Peter, Ken, Stephan, Mark, Taylor O., and Howard

Business

  • As always, a dues reminder. Pay your annual TriTrogs dues now or wait until July and pay half-price! Here is our PayPal stuff.
  • NSS dues range from $20 to $140, depending on how nice you are. Find details at this link. (NSS = National Speleological Society)
  • Annual Grotto Trip! Those in attendance agreed on the weekend of August 13. The location remains up in the air.
  • Louis asked for suggestions for future meeting programs. Stephan may be willing to present some of his cave diving photos, and Mark suggested a rundown of caving-related feature films (think The Descent, Sanctum, The Cave, etc).
  • Free loot! Howard gave away two gently used wetsuits and two tins of carbide.

Trip Reports (VAR Edition)

We went in. We came out. We had fun.

Stephan F.
  • Return to Endless Caverns: Stephan and Peter went on a tour of the wild section of Endless Caverns. They encountered small holes, crawling sections, pits to avoid, pits to descend, and even some water.
  • Ken worked on a project to rebuild the trail to Madison Saltpeter to make it less noticeable from below. In addition to the trail project, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias hopes to reclaim the Cave Hill Natural Area Preserve from the invasive species.
  • Taylor O. visited small, well-decorated Massanutten Cave, which operated as a commercial caverns once upon a time. They were warned that the lower, wild level sometimes floods, and it had, so it was a short, wet trip.
  • Ken attended the Sunday VAR meeting. Among other topics discussed, Southeastern Cave Conservancy (SCCi) has acquired Salamander Cave, a vertical maze cave over 2 miles long in Giles County, Virginia. Also, there is again and always some discussion about gating New River Cave.
  • On the way home, Ken, Stephan, Peter, and Taylor walked through Crozet Tunnel (aka Blue Ridge Tunnel). They refrained from scraping the lampenflora off the walls and enjoyed the respite from the heat.

Upcoming Things

  • June 11 – sport trip to Hancock Cave
  • June 13-17 – NSS Convention in Rapid City, SD
  • July 8-10 – Karst-O-Rama in Mt. Vernon, KY
  • July 15-23 – NCRC Cave Rescue Seminar and Training in Covington, VA
  • July 24-31 – International Congress of Speleologie in France
  • Aug 13 – Annual Grotto Trip
  • Aug 20 – Led trips at Perkins Cave in Washington Co., VA

Program

We watched a video about an electrical resistivity project in Bracken Cave, roosting site for millions of Mexican free-tailed bats. The project is billed by the National Cave & Karst Research Institute as the world’s first geophysical survey of bat guano. The purpose is to find the perfect location from which to take a core sample of guano, for analysis of the bats’ diets throughout the ages.

Introductions

In attendance: Zeke, Peter, Ann, Ken, Mark, Stephan, Emily

With so few attendees, we delved into our deep, dark subconsciouses in a brief discussion of our cave-related anxiety dreams.

Business

  • Pay your dues online via PayPal. $15 for the year for individuals; $22 per family.
  • Annual grotto trip? Zeke says yes, we plan to have one. When? Late August? The officers will begin to discuss details at an officers meeting tbd.
  • Emily inquired about Wilderness First Responder (5+ days) and Wilderness First Aid (2-day) courses. Those present who had been WFR or WFA certified said it was worthwhile. [More information here.]

Trip Report

Stephan described the marauding, algae-killing mob of about 25 cavers that descended into Endless Caverns last weekend to slay the lampenflora. Armed with bottles of hydrogen peroxide and buckets of brushes, our heroes fought back the green stuff. Stephan likened the sizzle of dying mosses to the sound of a juicy steak on the grill. He recommends these conservation opportunities to anyone who has to fight a strong urge to step off the trail. See Ken’s trip report here.

Program

We watched a short video about the properties of silks used by glowworms and spiders.

Upcoming Things

  • May 20-22 – Spring MAR/VAR at Grand Caverns in Grottoes, VA (Pre-registration ends May 4!)
  • June 3-5 – Orientation to Cave Rescue in Upper Tract, WV
  • June 13-17 – NSS Convention in South Dakota
  • July 8-10 – Karst-O-Rama in Kentucky
  • July 15-23 – Cave Rescue Operations and Management Seminar in Covington, VA
  • July 24-31 – International Congress of Speleology in France

Introductions

In attendance: Zeke, Mike, Emily, Lisa, Erin, Elise, Lee, Ryan, Stephan, Katie, Andre, Louis, Diana, Peter, Ken, Martin, Ann

Our break-the-ice question: If you realized after exiting that you’d left something in the cave, what would you go back for?

Business

  • Pay your grotto dues! Only $15 for the year. Membership Info
  • Mike will catalog the recent gear acquisition and post photos of the available used cave suits.
  • Louis received an award for adopting a bat at Frick’s Cave. Carlin was not present to receive his award.

Trip Reports

  • Katie and Andre visited Lost Cave in Greenbrier Co., WV. They saw signatures dated 1890 and a lot of much newer graffiti. Other features included a busy waterfall and some brief crawls and breakdown passages.

Upcoming Things

  • Apr 23 Spring Restoration at Endless Caverns in Virginia
  • Apr 21-24 SERA Cave Carnival in Georgia
  • May 20-22 Spring MAR/VAR at Grand Caverns in Virginia
  • Jun 13-17 NSS Convention in South Dakota
  • Jul 8-10 Karst-O-Rama in Kentucky
  • Jul 15-23 NCRC Nat’l Seminar in Covington, Virginia
  • Jul 24-31 Int’l Congress of Speleology in France

Program

A video about The Formation of the Appalachians https://youtu.be/WROQIdM8YW4

Introductions

In attendance (via Zoom): Zeke, Robert, Peter, Stephan, Taylor O., Louis, Jack, Mike B., Emily, April, Jeramie, Skylar, Diana, Lisa, Michael E., Alec, Ken, Chris, John, and Hanna

Our break-the-ice question: While underground, what do you carry on your person (rather than in your pack)? A second light and food were the top responses. Pro tip: For a warm mid-trip meal, stow your sandwich in your suspension helmet.

Business

  • Pay your grotto dues! Only $15 for the year! https://www.tritrogs.org/meeting-information/membership-info/
  • A former TriTrog has donated a whole bunch of old gear to the grotto. Mike will be cataloging it with an eye towards what might be useful for loaner gear. In addition to the lights and helmets, there are some cave suits that the former member is asking $100 for.
  • Our Spring Restoration project will be held in April at a commercial caverns that is probably closer than the one we’ve been going to. More details to come. [Ed., may be farther away. TBA]

Program

Peter Hertl’s presentation “Vertical Caving in Mexico” covered his trip from December to Sotano de las Golondrinas, Hoya de las Huahuas, Cascada de Tamul, and Sotano de El Cepillo.

Upcoming Trips and Events

  • April ? Spring Restoration at ?
  • May 20-22 Spring MAR/VAR at Grand Caverns in Grottoes, VA
  • June 13-17 NSS Convention in Rapid City, SD
  • July 8-10 Karst-O-Rama in Mt. Vernon, KY
  • July 15-23 NCRC National Seminar in Covington, VA
  • July 24-31 International Congress of Speleology in France

In attendance: Ken W., Emily G., Zeke VF, Martin G., Mike B., Ann O’N., Arthur, Louis L, Hannah S. and Luke, Stephan F., Ellen S., Joe J. Michael E., Pete H., Taylor T., and April N.

Arthur asked about sharing some photos from a possible cave and agreed to set up a time to meet at a coffeehouse to share.

Mike Broome shared a draft of the Treasurers Annual Report and answered questions about the computations. In 2021 the grotto paid $95 for web hosting services and $200 for the donation to West Virginia Cave Conservancy. Mike will post the Treasurers Annual Report.

Stephan claimed his pullover that was left at Ken’s on December 5, making his meeting attendance fully worthwhile.

The upcoming trips list was very abbreviated and only included the April 19 VAR conservation trip and the May 20-22 MAR/VAR regional events. Members were encouraged to add their upcoming trips to the TriTrogs Google calendar.

Pete H. agreed to share a PowerPoint presentation about his trip to Mexico at an upcoming meeting.

Pete described his trips to vertical caves in Alabama. He stayed in the lap of luxury at a lake house. His trip began at Balcony Sinks Cave with a 200-300 foot drop. At the base of the pit, the group climbed a fixed rope into a cave passage that eventually dropped into a stream. This led upstream into a sixty-foot wide room filled with flowstone.

Pete’s second day of caving took him to Natural Well Cave in a residential community with a small 15-foot-by-15-foot entrance and no water running in. He rappelled onto a bunch of fallen trees and travelled downslope from there. It led to a small crawling passage that eventually opened to a tall room (over 150 feet high) with a small waterfall. Pete offered a safety note about the trip out.

Pete’s final caving day led him to Stephen’s Gap Cave, a cave with a key-coded parking area. As Pete’s team hiked to enter the cave, they passed a stream plunging into a cave entrance. A little old lady could walk into the second entrance, but Pete’s team took the time to rig and rappel into the entrance down through the heavy spray of a waterfall. Through a series of rope pulldowns, the team descended into a fast-moving stream passage and soaked the cavers. They exited through the first cave entrance.

Zeke then led the TriTrog officer nomination process, and only a single person was nominated for each position. The entire slate was accepted by acclimation, and the other members offered congratulations to the new TriTrog officers:

Chair: Zeke Van Fossen

Vice Chair: Louis Le

Webmaster: Taylor Tibbs

Treasurer: Mike Broome

Secretary: Emily Graham

Zeke mentioned his plans to deliver a program about scenarios in the future.

Discussion turned to the cat formation in southwest Virginia before the meeting closed.

In virtual attendance: Carlin Kartchner, Taylor Tibbs, Stephan Francke, Louis Le, April Nieuwkoop, Mark Daughtridge, Mike Broome, Diana Gietl, Pete Hertl, Lisa Lorenzin, Zeke Van Fossen, Jackson Lemons, Ken Walsh, Martin Groenwegen, Zafir, and Emily Graham

Peter parked at the fairgrounds to witness the eclipse.

When introducing themselves, attendees were asked to name underground cave-adapted creatures they had seen (in real life or on television [no sci fi/fantasy]). The list included crawfish, a translucent salamander in Rehoboth Church Cave, fish in a pool losing pigment, insects with long antenna, bats, swifts, blind fish, Florida cave life (fish and salamanders), jumping teens, troglophile, albino exauto, grotto sculpins, and crayfish too small to eat.

Peter discussed his upcoming trip to Golondrinas Cave in Mexico.

Officers conducted a Zoom poll, and the meeting attendees chose to donate to West Virginia Cave Conservancy again this year as a charity.

The grotto currently has four helmets and lights for loan to members. Mike will take recommendations from members about what replacements should be bought and will later focus on possible purchases for the grotto. Discussion of lamps commenced. The Black Diamond brand lamps (Icon) did not last long because the casings broke too easily. Let Diana know if you have recommendations for camping lanterns inside a tent. 

The recommendations included a discussion about eneloop rechargeable batteries that do not corrode.

We discussed the NCRC callout list, and Ken forwarded the email to the grotto members.

No one had trip reports to share, and the next upcoming trip announced will be the Spring Restoration field camp on April 23. Hopefully members will enjoy some caving camaraderie before then.

Zeke Van Fossenn shared a fascinating program entitled Troglomorphy and Cave Fishes. It sparked many questions and references to old musical bands (Dire Straits and Styx).

Zoom participants included Jess Keeley, Taylor T. (Vice Chair), Stephan Francke, Michael Ehmke, Louis Le, April Nieuwkoop, Mark D., Mike B. (Treasurer), Diana G., Alec Payne, Peter H., Zeke vF (Chair), Lisa L., Jack Anderson, Ken Walsh (Secretary), and Susan Hudson.

During the introductions, we spoke about what we did and didn’t know about bats. One person wanted to know how many species had not yet been discovered and another how many cave species we know that are in NC. Diana described her boot-deep experience with the guano in Devils Sinkhole Cave in Texas where the mound is stories high. Bats and humans both use echolocation. In flight (not diving), a bat species (freetail?) is faster than any modern bird. 

When visiting a cave with vampire bats, use lime juice beneath your nose to block out the blood curdling smell. Pete is an ideal person to study bat guano. Oilbirds in Venezuela may be one of the best species for spreading tree seeds in the rainforests.

Discussion turned to replacing some of the grotto’s loaner gear. Three quarters of the lamps work but have small cracks. No one has priced out new gear yet, and we expect that any new LED lamps may be better than the ones in our current collection. A suggestion was made to possibly include small cave packs in the grotto supplies.

The TriTrogs have also donated to charities in the past (Bat Conservational International and Southeastern Cave Conservancy were the last two). Officers are soliciting suggestions from members about which groups deserve our donation this year. We are not restricted from donating to the same sources as in the past.

Discussion turned to the NSS charter of the Vertical Training Commission. The idea wouldn’t be to certify cavers as vertically competent but set up guidelines that would be followed by the trainers. The idea is to avoid vertical training schools like the one in France and would be divided into different skill levels: basic rope techniques, rigging, advanced techniques, expedition-style caving, and self rescue. Inexperienced cavers have recently been having more vertical issues and involved in accidents, and the feedback points to them being undertrained to handle underground situations.

Reams and reams of training materials already exist, and multiple groups are already offering weeklong classes (that amount of information can almost overload some students). The NSS charter is set up to choose the team that will train the trainers, and one TriTrog member advocated that the best place to train is locally. The charter talks about finding people who are adequately qualified to train the trainers in different regions around the country but does not address how they will secure these trainers without compensation. An online town hall for NSS members was set for October 28.

Ken shared the results from the 173-foot survey course from the September meeting; he compared the teams that finished the course. Emily and Stefan were the fastest, Zeke and Taylor came in second for their horizontal closure (2.5 feet), Alec and Mark managed second place for their vertical closure (2.5 feet), and Louis and Carlin were the slowest (but managed a vertical closure of 0.5 feet and a horizontal closure of 1.4 feet).

Mark D., Jessica, Jack, Laurel, and Carlin went to Worley’s Cave in Tennessee for a sport trip, along with two children. The kids had a great time in this easy walking passage. Formation colors weren’t astounding but were massive, covering large walls and mostly free of graffiti. The stream water on the return trip was mostly shallow, and they saw a great horned owl perched inside near the entrance. 

Pete Hertl described a drop down Grapevine Pit into Lost World Caverns and another trip into Buckeye Creek Cave. In an area with significant breakdown, they hope to find a human-sized exit from Buckeye Creek someday directly onto Todd Handley’s land.

Zeke knew nothing about upcoming trips.

Because members had backed out on sharing programs, Taylor shared a portion of a YouTube video entitled Virginia’s Beautiful Bats (https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=eAeLY7TV0TI) by Leslie Sturges. Starting the video around the 12:30 mark, we learned a lot about the bat species in Virginia (of which many are found in NC as well). Sturges’s slides used gummy bears to represent the bat species weights and Twizzlers to represent the wing spans.

Zeke began the meeting with a “Hear ye, hear ye!” For introductions he asked members to share their names (April, Louis, Mark, Mike, Taylor, Emily, Ken, Stephan, Alec, and Carlin) and who they’d like to join them caving. Answers ranged from family to fiction.

Stephan shared a trip report about his travel to the lava tube Ape Cave in Washington. He described that visitors now must reserve a two-hour time slot for the visit and that he didn’t have time to see all of the 1.2 miles of tube.

In the business section of the meeting, Ken called for suggestions about a grotto donation this year. Mark D. suggested that the grotto consider replacing some of the aging loaner headlamps.

In terms of upcoming trips, Carlin Kartchner is planning a horizontal sport trip Worley’s Cave in Tennessee (Oct. 16) and a survey trip into a small lead in Cold Sink Cave. Ken mentioned the Grand Caverns Restoration Camp in April. Mike Broome hopes to plan a vertical practice, perhaps at New River Gorge.

Ken then paired up experienced and less experienced cave surveyors (Alec and Mark, Louis and Carlin, Stefan and Emily, Zeke and Taylor, and Mike and April) to learn survey techniques. Four of the five pairs completed a circuit of four survey stations over 173 feet. Their horizontal closures (in ascending order) were 1.4, 2.5, 4.5, and 4.8 feet. Their vertical closures (in ascending order) were 0.5, 2.5, 2.8, and 3.7 feet. We’ll announce the team with the best closure at the October meeting.

In attendance: Arthur, Louis Le, Mike B., Zeke VF, Michael, Ann O’Neil, April N., Lee Olson, Taylor T., Emily G., Pete H., Carlin K., Andrew Kowalenko, Lisa L., AK, Ken W., Stephan, Ava Pope, Ben Burton, Skylar Hopkins, and Elise S. in attendance.

Zeke asked everyone to introduce themselves and then share why people go underground and their favorite fungus. The list below covers only the former:

  • to see the edge of the known
  • to escape being yelled at for getting muddy
  • to have fun
  • to explore
  • to have an adventure
  • to enjoy the fellowship
  • to keep doing what she did growing up
  • to see an upside down world
  • to feel connected to other times
  • to learn and be scared
  • to escape allergens
  • to hear perfect quiet
  • to feel awesome and satisfied
  • to feel the joy of discovery

Taylor discussed the survey responses regarding the grotto member comfort levels about meeting in person. Grotto members are comfortable meeting in person but would rather be outdoors. Some members said that they’d be willing to check vaccination status of members when we get together. A breakout room was set up after the meeting to discuss how hybrid meeting options might work. Ensuring some consistency in online options will be a goal, and hose interested should contact Taylor at vicechair@tritrogs.org.

Mark D. described a beginner’s trip to Hancock Cave with Michaela, Jan, and Tine. He reported that a massive rain storm took out the trail markers outside.

Louis Le described his trip to Crozet Tunnel in Virginia.

Mike and Lisa described a trip to the historic section of Butler Cave. They first enjoyed the Perseid meteor shower and finished the trip by discovering that the gate on the historic entrance cannot be unlocked.

The only upcoming trip listed was the VAR/MAR event in October.

Mark Daughtridge led an online lecture titled “What the Heck’s a Fungus Anyway?” and largely spared the puns.