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August 2002 Volume 31, Number 1

Subterranean Sun

On-Line Edition

This issue will only be published electronically. As usual, we will offer the late fall 2002 issue both on-line and via snail-mail. The mailed version will contain our annual membership list, which is only available to members.

Jim McConkey edited this issue, with copious help from Meredith Hall Johnson.

The editor for the late fall issue will be Meredith Hall Johnson. She encourages all Sligo Grotto members to contribute to the upcoming issue. So get busy and send your pictures, trip reports, poems, or anything of interest to other Sligo cavers to Meredith!



Aug 28- Sept. 2
OTR - Largest caver gathering on the planet.
Sept. 7
Trout Rock Conser-Vacation. Come help clean up these favorite NSS-owned caves near Franklin, WV.
Sept. 20-22
The Fall MAR meeting will be hosted by the Philly Grotto and the Commander Cody Caving Club at the Lazy-A Campground near Martinsburg, WV. Jim and Mike will be fixing the Silers gate on Saturday.
Sept. 27-29
Fall VAR - Meredith, Kelsea, TinY and the rest of BATS are planning the best VAR in years to be held at Endless Caverns. Register now!
Oct. 19 (tentative)
Jim will be the lighting director on a one-day video shoot for a philosophy video in Greenville Saltpetre Cave. If anyone is interested in working on the lighting crew, please contact Jim.
Oct. 25-26
Phantom Trolleys Ride Again! Come help Josh scare the living #$%@ out of unsuspecting trolley car riders. Details elsewhere in this issue.
Oct. 26
Baltimore Grotto Pumpkin Hunt. Jim and Jen are organizing the hunt this year.
Nov. 9-10
Fall Sligo Caving Bash - see details elsewhere in this issue.
Dec. ???
Holiday Party – details to be announced


Feb. 14-17
Annual Sligo-SVG President’s Day Weekend Bash at Thompson’s Motel in Franklin, WV. Reservations are essential: 1-800-338-5531

As always, check the on-line Sligo Grotto Calendar for the latest information on Sligo and regional caving events.

OTR News

OTR (the Old Timer's Reunion) is fast approaching. If you are not already a TRA (The Robertson Association) member, your only option at this point is to be invited as a guest because the deadline for joining this year was July 31st.

Please note that TRA is actually cracking down this year and will NOT let people arrive before Thursday. Don't even try. See the OTR website for the latest rules.

If you have a few extra minutes or hours at OTR, I'm sure Fang would appreciate any volunteer help she can get!

Due to schedule conflicts, there hasn't been time to have a Sinks trip this summer, so we'll probably try to do one at OTR again, maybe on Sunday.

Sligo Grotto Fall Trip

November 9-10th, 2002

At the request of our North Carolina contingent, Sligo will be holding its first (annual?) Fall Caving Bash near Lewisburg, WV over the Veteran's Day Weekend. All Sligo members, family and friends are cordially invited!

Given the usual local temperatures in November, our base for the weekend will be the Sunset Terrace Motel on Rt. 60 in Lewisburg. George reports that the Sunset Terrace is a smaller version of Thompson's, without the restaurant. The owner, Ms. Thelma, said doubles are $43 a night, and she can leave keys for late arrivals. They have a party room available if enough people decide to come. They only have 15 rooms, so reservations are suggested: 304-645-2363.

This will be a serious caving weekend. We are planning on a major caving trip on Saturday, and another (shorter) trip on Sunday. Possibilities include Paxton's, Scott Hollow, Greenville Saltpeter, McClung, Bone/Norman and Rehobeth Church Caves. Many of these require advanced arrangments, so please e-mail
Jim if you plan to come and state your preferences.

Hope to see you there!!!

Phantom Trolleys Ride Again

October 25-26, 2002

by Josh Lepman

On Friday and Saturday nights, October 25th and 26th, 2002, the Baltimore Streetcar Museum will be staging the Phantom Trolley event. The museum is a non-profit, all volunteer organization on Falls Road near Maryland Avenue in Baltimore. We last put on the Phantom Trolley ten years ago. A number of Sligo Grotto members assisted and after a long absence, I am requesting your help with the event once again.

Anyone who participated can tell you what a fantastic time it was. What happens is we take visitors for a trolley ride after dark. The cars stop at different points along the line and costumed volunteers do various things to scare the daylights out of them.

Last time the Harnages, Jim McConkey, Art Dodds, and Bob Shimuzu participated. There were probably some others that I have forgotten and for which I apologize. Art rigged a rope between two telephone poles and suspended the son of a museum member from the rope using a pulley. He was dressed in a sheet (ghost) and went flying through the air screaming as the trolleys went by. Jim was a GIANT spider that lowered itself by its web (rope) from above right into peoples faces as they looked out the windows in horror. Other people were other kinds of ghosts and goblins.

The only way you can properly appreciate this is to be there and participate. Innovation and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged. The event requires a lot people and your help is needed. If you can participate on one or both nights, or if you have any questions, please get in touch with me.

We can arrange a limited amount of indoor sleeping spaces and an unlimited amount of backyard tent space for people who want to stay over. Contact Josh ( for more information.

Presidents' Day Weekend 2002
Franklin, WV

By Anya Crane

Friday: I had taken Friday off so I could take my time getting to Franklin. It was a new experience for me to drive there in the daylight…most enjoyable. I could see the whole valley and the Shenandoah ridge as I made my way South on I-81. I arrived around 4:30, checked into my room at Thompson’s Motel and decided to take a nap. (Sleep was part of my vacation plans.)

Allison’s knock at the door woke me up around 6:30 per the message I had left at the front desk. We went to dinner. We dined at the former Kokopelli’s. (The new owners also own the two bed and breakfast establishments in Franklin.) We both had the pot roast, which we found to be really tasty and tender. I decided to turn in early so I “hit the hay” around midnight, setting my alarm for 9:00 a.m. so I would not miss the next day’s activities.

Saturday: After socializing at breakfast, I ended up in a car full of cavers on a hiking quest. Pat drove; Dave rode shotgun; and, Allison, Liz and I “squoze” into the back. (Oh, I should mention that we were in Pat’s 1990 Subaru Legacy.)

We had two maps, some snacks and some ideas on seeing a little bit of countryside by car as we searched for the hike we wanted. We looped North, South and West of Franklin on some back roads. Each time we completed a loop, we returned to Franklin somehow. But, that was good ‘cuz we got to greet different folks in Thompson’s parking lot and make bathroom stops…The scenery was rocky and picturesque. We saw cliffs and creeks, hills and pastures. We even encountered a lone sheep in the middle of the road. (This was ironic because Dave had been telling a story about someone having a sheep as a “pet”.) After a stop for Liz to get some fresh air (motion/car sickness), we made our way up a ridge and parked at what Pat called “the right lot”. (She knew what we were doing. I, personally, was along for the ride…)

We all fell out of the car, which, as someone pointed out, was emitting an odor of burning…or, maybe it was just hot and sweaty having carried five of us up the steep mountain road. We went along the blue blazed trail until we felt it was time to go. Then we did an about face and headed back to the car. We all piled back into the trusty steed for our return trip to home base (Thompson’s) for dinner. Allison got out a bag of Reese’s cups that made a good appetizer.

On our way back to Thompson’s, we got pulled over for speeding. The officer asked us if we had any guns. He issued Pat a warning and let us go on our way. (How exciting for Subi, Pat’s car – He made it up a big ‘ol mountain and then got stopped for speeding! He’s still got it…)

We had an enjoyable dinner, went to “freshen up” and landed in the party room later. When my contacts dried out, I went to my room to get some shut-eye. I set my alarm for 8:00 a.m. Jim said we would meet at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast and I meant to be on time.

Sunday: Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged the comb across my head… Oh, sorry, that’s a Beatles tune…We had seen flurries the night before but didn’t think there would be anything substantial. But I woke to a two-inch blanket of snow outside on my car and the rest of the world.

We all convened at breakfast and coordinated who was riding with whom to the cave. We were headed to Sinnit, which was my first cave some years ago. I had gone last year at Presidents’ Day and looked forward to seeing how much I remembered.

Plus, there were some folks on the trip that I hadn’t caved with before. Each trip is different because of the people. The snow was still coming from the sky, but in the valley by the cave entrance, it was coming horizontally (parallel to the river bed). Around 11:30 a.m., Jim, Jen, George, Adrian, Carrie, Meredith, Kelsea and I went in. We went to the Waterfall Room, up the Silo and into the Big Room. We all registered, too. We saw a cluster of big-eared bats in the “hallway” (my first time seeing this type of bat). We found various fossils in the breakdown of the Big Room and walked its entire length. We made our way out of the cave 7 ˝ hours later. There was no more snow and the wind had pretty much stopped. That was good because we didn’t want to freeze from peeling our dirty outside layers off next to the cars. We made our way back to Thompson’s, off-loaded gear from the cars, put some un-muddy clothes on and went to dinner. We had lots of laughs over rehashing some of our cave conversations and kidding with each other (basking in “post-cave glow” or suffering from fatigue and hunger?).

After dinner, I took a quick shower to de-mud my skin and restart my circulation. The warm water also served to soothe my soon-to-be aching muscles.

Those of us that were going back home on Monday showed up to the party room for a last gathering. It was a much smaller crowd than the night before. But we heard some good stories. And some folks sampled some homemade salsa with another person’s home-preserved habanera peppers. (I was too full of fried chicken and mashed ‘taters to sample it. But those that tried it, liked it.) I conked out at 11:30.

Monday: We took advantage of our last breakfast of the gathering to exchange e-mail addresses and to promise to keep in contact… As I headed out of town, I smiled as I accelerated, burning the memories of a wonderful weekend into my mind.

NSS Convention 2002

By Jim McConkey

A bunch of Sligo folks headed up to Maine this summer for the coolest NSS convention in years. The Union Fairgrounds and the new Camden Hills Regional High School were our base of activities for the week. Sligo members attending this year included Jim and Jen, Anya, Meredith, Kelsea, Jim Powers, Lynn, Gary and Barb, and Paul and Charlotte.

Anemone Sea Cave The convention got off to an early start with a geology field trip to Acadia National Park on Sunday. The highlight of the day was visiting many sea caves, both active and emerged. I think the longest was all of 80 feet long, but they were still interesting to see. That night a very strong storm took the campground by surprise, and the gale force winds continued well into Monday. Since we were camped at the local fairgrounds, many cavers moved their tents into the relative safety of the animal stalls. Nobody in our camp lost anything more than a few tarp grommets, but we had all manner of tents, tarps, and miscellaneous camping supplies blow through our camp.

Clawd the Lobster The usual assortment of talks, discussions and sessions at the high school filled the week during the day. The Monday night Howdy Party was held at the nearby Camden Snow Bowl, and featured hundreds of freshly boiled lobsters. The chefs apparently missed Clawd, the convention mascot, who made an appearance and posed for pictures. The ski lift was operating, and a ride to the top and a short hike took us to the top of the mountain, which commanded a spectacular view of the coastline. Unfortunately, they forgot to tell us that the lift can't take very many people back down, and many had to descend the steep and rocky slope in sandals, flip-flops or worse.

Jen drives the schooner The convention organizers had somehow arranged for schooner rides for anyone who wanted to go, so Jen and I went on Tuesday morning. It was a 60 foot boat that could take about 30 cavers and 3 crew members at a time. We got to help raise, lower and trim the sails, and a few of us even got to drive for a while. The cruise lasted about two hours and took us all around the bay, and past a bunch of harbor seals and a cool lighthouse.

Wednesday night the famous caver band, the Terminal Siphons, rocked the campground until the local ordinances shut them down. Thursday night was the annual slide and video salon. I got talked into helping judge the video salon again this year. The night of the annual NSS auction, I got word of a Sligo "flag" that I had not seen being auctioned. Sure enough, it turned out to be a giant sized Sligo patch, almost a foot long. I couldn't make the auction, but I authorized someone to bid on our behalf, and we won the bidding. It was strange to have to pay for our own patch, but the money went to a good cause. The patch was an anonymous donation, but we think it came from Grayson Harding's estate. Friday evening was the annual awards and farewell banquet. Mike and Pat Dore, owners of Scott Hollow Cave, were made Fellows of the NSS. Our friends Eric and Melissa Hendrickson of Maine won an award for their work on the Maine Cave Survey and their work in getting the Maine Cave Protection Act passed.

Mike Tretter in Inman's Cave Friday morning a couple Sligo members took part in the now-annual Randy Gandy Cave trip to Quarry Cave, just outside of town. The cave itself is only about 60 feet deep. It was originally a naturally occuring cave, but was later mined clean. In the short time since, some formations have started forming again. Locals have outfitted the cave with a rug, and there is even a formation forming on top of the rug. Jim and some Balitmore cavers hiked up nearby Mt. Megunticook that morning for a trip to Inman's Cave, one of the few Maine caves that permits vertical work. The 18 foot entrance drop is rigged with a 2 inch thick gym rope, but we chose to rig a caving rope and rappel in. A short climb and scramble took us to another 6 foot drop, which we did several times just to keep in practice. The fissure cave was very chilly at the lowest levels, but since it was barely over 200 feet long it didn't take long to get out and warm up. There were several other caves nearby, but the rest of the crew opted out and headed back to the school to do some final shopping at the speleovendors.

The trip home took us through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont. We even stopped in Pennsylvania to take the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour, which is worth the stop if you are ever in the Scranton area. Overall a very nice convention and vacation!

Scott Hollow and Rehobeth Church Caves

By Jim McConkey

Our friends Dwight and Dale of Baltimore Grotto had invited us to head down to Lewisburg to help take their niece from Colorado caving. Dwight and his brother exhange a kid or two every summer for various adventures. I had helped take his neice Emma speleocanoeing to Indian River and Whitings Neck a couple years back, and this year it was her sister Rachel's turn.

We pulled into the Greenbrier River Campground just about midnight on Friday night, put up our tent, and settled in for the futile attempt to sleep thanks to the coal trains which roared up and down the opposite side of the river all night. Fortunately, nobody was in a great hurry to get caving on Saturday, so we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and then headed over to Scott Hollow. We stopped in for a short visit with Pat Dore, and then went on to the cave. Mike was already inside working on a dig at the second downstream sump. This sump is a major obstacle, and I was on a 20-hour trip about 10 years back trying to find a climbing route over the sump. Mike and some friends are using microblasting techniques to expand a fissure that is blowing promising air. Unfortunately, their impact drill gave out early on this trip, and there is no breakthrough to report at this time.

Due to various injuries, the trip ended up with just five cavers: Dwight, his daughter Becky, his niece Rachel, and Jen and me. We suited up and headed down the entrance tube right in the middle of the floor of Mike and Pat's new building, and started our way down Mastadon Lane. We found the Mystic River 500 feet lower without much difficulty and started upstream after snacks and new carbide loads. Our destination was the double waterfall. It's a straight shot up the river, but several very large breakdown piles interrupt the journey and require a lot of route finding. We finally arrived at the double waterfall and stopped for pictures and lunch. The waterfalls are very neat. Some water falls about 8 feet into a roughly circular opening in the rock ledge, and the rest of it flows around the hole to form another waterfall over the edge of the ledge. Light passing through the hole backlights the water under the second waterfall. On the trip back, we all found out why Mastadon Lane is called Drag Ass Hill on the way back out. We got back to camp about 9 p.m., and hungrily devoured a delicious spaghetti dinner. We didn't even notice the trains that night!

Sunday morning we creaked out of bed, had breakfast and packed up, and headed for Rehobeth Church Cave, just east of Lewisburg. Rehobeth Church is a historic (early 1800s) wood church made from hand-hewn logs. The cave is in the field immediately behind the church. Becky and Rachel had had enough caving in Scott Hollow, and sat this one out. Hank and his daughter Sally came with us instead. It took a while to find the way in. Dwight checked out one hole and declared it didn't go. While he was looking at another hole, I found the way in through the first hole. We were soon headed down the bedding plane towards some very large rooms and some nice formations. Weird chert nodules stuck out of the walls at every turn. We were tight on time, so we didn't try to see the whole cave. This one definitely requires another trip! Dinner at El Charro in Harrisonburg was a nice ending to a great weekend!

More Silers Gate Repairs

by Jim McConkey

Leave it to vandals to find the only construction mistake in the new Silers gate! They found that in our rush to complete the gate that one of the bars had not been welded in place. It was so tight at installation that we apparently never noticed. The vandals have removed (but thankfully not stolen) the bar, and broken into the cave, which allowed them to easily destroy the lock on the main gate from the back. Since they have to climb past some nice formations if they come in the side gate, we decided that it would be better for the cave to leave the main gate open until we get the side gate fixed.

Mike Eppley and I are planning to fix the gate on Saturday, September 21st, the weekend of MAR. Mike is providing the generator and arc welder, and we are hoping for a good turnout of slave labor from the MAR to help haul the stuff up to and down from the cave. If anyone who is not going to MAR wants to help, meet us at the cave at 10 a.m. (check with Jim to verify the time). The repairs should only take an hour or so and there will be plenty of time for caving.


King for Life, Chairman, Treasurer, Grotto Trips Coordinator and Occasional Newsletter Editor:
Jim McConkey
Chair of Vice:
Jennifer Neemann
Gloria Briggs
Newsletter Editor:
Meredith Hall Johnson

This site is written and maintained by Jim McConkey. Last update: 15.May.2004
© Copyright 2002-2004 Sligo Grotto of the NSS