Meeting Minutes

February 20, 2015

7:30p at the Vinton Firehouse; Vinton, VA


David Socky – Chair

Bob Gulden – Vice Chair

Mary Sue Socky – Treasurer

Marian McConnell - Secretary

Dan McConnell – Safe & Tech

Pat Sims

Al Stewart

Bob Alderson

Carl Cornett

Doug Feller

Dusty Gulden

Nicole Gulden

Odin Gulden*

Rowland Family (5 – all but Sarah)  

Colin Beck

Jeff Huffman





a.    Warmer Noisy Blowhole on 1/10/15 (Bob Alderson): Dig and survey with Mark Minton, Dwight, Vonny Droms, Ralph.  Surveyed about 300’.

b.   Unnamed Cave 1 on 1/13/15 (Bob Alderson): Zeb Lily, Vonny Droms, Phil Lucas.  “Concealed Canyon.” 30’ climb, pulled nails out, de-rigged canyon, climbed up tight fissure into nice sized room, threw a rock up and over and hit Phil. Found 50’ pit but didn’t have gear to do.  Dug into breakdown collapse, debris cone to 40’ pit. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

c.    Unnamed Cave 2 on 2/7/15 (Bob Alderson): Mark Minton, Vonny Droms, Phil Lucas, Roger Barrody, Bill Jones. Put fluorescein dye in stream, built cover for hole to keep dog from falling in. Saw the dye appearing in resurgence in stream under ledge, then out of old resurgence below the other cave on the hill, then out the cave across the stream, then upstream.  About ¾-1 mile, then went to see if it was showing up at the waterfalls, but too early to tell. A few hours later the stream was all clear. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

d.   Lowmoor on 1/17 (Dave Socky):  BRG Trip with 3 teams who did surveys, including Hell’s Auditorium.  2134’ surveyed.

e.    Unnamed Cave 3 on 1/22 (Dave Socky):  A big 100 lb. rock fell on Dave’s leg causing a deep bruise which put him into a bit of shock, but he was able to get out ok.  Mark Hodge pulled his back moving rocks.  Phil Lucas Zeb Lilly surveyed 200 feet while Dave and Mark exited. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

f.     Unnamed Cave 4 on 1/29 (Dave Socky): With Phil Lucas, Mark Minton, Zeb Lilly, and Mark Hodge.  Did a surface survey marking were all the springs feed into creek. Then they dug in the cave across the stream, moving a lot of rock. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

g.    Unnamed Cave 4 on 1/31 (Dave Socky): With Phil Lucas, Mark Minton, Zeb Lilly, and Mark Hodge. More digging in the cave across the stream and initial excavation of the 2nd cave on the hillside. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

h.   Agee Cave* [Owner has not given it a name yet so going by Owner’s name temporarily.] on 2/1 (Dave Socky): With Brian Williams and Stephanie Petri.  North of Fincastle – cave is 86’ long which was surveyed in 3 shots. Filled with trash, tires, bottles, old cement bags; would be a good conservation project.

i.     Lowmoor on 2/1 (Dave Socky): David Socky, Stephanie Petri, Brian Williams (720 feet).  Team 2: Bob Alderson, Joe and Carol Zokaites (453 feet).  Team 3: Nick Socky, Joe Calderone, Amy Skowronski, and Rebecca Stewart (327 feet). Spent 5-1/2 hours underground and surveyed 1500’. Halfway done; cave is about 1.7 miles of passage.  Wil Orndorff indicated when Spring comes (April 15) it will be ok to survey in the mine; there are small clusters of bats in the mine. There are also old dates and signatures going back to 1884, 1919, and some old pine torch tapers.  Brian found some virgin passage.

j.     Unnamed Cave 2 on 2/11 (Dave Socky): With Dave Socky, Phil Lucas, Mark Hodge, Mark Minton, Yvonne Droms.  Lots of breakdown, will be a lot of work. Lots of air coming out and water gurgling below. (Due to land owner relations, this cave is CLOSED; the owner has permitted only these survey trips)

k.   Maxwelton on 2/14 (Dave Socky):  David Socky, Larry Fisher, Gordon Cole, and Tommy Polson.  Brian Williams and Stephanie Petri were on a separate photo trip with Ryan Maurer.  Looking for a passage on the old map, but couldn’t find it, very mazy. Pushed stream crawl, belly crawl in water.  It went for 150’ and seems virgin.  Stopped where the passage became a 12” belly crawl in water. This will need a wetsuit.  Out at 8:30p and it was 5° F, but the group wisely left their clothes at the bottom of the drop so they were warm climbing out of the cave.  Route 219 was an ice rink!  [Adam Lake on Sunday was in a head-on collision on Route 219; he is ok but his car was totaled.]

l.     Natural Bridge Caverns on 2/6: (Mary Sue Socky) With Marian McConnell, India Akers, Bob Thren, Carol Zokaites, Carl Tideman, Craig Hindeman, inventoried the cave for bats (found 2 big browns and 1 tri-color) and areas for conservation (green algae) before and during Spring VAR.

m.  Catawba Murder Hole on 2/7: Marian McConnell, Dan McConnell, Dave Socky, Mary Sue Socky (Entrance Control), Carl Cornett, Michael Rowland, Ivan Sexton, Brian Williams, Stephanie Petri, Nathan Williams, and Sabrina Simon worked on the Murder Hole video documentary filming with Nathan’s drone, videos, and photos.  Although the temperature got up to the 50’s, it was very cold in the cave. They did see some bats which is a first since in many years. [Dan and Marian think opening Percolator Pit has created a draw through the cave because in cold weather there is a plume of air shooting up out of it.  They are considering putting a “door” over Percolator Pit during the winter months.]

n.   Paxtons on 1/17:  Doug Feller, Susan Burr, Trish Geiger, Marian McConnell, Carol Duvall, and Jeff Huffman had a great trip – see article in Carbide Dump with photos.

o.    Island Ford on 1/24 and 1/31:  Marian McConnell and Carl Cornett took 2 Roanoke City Parks & Rec groups in and had great trips both times.  Good news is – quite a few bats – about 20; mostly big browns.

Upcoming Trips:

a.    SRT Class at River Rock Climbing Gym on 806 Wasena Ave. in Roanoke on 3/8 from 9:30a-5p – BRG Members get first shot at the 10 slots.  RSVP to or (540) 309-4707.  Bring vertical gear if you have it.  If you don’t, there will be gear provided. If you don’t have vertical gear, at least bring a pair of gloves.

b.   March 21 BRG Trip – TBA. 


2.   PROGRAM:  Short video of drone at Murder Hole, and photos of Murder Hole, Paxtons, and Maxwellton by Dave Socky, Brian Williams, Stephanie Petri, Nathan Williams, and Ryan Maurer.


3.   VOTE FOR FAVORITE CARBIDE DUMP COVERS OF 2014:  Each member gets 5 votes.


4.   TREASURER’S REPORT:  (Mary Sue Socky)

$110           Petty cash

$0               Cave Bucks

$235.36      Equipment Fund

$160.64      Conservation Fund

$3521.90    General Fund

$4027.90    GRAND TOTAL



a.    Newsletter – May be interesting in March as Dave Socky will be in China!

b.   Membership – Membership cards are being given out to member who have paid dues.  Packets will be sent out soon.  We currently have about 65 members, thanks to the Rowland family’s recent acceptance as 6 new members!

c.    ROCKS – See reports on Agee Cave, Jackson Cave in Bath County VA, and Lowmoor. Will wait for spring to check out additional caves at Blue Ridge Vineyard near Eagle Rock VA.

d.   Safety & Techniques – Training on March 8th at River Rock. Let Dano know if you have any suggestions for other training classes.



a.    Jeff Huffman – (sponsored by Susan Burr) – Susan was not at the meeting so Carl Cornett offered to speak up for him.  He has been on at least 5 BRG trips and has attended at least 1 SRT class.  Voted in unanimously.

b.   Lisa Goggin – (sponsored by Mary Sue Socky) – Lisa was unable to be here; she is in Texas.  She is an NSS member and member of other Grotto(s).  Mary Sue is familiar with her caving experience and dedication to safety and conservation.  Voted in unanimously.

c.    Colin Beck – (sponsored by Susan Burr) – Susan was not at the meeting; the Board had discussion with Colin via email and requested that he come on a few more BRG trips and attend at least one SRT class before we vote on his membership.  He is currently a Subscriber until he gains more experience.



a.    Return to Blue Ridge Vineyards to check out other caves – will do later when weather is better.

b.   Vinton Firehouse Renovations – currently underway.  Should be done by March.

c.    Blacksburg Cave Rescue Group update – Stephanie Petri was not at the meeting; she is on the Equipment Committee.  Dave Socky, Brian Williams will be involved as well.



a.    Proposed gas pipeline routes impact on caves, karst, farms in Catawba and other areas (e.g. Blacksburg).  Marian received information from some families in Catawba (Butch & Betty Kelly and Frankie & Louise Garman) who may be impacted by this.  Much discussion going on through the Virginia Cave Board as well; the February 21st VCB meeting in Luray was postponed due to the winter storm until April 11, 2015.  More information will be available after that meeting.

b.   New River Cave Challenge – Consider donating to the New River Cave Preserve. The cave was already purchased but we are trying to pay off the loan.  John Taylor donated $100 and BRG contributed $250; but anyone can donate more.  Al Stewart donated $300.  Wil Orndorff is the Manager of the preserve.

c.    Natural Bridge Conservation Project – India Akers came to the October 2014 BRG meeting and has asked for help – we’ve provided maps, coordinates, etc., and visited the show cave last month to do an inventory for conservation projects before and during VAR.  Anyone wishing to join Mary Sue and Bob Thren before Spring VAR should contact Mary Sue (date TBD).  Mary Sue is waiting for India to respond in order to set up a date.  Carl Cornett and Bob Gulden volunteered (so far).

d.   Come to VAR on April 24-26 – great facilities and lots of caving trips such as Dollhouse, Isabella’s Stairsteps, Island Ford, Lowmoor, etc.

e.    Stay out of Shovel Eater and Germany Valley caves unless you have permission!



a.    Watch “Expedition Unknown” with Josh Gates on 2/26 at 9p EST (Travel Channel) to see footage of Murder Hole. This episode will attempt to link the Beale Treasure mystery to Murder Hole.  Dave Socky was one of the videographers; and we will get a DVD of the episode after it airs to watch.  Viewing party date TBD!

b.   BRG has been asked to take Connie’s (Dixie Caverns) nephew into New Dixie Cave on May 16th. 

c.    October 3rd – possible VAR at Grand Caverns.

d.   Murder Hole books are still available from Marian in paperback and hardback; NSS members get a discount.

e.    SECC bought Stephens Gap Cave (near Huntsville, AL).

f.     A 2-day Land Conservation conference will be held at Natural Bridge on April 30 – May 1 (see flyer). 

g.    Possible program – we received the 25 minute DVD for the 2015 NSS Convention in Missouri.


Adjourned:  9:10p