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.


  • 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.


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


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?


  • 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


A video about The Formation of the Appalachians


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.


  • Pay your grotto dues! Only $15 for the year!
  • 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]


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 ( 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

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.

In attendance: Zeke van Fossen, Taylor Tibbs, Elise Sanderson, Mike Broome, Ken Walsh, and Louis Le

The August 4 officer’s meeting covered a variety of topics, and some notes about each are covered below. The conversation ping-ponged quite a bit.

Renewal of Museum Affiliate Status: The officers completed the online paperwork to renew our commitment as an Organizational Affiliate of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. We cited the NSS Mission Statement in our application as proof that our commitment is similar to that of the Museum. Zeke is completing the signature portion, and we may be trying to figure out how we can help the Museum with remote programming in the future.

Programs for Future Meetings: Our Vice Chair (Taylor) has been challenged this year to consider both in-person and online programs for our upcoming meetings. Some people she’s approached have expressed interest but won’t commit to particular meeting dates before November. We’ve had a lot of programs about cave surveying lately but not much on other subjects. Anyone in the grotto with material to share please contact Taylor. Mark Daughtridge will be describing fungus in August, and an in-person meeting may be looking for someone to teach more about caving knots.

Hybrid Meetings: The June meeting was held in hybrid fashion because Mike and Lisa have the equipment at their home to make it possible. We discussed some ways to improve that with better positioning of screens, microphones, and cameras. Could hybrid meetings turn into a permanent format for the TriTrogs? It may depend on the resources. We’d like to solicit donations of member time or retired resources (e.g., omnidirectional microphones) to establish a plan going forward. Mike detailed how he recently even taught a member how to read compass and clinometer for cave survey remotely.

In Person Versus Virtual Meetings: The Museum is once again available for Affiliate groups to in-person indoor meetings, both in the traditional Level A room where we’ve met and usually also available on the third floor in the big room. However, officers were concerned about the recent findings that the Delta variant of the Covid virus is also easily transmissible in vaccinated individuals. Based on the uncertainty of the August spikes in NC cases and hospitalizations, the officers chose to plan for a virtual August meeting, conduct an online survey of members, and assess the survey results to establish a plan going forward, with the acknowledgement that the situation in NC is fluid and risks will be reduced when Covid vaccines are more widely available to the young. Members may be able to look forward to in-person outdoor meetings in the fall with a transition to indoor meetings when a majority of the members are comfortable with the risk.

In virtual attendance: Lee O., Martin G. Robert H., Louis Le, Ken W., Mike B., Stephan Francke, Taylor Tibbs, April Nieuwkoop, Joanna Young, Skylar Hopkins, Dan La Pasha, Emily NoPuns, Mark D., Zeke, Lisa L., Jeramie, Pete H., and Arthur

During introductions, Zeke asked everyone to share what they do to clean (not decon) their cave gear. Several cited drying the clothes and then beating off the dirt first, but a more common technique seemed to be forgetting about the gear for a week and hoping it cleans itself. Front loaders at laundromats were popular. Outdoors with a hose (sometimes at car washes) seemed more effective than in bathtubs.  Several mentioned hanging the gear outside over fences and drying racks until a rain storm magically cleaned the gear or washed it away. Five-gallon buckets with soapy water are good for gloves and kneepads. The most effective technique with the least effort seemed to be lying in a surface stream immediately after exiting the cave. It avoids Rob’s mother yelling at you for muddying up the kitchen sink.

Zeke announced that grotto dues had dropped to $7 for the remainder of 2021 and that NSS dues are $40 for a year.

Ken announced that the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is reopening its doors in August to its affiliate groups. Taylor conducted a popup survey of the meeting attendees to poll their interest levels in outdoor, indoor, and hybrid meetings. Questions were asked about the TriTrogs possibly moving to the larger meeting room upstairs (and later sent to the Museum) and the associated wifi capability. The officers will hold a virtual meeting to make choices about the remainder of this year and notify the Museum.

Louis shared a trip report about his first wild caving trip with Mark, Susan, and Andy. They visited Hancock Cave after their stay at an air B&B and a few days after substantial rain. They visited the Grantham Room, Octopus Room, Breakdown Staircase, and Comic Book Hole. They discovered a stream, and Louis was thankful that he had practiced caving in the squeezebox at the June meeting. The newly improved trail to the cave made it possible to avoid hungry chihuahuas.

Zeke discovered that returning to cave surveying was more awkward than he thought near the Pole Room in Perkins Cave. Jason, Mark D., and Carlin surveyed at very steep angles without aid from the laser Disto Emily had borrowed from them. Seven hours underground.

Zeke spent Sunday with Carlin harassing Rich Valley cavers and in search of a way into Cold Sink Cave. Because rain was threatening and because they were all caught up on their podcasts about Ancient Rome, they spent little time clearing debris from the Cold Sink entrance and instead headed over for a very short sport trip into Hancock Cave.

Meanwhile Ken and Mark were slipping past an electric fence and entering Big Sink Cave. The bull did not follow them inside. After seeing a salamander, Ken thought that the survey would be finishing. However, Mark found an easier route around the boneyard squeeze; it climbed over a breakdown pile and into a walking passage. Mark found it to be a fun cave with nice features.

Emily described her survey with Elise, Andrew, and Ken in the Second Discovery section of Perkins Cave. She is always amazed by new finds on each trip back to the cave. This time she described a wall full of enormous popcorn that looked like toasted marshmallows. Emily described her travel down a virgin crawlway and the removable handholds she found.

Zeke chimed in that he found the Humming Room one of the most amazing places he’s ever been.

Pete had the opportunity to return to Buckeye Creek Cave in West Virginia. The group entered through the insurgence and eventually discovered that the resurgence was fully pumped. They worked their way up high exposure climbs looking for the third level. Exiting, Pete found that his cave suit was nearly fully washed.

Mike and Lisa explored some shelter caves on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland but then signed up for the commercial lava tube tour into Vatnshellir Cave. The spiral staircase between lava tubes was impressive, but the temperature was much chillier than the lava tubes they explored in Hawaii.

Closer to home, Dan described a photo trip he took to Tawney’s Cave near Blacksburg. They helped repair the gate and enjoyed the chance to take photos in the back where the dead cow no longer lies (lays?). Dan found that the radio remotes he had worked very well.

Upcoming trips:

—Mark D. will be leading a beginners trip to Hancock Cave on July 29

—Ken announced that a gravel haul conservation project will be held on October 16 at Grand Caverns (amidst the MAR/VAR event)

Taylor convinced Mark to describe fungus at our August meeting as a program.

Taylor ran part of Mariann McConnell’s/Dave Socky’s video about Catawba Murder Hole.

After the meeting adjourned, we enjoyed some discussion with Arthur about possible ways to capture video footage within a Panama cave using a borescope.