||Volume 29, Number 1
This on-line edition of the November, 2000 Sub Sun contains a couple of articles
that were too late or too big for the printed edition, and has been edited to
remove personal information.
See this month's cover by Anya Crane.
Sligo Grotto Holiday Party
Fang and Harn invite all Sligo cavers, friends and family to our annual holiday
Saturday, December 16
6:00 PM - whenever
The party will be held at Fang and Harn’s Mud Puddle Gulch. E-mail Fang if you don't know how to get there.
Dinner will be potluck as usual – please bring your favorite dish to share.
Keg provided - BYOB.
By special arrangements, we will have a live band for your entertainment. Bring
your instruments; there is always room for a couple more performers! Bring your
dancing socks! (to protect the nice wood floor)
Sligo Grotto encourages responsible drinking. If you plan to drink, please bring
either a designated driver or a sleeping bag to spend the night. Plenty of crash
space will be provided.
There will be a Grotto meeting sometime between dinner and the entertainment.
Topics to be discussed are elections (or lack thereof), the newsletter, Sligo
Grotto On-Line, and budgeting.
Cover: this month’s cover is by Anya Crane. Thanks, Anya!
- Chairman, Treasurer, Grotto Trips Coordinator and Reluctant Newsletter Editor:
- Jim McConkey
- Chair of Vice:
- Jennifer Neemann
- Gloria Briggs
- 6:00 PM Holiday Party – see announcement this page
- Annual Sligo-SVG President’s Day Weekend Bash at Thompson’s Motel in
Franklin, WV. Reservations are highly recommended: 1-800-338-5531
||- 2 -
The nature of all grottos is to continually change.
We are no exception. Membership has fluctuated over the years. Many years ago
now we stopped having regular meetings since our membership had spread out so
much. A couple years back submissions to the Sub Sun dropped off dramatically,
and the frequency of publication dropped dramatically. The advent of e-mail has
provided us a quick and easy method of propagating timely news, and the trend
is only continued by the new Sligo Grotto web page.
A recent reorganization at work almost left us
without copying facilities to produce the newsletter. In response, a recent
poll of those with e-mail who get the occasional Sub Sun E-Flashes showed that
an overwhelming majority of those users would prefer electronic distribution of
the newsletter. Sligo has always been environmentally minded and was (and is)
one of the few grottos to use recycled paper for our printed newsletter. So,
beginning with this issue, the newsletter will be published on our Grotto web
page and all on-line Sligo Grotto members will receive only an e-mail
notification of the new edition. Exchanges and off-line members will receive
paper copies by snail mail. (Everyone will still receive the membership list on
paper; we will not publish it on the web.) We would eventually like to go
completely electronic, and this will provide a good transition.
The change in newsletter distribution foreshadows
other changes. Most of our dues go to mailing the newsletter. If we no longer
have to mail the newsletter, our budgetary needs drop accordingly. Since we are
a non-profit group, we are not allowed to accumulate any significant funds.
There are several options available. We could cut out dues altogether. It would
definitely be a lot less work, but we would not have any funds if we needed
them. We could also keep dues, and earmark most of our income for cave
conservation purposes. Come to the meeting at the holiday party with your ideas
of what direction we should head in.
Silers Cave Update
By Jim McConkey
After a long and tortuous search, I finally tracked down Mr. Robert Wyly, the
owner of the land Silers Cave is found on. Since we
were last in contact with him, Mr. Wyly had suffered the sad loss of his first
wife, had moved several times, married his high school sweetheart, and finally
settled in North Carolina. He was glad to learn that Sligo Grotto was still
actively managing the cave, and supports us regating the cave.
Some recent visitors to the cave have noticed that
the Mr. Wyly’s land is now posted by the Briar Hunt Club and have worried about
access. Mr. Wyly has granted permission to this small group of hunters to hunt
on his property. He informed them about the cavers, and they are happy to
co-exist. I will be in contact with the group shortly to coordinate access.
Vandals succeeded in completely destroying the gate
earlier this year. Since then, the cave has not been secured, and the cave has
obviously had greater visitation. What is especially disturbing is that many
local cavers, who should know better, are now ignoring the access restrictions
and just going to the cave without asking permission. The cave is clearly marked
on the Closed Cave List
as being restricted access. Ignoring access restrictions is the biggest reason
cavers are losing access to caves, so please pass the word around that the cave
is still officially closed and permission MUST be obtained before visiting the cave.
Please remind your friends in other local grottos.
I’ve attempted to make it easier for cavers to get
access information about the cave. The cave now has it’s own e-mail address:
account is setup to automatically reply to all messages with the access
restrictions and the entire current schedule of usage dates. Further
information about the cave can also be found on the new Sligo Grotto web site
Plans are currently in the works for a new gate. We
are planning on a serious Roy Power-style gate, probably inside the current
entrance. This fall I participated on the U.S. Forest Service project to gate
Hoffmann School Cave, and they graciously donated some of the leftover steel
from that project to the Silers gate project. The profits from the
Baltimore-Sligo sponsored VAR will buy the rest of the steel we need.
Roy Powers supervises the construction of the new gate on Hoffmann School Cave
(photo by Jim)
We are only waiting on the availability of key personnel to get started. The
gating should take place over the winter or early in spring.
Sligo Grotto Web Site
Sligo Grotto now has its own web presence! Check it out by pointing your browser
On our new web site, you will find general
information about us, contact information for the officers, how to join,
membership benefits, a calendar of upcoming events, our history and information
on Silers Cave. We will eventually add basic information on caving, equipment
and other topics. The site is new and under construction. Please send Jim your
comments and suggestions – this is YOUR web site!
Bowden Trip Report
By Pam Dodds
As Pastor Ralph, Art, and I readied ourselves for the excursion into Bowden cave,
Pastor Ralph commented how glad he was to have taken our advise regarding what
to bring: coveralls, gloves, disposable flash camera, and duct tape!
We entered the cave about 2:30 p.m. on October 14, 2000, by using entrance #1 next
to the parking lot. Art explained that a bulldozer had enlarged this entrance
in preparation for a failed attempt at making the cave into a mushroom venture.
We marveled at a wedge-shaped rock portion in the ceiling that appeared ready
to fall at any time.
||- 3 -
We crouched and crawled through the rocks on the muddy floor of the cave until we
descended into the first room where we could stand and walk freely. Pastor
Ralph did very well in dim light, especially considering his vision problems
associated with his corneas. He adapted immediately to life underground and was
very happy to finally be in his first wild cave.
We continued our way to a column which had evidently been damaged by visitors. The
column was mostly reddish tan, due to iron oxide staining, but the damaged portion
revealed the white calcite crystals.
We all turned out our helmet lights to become accustomed to the darkness.
In the dark with our eyes open,
Art directed us to move our hand in front of our eyes, which allowed us to see
a darker image of our hand, even though we were already in
total darkness. Art explained that even before we are born, our brain allows us
to have hand-eye coordination so that our brain processes the image of our hand
even in total darkness. Pastor Ralph commented that in his sermon the previous
Sunday, he had noted the concept of processing information as images.
Next, we closed our eyes as Art used a camera flash device directed at the
column. We opened our eyes immediately after he used the flash and could see an
“afterglow” of the minerals comprising the column. We could see the “afterglow”
even in the portion of the column stained with iron oxide.
We continued to where water flowed through the cave as a stream and Pastor Ralph
noted how beautiful the small waterfalls were within the stream bed. The path
was not so muddy in this section because the stream was keeping the sediment in
suspension. We looked into the tributary stream passage which connects with
another portion of the cave and explained to Pastor Ralph that the water is
typically knee-high, and frequently higher. He indicated that he preferred to
stay where the water was not so deep!
We next crawled through a passage to reach the “Breakdown room” leading to a
ladder which provided access to the “Shower room”. The “Breakdown room” was
indeed full of breakdown. The “Shower room” is a dome pit where infiltrating
water had etched the rock surface all around the room, creating sharp,
vertically scalloped edges within the limestone.
At the floor of the room was the same phosphate-rich rock we had observed
elsewhere along the stream, including black, phosphate nodules which had
originally formed in the ancient seafloor long before this cave formed.
Art and I pointed out cave crickets, several bats, and numerous areas of flowstone.
The flowstone extended to the cave floor from a persistent bedding plane
throughout the cave. We also pointed out small bacon rind formations extending
from joint fractures in the ceiling of the cave.
We returned to entrance #1 and exited at approximately 6 p.m., having enjoyed our
excursion even more because we could take time to really observe our
surroundings. Pastor Ralph was very pleased with his adventure and has a real
appreciation for caves.
NSS Need You!
The NSS Speleo Digest Committee is looking for an editorial team to prepare the
manuscript for the 2001 Speleo Digest. The ideal candidate will have assembled a
production team of at least three people who can effectively solicit articles from published
NSS Internal Organization newsletters, format the articles, and produce camera
ready copy for a book that is expected to be over 500 pages in length. This is
a very time consuming task and should not be taken lightly. For more detailed
information please visit:
http://www.caves.org/pub/SpeleoDigest/ or contact the
Series Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 1990 Speleo Digest is now available. Only the 1992 Digest remains to be published!
Several members have expressed concern about publication and distribution of
member data. To address their concerns, the new membership list is only being
sent to members, and will not be published on the web. All e-mail notices are
blind CCed to all members.
NSS Needs You, Part 2
The IT Committee is responsible for the NSS Internet presence. In addition to
maintaining the NSS Web Page, members of the IT Committee will be asked to
develop a variety of linked Web Pages to benefit the membership. Do you have
the talent and the time it takes to be a dedicated NSS Volunteer? Are you
dependable, reliable, and able to effectively communicate? Do you like to be
given a task or create the task to be accomplished? If you are interested in
joining or leading the NSS IT volunteer team, please contact NSS OVP Scott Fee:
Swine and Dine 2000
A good number of Sligo member attended the annual
Baltimore Grotto Swine and Dine over Memorial Day weekend in May. It was a
soggier weekend than we would have liked, but it never seems to matter.
A week or so before we left, I got an e-mail from
Scott Mieras, a caver from New Zealand who was in the area visiting and wanted
to see about the possibility of getting underground sometime during his visit
with his daughter, Amelia. I told him about the upcoming Swine and Dine and
Friars Hole and the appeal of getting to see the largest cave in West Virginia
was too great to pass up. We hastily arranged for a tent, caving gear and
transportation. Paul was kind enough to give them a ride down, I brought extra
cave gear, and everyone chipped in with food.
On Saturday, Jen, Scott, Amelia and I set off with
the dogs for a tourist trip from the historic entrance back to Snedegar’s Dome.
Even the dogs made the climb up to the dome, but one of them foolishly tried to
take a shortcut off the last 10’ down to the main passage. She was a little stunned,
but walked away as if nothing had happened. The rain stopped just in time for
dinner, and the feast was as good as ever.
Sunday morning there was an impromptu vertical
training session in the big tree in front of Hank’s cabin. After much
discussion and procrastination, I led a group over to the Toothpick entrance
for a “short” vertical trip.
||- 4 -
We met Ada Mothes by her pond, and she gave us directions for the
“quick” way down to the cave. After two hours of getting lost on the sometimes
non-existant fire road, Tim and South finally found the cave. Jen and the dogs
guarded the entrance while Tim, South, Scott, Amelia and I headed into the cave
to do the drop.
We quickly reached the drop and I rigged the rope.
Tim and South went down first, then Amelia was up. Just as she was about to go
over the edge, she decided she wasn’t ready for a drop this size yet, so I
stayed with her at the top while Scott did his first in-cave vertical pit. The
drop is only about 60’ and is very easy. There is a nice alcove at the top of
the drop where you can comfortably and safely put on your gear and clip onto
the rope before just stepping out and descending free the whole way to the
bottom. Everyone climbed back out without difficulty.
New Zealander Scott Mieras does his first in-cave vertical in Toothpick
(photo by Jim)
We exited the cave to find Jen and the dogs huddled in the natural amphitheater at
the entrance trying to hide from the fierce storms that had raged while we were
caving. It was after dark when we got out, and the nearly vertical climb back
up the hill to the car was made even more interesting by the rain-slicked
leaves and the fog which reduced visibility to less than 10’ at times. The
sheer cliffs not far below the parking area disheartened the weary climbers
even more, until I found way through. We quickly polished off every remaining
drop of liquid in the cars and headed back to camp. We found everyone else
drinking around the campfire. They were mildly concerned about us, but decided
to wait at least until morning to come looking for us. Gee, thanks! A late
night spaghetti feast finished off a great day. The next morning we packed in
the rain and beat a hasty retreat back home.
Sligo members cleaned up at the 2000 NSS Convention!
Jim McConkey was named a Fellow of the NSS for his longstanding dedication to
the Society and its goals.
Jim becomes an NSS Fellow (photo by Barbara Moss)
Gary Moss was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for his work on the
Board of Governors.
John Harah shared the Best of Show award in the Cave Ballad Salon for his
avant garde song Cave Again. He also got an Honorable Mention in the
Traditional Song category for Ain’t No Caves.
Ken “Harny” Harnage received a Merit Award for his original song Somebody,
Somewhere, Sometime: An OTR Anthem.
Congratulations to all!
Whitings Neck Speleocanoeing Trip
By Jim McConkey
In late August, the Baltimore
Grotto had its second annual speleo-canoeing trip to Indian River and Whitings
Neck Caves. Whitings Neck is the largest open cave in the WV panhandle, with
over 3000’ of passage. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. Indian
River is a much smaller cave about 200’ below Whitings Neck, just above the
Due to increasing landowner
relation problems, the parking situation for these caves has deteriorated to
where you now have to park almost a mile from the caves. Last year, Dwight
Livingston had the novel idea to canoe down the river to Indian River,
“park” right at the caves, do
some caving, and canoe back. The trip was a big success, so we did it again
this year. On this year’s trip were Dwight with his daughter Becky, Kim and
Jason, Doug and Marcy, and myself and my two nieces Carolyn and Katelin.
Above: speleo-canoeing on the Potomac. Below: Becky and
Carolyn admire the formations in Whitings Neck (photos by Jim)
We put in on the Opequon Creek and dragged bottom down to the Potomac. Once out in
the open water, we were nearly capsized by the wakes of all the speedboats
powering up and down the river. Our canoes were heavily laden with food,
caving gear and vertical gear.
We paddled about Ľ mile downstream to Indian River, where we tied our boats up on
shore and hauled our gear up to the entrance. We put our caving gear on and had
a quick tour of Indian River. Most of us opted for the strenuous through trip.
After lunch, we grabbed the
rest of our gear and headed up to Whitings Neck. After negotiating the two
ladder climbs and a couple short crawls, we came out in the big formation room.
We then headed down the passage to the drop to the lower level. We rigged and
dropped the pit, some climbing and some rappelling. It was getting late, so we
had a quick look around at the bottom and headed home. We all agreed it was a
wonderful trip and an ideal solution to the parking situation.
||- 5 -
By Art Dodds
The trip started as Greg's Boy Scout Troop. He gave the introduction
at the meeting and scared everyone off except for his Son, Will, and
Daughter, Rachael. Then more people signed up: Ally, Todd, Allen and
his wife Pam, a new Caver, their Son Eric, and Daughter, Jessica,
along with Pam and Art. Pam and Art are now about three and a half hours
from Silers. We started at 8:00 A.M. to be at the Truck Stop at 11:00 A.M.
The crew (photo by Greg Pearce)
We missed it by about 40 minutes. Ally not recognizing the others
went to the cave. We waited a few minutes and tried calling Ally. No
Answer. Oh Well!
We proceeded to the cave and met three hunters coming out of the
woods. They acknowledged we were caving and we acknowledged them. The
parking area was littered with more than the normal trash. We hiked up to
the cave and found more trash at the entrance. Pam Marsh was our new
caver and was very interested in the entrance. We described it to her
several times as she made up her mind to go through. The words of
encouragement were, "this is the worst part of the whole cave."
Once in we started to locate parts of a twelve pack of Busch Beer. We
started to place it where we would pick it up on the way back, but
soon realized they had gotten far into the cave and we needed to carry it
with us. Smell!!
We started through the sewer passage. The one no one does as it is
too muddy. I gave Pam Marsh the option of going through or not. Somehow
she had become a caver and was really enjoying it. It was dryer, but
still very wet and muddy. Everyone got through.
We finished up with all the beer cans and departed, without doing
the sewer passage on the way back.
We got out, walked out together to ensure we would not be mistaken
as DEER, cleaned up the parking area, and departed for dinner. The VA
crew went to Forbidden City in Alexandria, and Ally, Pam, and Art
went to Barnies near the truck stop.
2000 NSS Convention Adventure
(Trip June 19 - July 3)
By Lynn Ott
This year's NSS Convention was touch & go. At the end of last
year's NSS Convention, we had secured Scott & his band, Dead
Center, a gig for the Wednesday night Campground Party. In April
2000, Scott was accepted to the ACE PLUS program [whereby students
finishing 10th grade, who were accepted for this scholarship
program, would attend Glendale Community College during the June
2000, & then every Saturday for the next two years. When Scott
graduates from Apollo High School he will have also completed his
first year of college]. Needless to say, we were all excited about
this program for Scott. It meant that at minimum, either Dan or I
would be able to go to convention.
Dan made the decision that I would go & take my new Honda Insight.
Dan stayed home to take care of the house, animals & continued to
work with Scott on his driving (Scott now has the bat-mobile, minus
the majority of all the bat stickers).
Filling the Honda with gear, we wondered how many miles per gallon I
could get as the sticker says 60 mpg in town & 70 mpg highway.
We've been averaging 58.7 mpg in town using the air conditioner.
When I started out on Monday morning, June 19, I was at 54.5 mpg for
this tank and 56.4 mpg for the life of the car, it dropped down to
53 mpg/55 mph heading up to Flagstaff. I hit a brief torrential
downpour at Holbrook & Gallup, otherwise weather was good. I next
got gas just east of Albuquerque for an average of 65 mpg for this
tank/58 mpg lifetime. I stopped in East Amarillo for the night (73.3
mpg/59.4 mpg lifetime).
By the time I crossed into Oklahoma, the winds had really picked up.
I-40 was terrible driving conditions with the truck ruts,
uneven/pothole pavement making driving the speed limit impossible,
as I was being tossed about (the car weighs just under 1900 lbs),
not to mention semi trucks speeding past me..
Next gas stop was 624 miles to Henryetta, AR with avg. 68.1 mpg/
60.1 mpg lifetime. The road was not much in AR, & the wind kept
blowing. I noticed that AR was the only state aggressively enforcing
the speed limit. I continued through TN getting gas in Brownsville
(65.5 mpg/or 60.8 mpg lifetime) & spent the night east if Nashville.
The next morning I decided to take the longer route from TN to VA &
up I-81 (calling to see if I should head to my mom's in DC or go
straight to WV & the Convention campsite. I gassed up in Marion, VA
(68.1 mpg/61.8 mpg/lifetime). I made a decision to drive without air
conditioning and see what kind of mileage the car could get. At one
point, I hit a brief high of 82.2 mpg right before a 20 minute delay
with 7 mile construction back up, mileage dropped (plus it was
hilly) to 75.9 mpg. At Harrisonburg (around 200 miles later, where I
picked up Hwy 33 to Elkins) I was at 80.8 mpg. Then over the
mountains to Elkins, WV, where I cruised into the OTR (Old Timers
Reunion) site after a torrential downpour at 73.3 mpg on this tank
When I pulled in, it was getting dark & continued raining. Emily
Davis-Mobley-Warner met me & said "WELCOME HOME". It was really
a good feeling coming back to a place that I helped build after it was purchased
by The Robertson Association (TRA). I was TRA recording secretary
for a few years, coordinated many work trips to build the site,
serviced as Chairman/Editor of Sligo Grotto & was involved in other
regional activities. The last time I was on site was in '91.
I was up late visiting with numerous people I had not seen in years,
the rain continued. I decided to sleep on the pavilion floor & pitch
my tent in the morning. The rain stopped during the middle of the
night, making morning very humid. I camped in the upper corner by
Carol Jackson. After a quick shower, I headed to my childhood home
to Wheaton/Kensington, MD to see my mother who was caring for a
recuperating cousin. Air conditioning was a must after that tank of
gas! My brother, Mark, was flying in late Friday evening, so we
would have a little family reunion. The weekend was spend with a few
caving friends & family (which also included an oil change plus
another tank of gas 69.3 mpg/62.7 mpg lifetime).
Late Sunday afternoon I left family in the Annapolis area to return
to the OTR site. I arrived at dark & did a little visiting. Then
crashed so that I could be ready to start convention.
Monday, I attended the opening ceremony in the Elkins High School
courtyard. I did my standard morning of spending money, looking at
various displays & saying hi to people I hadn't seen since last
year. In the afternoon I did a quick presentation of the Dante's
Cleanup Video. There were a number of questions on how to get grant
money for cleanups. The school air conditioning broke! Agh!
The OTR Doo Dah Parade made its way to convention. Ooh la la on some
of the costumes! At 6 pm there was a convention photograph. Roy
tried to see how many times he could be in the picture. I stood with
Larry & Chris Zimmer.
The Howdy party was coordinated by Chuck Hempel & company. He told
me that everyone would be through the chow lines within 1 hour. He
was right. There were over 1500 in attendance for the week, but
probably only 1000 for the Howdy party. Chuck even had a ROAD KILL
CAFE set up along with the regular affair. Lots of GOOD FOOD. The
band was so, so. People were building a bon fire (in the heat!)
where many of the kids had to hang out.
Tuesday I attended the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC)
session & around 11 am the air conditioning was repaired (we were
all melting). There was also a mist of rain. I was able to fulfill
my duties as Cave Rescue Section (CRS) Secretary. I was re-elected &
also volunteered to do the section newsletter. I had to head out to
the Congress of Grottoes, voting for CAG, NAG & Sligo (see elsewhere
for COG update). Ransom Turner had a number of Conservation videos
to hand out to each of the grottos. I picked up videos/pamphlets for
CAG (given to Taran Doty at the July meeting), NAG (yet to be
dropped off) & Sligo (given to Jim McConkey at convention). The COG
ended relatively early so I was able to catch the end of the CRS
Wednesday - More rain, a little chilly, a few sessions, more
visiting with friends & the evening Campground party. The Terminal
Siphons were great. I danced til around midnite before turning in.
Thursday - Chilly, rainy & humid! I sat in on a few sessions,
including a Peter Jones pottery throwing class, plus buying more
goodies. I hung out with Carol & Bill Jackson & others as we went to
the Photo Salon. WOW! This is one of the premier highlights of
convention. Paul & Gwen had been spending time with Paul & Lee
Stevens learning some of the ropes of the Photo Salon. Paul J. took
direction from Paul S. & did a great job. Gwen worked security.
She's looking for volunteers!
Friday was spent saying good-bye to many. At banquet, I sat with
Paul, Gwen & Roy. We had a nice dinner which include two different
bottles of wine. On bottle was pretty bad, the other so, so. Gwen
smuggled in some wine, hers was by far the best. The best part was
the keepsake wine glass. The awards ceremony took many of us by
surprise as the recipients were announced. CAG's
Paul Jorgenson became a FELLOW, as did Jim McConkey of Sligo Grotto
& several others. Special recognition was given to Paul & Lee
Stevens for their long time service to the NSS.
Saturday morning I let the tent dry out. Since everyone else from AZ
flew out, I hauled some items for Ray & Stephanie & a poster for
Paul & Gwen, then headed back to AZ around 10 am. I took a different
route & the first stop for gas was just before leaving WV
(Barbourville - 65.0 mpg/62.9 mpg lifetime). I was headed for St.
Louis, but unable to find any vacancies at surrounding
hotels/motels, so I kept going. The next stop for gas was Cuba, MO
(68.3 mpg/63.4 mpg lifetime). Finally, I had one hotel call ahead to
Springfield (2 hrs away) & got one of the last rooms. It was very
late (around 1:30 am).
On Monday, July 3, I made it to Albuquerque to stay with friend
Jodie Brooks. I got gas in OK & dropped down to 58.9 mpg/62.9 mpg
lifetime. The bad roads & wind took their toll. I filled up in Santa
Rosa, NM right before another downpour 57.8 mpg/62.7 mpg lifetime.
Albuquerque is under major construction "The BIG EYE" at the
junction of I-40/I-25. You may have heard on the news of the kids
that ran the blockage which closed the overpass because it was
dismantled & lucked out when the car landed in a hill of dirt..
I left really early to beat the traffic. Next gas stop was Camp
Verde 66.7 mpg/62.9 mpg lifetime. Then a 20 minute delay at New
River. I ended up pulling into the driveway at 12:30 pm, & very
glad to be home.