In Girl Scouting, we always build on previous experiences, so a good starting point for caving is to visit a commercial cave also known as "show cave" such as Lost World Caverns. Show caves provide a safe and controlled exploring experience. They use electric lighting to highlight formations and illuminate the pathways - usually concrete walkways. Participants may climb stairs to reach formations and work their way through the cavern. Handrails are provided to ensure the safety of all participants, and many commercial caves give each participant a flashlight to use on their great adventure. Exploring a commercial cave before wild caving provides the opportunity for girls to enjoy caving and learn the basics of caving. It also helps girls determine whether exploring a wild cave is suitable for them.

Once girls explore a commercial cave and learn the basics, it's time for them to decide if they want to take the next step, conquering a wild cave. Many commercial caves, such as Lost World Caverns in Lewisburg, West Virginia, provide a wild cave experience where an experienced guide will lead groups through a series of pathways and passages. The girls wear a helmet with a headlamp, as well as knee pads. They are led down pathways, over rock formations, down holes and through wet passageways where they can test their climbing, crawling and scooting abilities while getting muddy and dirty. They may encounter bats and salamanders as they discover the wonderful cave formations such as stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone.

If a commercial wild cave is not available, individual troops may consider contacting a local caving club, known as a "grotto," to find out if they have a program where local cavers work with groups to explore wild caves. Members of the grotto will know which caves are open to cavers, and many will act as a guide to their favorite caves. It is the Girl Scout Leader's responsibility to ensure a qualified adult caver acts as a guide and that the guide has experience in the cave where the group will be caving.

Always ask for permission before entering a cave. Caves are either owned by organizations or individuals, and it is necessary to ask for their permission to enter their cave. If possible, get the permission in writing via either email or postal mail. Some cave owners may only provide verbal permission, and some will ask for a release of liability form from each caver entering their cave. The Girl Scout Leader will need to ensure each girl and her parents complete the release of liability form if the troop is planning on caving in that cave. The release of liability forms should be given to the owner before entering the cave.

When the caving trip is over, send thank you notes to the cave owners thanking them for the opportunity to explore their cave. They always appreciate knowing you enjoyed your trip.


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