Monthly Meeting Minutes – Jersey Lily’s Salem, VA

July 16, 2021


Marian McConnell – Chair                                 Dave Socky – Treasurer                      Mary Sue Socky – Secretary

John Fox                                                                Carl Cornett                                          Nick Schmalenberger         

Susan Burr                                                            Doug Feller                                           Jeff Huffman

Kevin Johnson                                                      *Carrie Doupnik                                   Trish Geiger         

Lynn Ott                                                                 Rene` Rowland                                     Christopher Rowland       

                                (* denotes guest)                                                

Meeting called to order 6:32p by Chair Marian McConnell


Trip reports:

6/19/2021:  Breathing Cave, VA

Susan Burr, Doug Feller, Jeff Huffman, Lauren Appel, Larry Manning, Mystik Miller

Susan reports:  Our June grotto trip was into Breathing Cave. We met Mystik Miller at the caver parking area. The hike to the cave was not too bad, but we did get slightly misdirected for just a short distance. One the way back, well that was a different story!

Once in the cave, we did the normal tourist trip through the Nut Cracker to the waterfall. I did remember one bypass but didn't remember that there were several bypasses to do. I also didn't remember some of the areas being as difficult as it was...not that it was that difficult.

On the way back to the car of course we got off trail & ended up bushwhacking through tall weeds & grasses to get to the main road. Luckily, we saw the vehicles, so we were not too far off!


6/19: Windy Mouth, WV. Participants included David Socky, Rob Wardell, and Nikki Fox on one team and, Nick Socky, Kelly McCarthy, and Silas Springer on the other team. We went in Friday evening, meeting at Walmart in Lewisburg at 10pm. Nikki, Rob, and Silas had gone earlier and planned on doing a little surveying Friday night. We got in around 12:30 am. The survey team showed up around 1:30am just before Nick was getting ready to go look for them. Saturday morning, we did a bolt climb in the Pistachio Room and surveyed 400 feet of virgin cave before it ended in a too tight dig. Our survey day on Saturday was about 12.5 hours. I got to do some solo surveying while Rob and Nikki did the bolt climb. We were out of the cave by 1pm Sunday.                         

6/23: Gingerbread House Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Karen Powers, Mary Sue Socky, and cave owner Sharon Mohney. We went in looking for wood rats for Karen, who is from Radford University doing studies on wood rats. Karen saw 2 wood rats but didn't get any photos. They plan on coming back next week to set traps.                   

6/23: Mariah Cave, VA Participants included David Socky, Karen Powers, Mary Sue Socky, and Sharon Mohney. We didn’t see any wood rats in Mariah Cave, but there were signs. They plan on coming back next week to set traps. We also looked at the entrance to Black Forest Shaft.

6/26: McClungs Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Joe Zokaites, Alex Faunce, and Mary Hicks. We worked on the Subway section underlaying Minilithia. We surveyed to the "Hole in the Floor", and then surveyed to the northern extreme of the passage that goes under Megalithia. Finished up the day by going back to JAC39 to work on where the JAC survey stopped. We did not finish that passage. There was a tight spot over a piece of breakdown which I got over after the 2nd try. But coming back was more difficult. I couldn't push with my feed, so wasn't able to squeeze past the tight spot. Plus, the angle was different. I got panicky and tried twice when I made Joe come back and pound on the protruding rock to try and make the space bigger. After 10 minutes of pounding, I tried again and was able to get through. Joe said it was all phycological. It probably was. But I still didn't like it. If I go back, it will be with a hammer. There is more cave to do back there with a very good lead - "Passage continues 5'w x 3'h"! We got out at 10:30pm for an 11.5-hour trip. We surveyed 1518 feet in 8 hours.

7/2: McClungs Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Joe Zokaites, and Chris Cerne on one team and Nick Socky, Alex Faunce, and Penelope Vorster on the other team. This was the MOM survey. We tied in the two pits in Minilithia to survey points in the Subway. We then completed Nick's ICE survey, leaving one good virgin 'small person' lead, which did open up. We then extended the breakdown mess in the Dad Crawl Bypass. Nick finished up the bolt climb in the Kidney room, getting around 300 feet of virgin cave. They then worked on the Cupola Canyon, which had a really narrow slot to get up into. They didn't finish this area. It was a good 11.5-hour trip where we surveyed a total of 754 feet.

7/3: Lowmoor Cave, VA.  Susan Burr, Jeff Huffman, Trish Geiger, Ian Pelletier, Dustin Womack (Susan's son-in-law) Braven Womack (Susan’s grandson)

Susan reports:  Braven wanted to go to another new to him cave, so I chose Lowmoor. We parked in the mine & entered the cave via the mine entrance. I let Braven lead through the maze part in the beginning of the cave. Most of the time I had Jeff leading, but Braven was always hot on his trail. We went over the ladder & headed to the Ship Room & then to the end where all the broken formations are. Next, we headed to the Fossil Room.

Braven's birthday was coming up, so I planned a little surprise birthday celebration for him in the cave. I had asked prior to the cave trip for Trish to film the event with my camera & Jeff to take pictures if possible. The room I chose was the perfect place. I gave Trish my camera & quick instructions on how to record. Trish took Braven & Dustin over to look at all the fossils along the walls.  Meanwhile, I was in the room just on the other side of the wall getting ready. I had a cupcake & candle, which I lit, & popped out from under the wall singing Happy Birthday to Braven. Trish was recording, Jeff was taking pictures & everyone started singing with me. Braven blew out his candles & ate his cupcake. He & Dustin were both surprised since I had not told them anything about doing this. I think Braven thought it was great! He sent pictures & videos to some of his friends.

After the party we headed to the Anthodite Room & then back out over the ladder. We did a side trip to a section (don't know the name) that Doug, Jeff & I had done prior. Once we explored in there, we came back out & then we explored more in the maze as we headed out of the cave through the natural entrance.

I was very thankful for all the help Jeff, Trish & Ian did make sure Braven was safe. I think we all had a really good time! I am super excited about how much Braven likes to cave & wants to explore while in the cave.


7/4: Sharps Cave, WV. Two non-cavers got lost in Sharps Cave. They had no helmets, cotton clothes, and one lantern light. There was a pretty big turnout of cavers, but as it turned out, they weren’t needed (thank goodness). They were found around noon on Sunday. They had gone in on Saturday. See the July 2021 Carbide Dump for a short report by Earl Suitor.


7/7: McClungs Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Joe Zokaites, and Nikki Fox. We went back through the Christmas Passage and did the upper canyon that Joe had been eyeing for over a year which starts just above the drop down to the Little/Big Muddy. It was large canyon. We ended up in a large room with the main way up a webbing climb which none of us wanted to do. We did end up with over 400 feet of new cave and a total survey amount of 792 feet on a long 12-hour trip.


7/10: Dry Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Chris Coates, and Errol Glidden on one team and Greg Springer, Silas Springer, and Sydney Hansen on the other team. We surveyed in the highly decorated, but complicated upper levels above the First Bypass. In 12 hours, we surveyed a total of 810 feet, some of which was new. Our survey was essentially the old 2000 series survey which needed to be redone because of poor loop closures and not very detailed sketches. Greg, Silas, and Sydney surveyed 695 feet in the downstream section of the upper levels.


7/10: Salamander Cave, VA – Nick Schmalenberger attended BCRG Rescue practice in Salamander Cave Preserve, which is a vertical cave owned by SCCi.  There were 40 attendees in the cave.  Practice moved slowly; they did not take the patient all the way out by the time practice ended.


7/11: It’s Not Over ‘Til the Laundry’s Done - Nick Schmalenberger attended the BCRG gear wash at the Blacksburg Rescue Squad.  Cleaning up after the muddy fun at Salamander Cave the previous day.



Tomorrow Sat. 7/17/2021:  BRG trip to Island Ford Cave VA. Easy Beginner Trip. Contact MarySue Socky

7/24/2021 – BRG trip to Patton Cave, WV. Destination: The Football Room.  Contact Susan Burr  to sign up.

Aug 7 – Grotto Get Together at the Rowland’s Mill Falls Farm, Big Island, VA.

Aug 21 -  Grotto trip to Piercy’s Mill Cave, WV.  Susan Burr will coordinate the trip.




6/18/2021 BRG Treasury Report, – Dave Socky, Treasurer


Cave Bucks          $   196.00

Conservation     $        0.00

Equipment          $   133.87

General               $ 3,323.63

Total                           $3,653.50  


*Cave Bucks:  All Cave Bucks donations are voluntary; funds go to cave conservation programs.



Newsletter – CARBIDE DUMP – July 2021 issue went out.  There will not be an August issue. 

Membership – currently 55 members and 5 subscribers.

ROCKS – various BRG members worked with Dr. Karen Powers and her students on a regional cave rat population study.

Safety & Techniques  S&T Chair Dan McConnell is recovering from right hip replacement surgery.  He is doing well.


Membership Proposals:   none currently.


Old Business

·         Grotto Get-together at Mill Falls Farm:  Saturday Aug 7; rain date of Sunday, Aug. 8. Noon-6p.  Rene Rowland is excited that everyone is coming to visit! Directions are in the July DUMP.   Please sign up.

·         Treasurer paid annual dues/donation to WVCC ($50) and ACCA ($25).

·         No September 17 meeting – go to Fall VAR!  still waiting for a flyer or VAR registration info.   NOTE: after 7/16 meeting, VAR was cancelled, and a NEW Fall VAR/MAR is scheduled for OCT 15-16-17 at Grand Caverns, VA. 

·         Porter’s Project (Susan Burr):  Susan is re-thinking the logistics of adding to the Porter’s entrance culvert.  Alternative proposal would be to get a group to excavate down to the original gate, and clean out the drains, etc.  This would involve a bucket brigade.  Questions: How many people will be needed?   Where will the excavated rocks be dumped? 

·         Al Stewart’s caving books.  Al Stewart wants his caving books auctioned off to the BRG community; all proceeds go to Blue Ridge Grotto.    TABLED until list of titles is available. 


New Business

·         Synopsis of 7/4/2021 Sharps Cave WV rescue. See report (above) and  report in July Carbide Dump p. 52.

·         Alternate place to maybe hold BRG meetings? –                    # 523 Shenandoah Ave NW; Roanoke, VA 24016 (Convenient parking may be an issue.) Kevin Johnson has made inquiries about the pub’s meeting room, but never heard back from management.  TABLED.

o   Several people made positive comments about Jersey Lily’s smoke free policy and new menu. 

·         (MSSocky) BRG has received several requests for caving info.  Most involve getting the person in contact with the grotto closest to them.  Then there are individuals who want information – some have ‘shopping lists’ of requests for cave maps, directions to the cave, phone, and email of landowners, etc.  Please Do Not Give Out Cave Locations or other sensitive information!  Invite them to a nearby grotto meeting, instead. 

·         Susan Burr asked, “how does one check to see if they are paid up with the NSS?”  She received info on how to navigate the Member Portal on the NSS webpage, along with username and password.  It was also recommended that she call the NSS Office 256-852-1300 and talk with Michelle Vaughn. 

·         Grotto Gear:  One of the headlamps is no longer working.  It has been replaced.  The chinstraps on 2  (ultimately 4) helmets are worn out, unsafe, and must be replaced.  MSSocky does not know if we can get new chin straps for these old helmets/bump caps.  She will investigate getting replacements.    


NSS Convention July 25-30, 2021, will now be virtual only.  It will also be FREE!  Be sure to visit, see some awesome cave maps and photos, listen to talks, and see if any of your friends received NSS awards!


NEWNCRC Orientation to Cave Rescue (OCR) will be held at the Blacksburg Rescue Squad in Blacksburg, VA Oct. 22-24, 2021. Cost $60.00  (The Martinsburg, WV OCR in early October is full and there is now a waiting list, so if Blacksburg VA is within your driving range, please consider signing up.)


Pandemic Caving – let’s be healthy going underground.  Rules have been posted in the DUMP.


Switching from winter to summer cave closures for bats (maternity colonies).  Other caves may be open for summer visitation.  please respect all cave closures.

VA -  Summer closure dates - Apr.15 - Oct.15     WV -  Summer closure dates:– May 15 - Sept.1




July 16, 2021, BRG meeting, 6:30p.  Jersey Lily’s- Salem.

July 17 – Island Ford Cave grotto trip.

July 24 – Patton Cave grotto trip 

July 25 – July 30  2021 NSS Convention will now be virtual only.

Aug 7 – Grotto Get-Together at the Rowland’s property near Big Island, VA (Bedford Co.)

Aug 13-15 - Karst O Rama @ Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve, Mt. Vernon KY

Aug 20 – BRG meeting, 6:30p, Jersey Lily’s-Salem.

Aug 28 – Virginia Cave Board meeting, Williamson Road Library, Roanoke, VA.    

Sept 2-6 – OTR, Dailey, WV.

Sept 17 – NO BRG meeting!  Go to Fall VAR!!    We need to schedule a Sept. 17 BRG meeting, and drop the Oct. 15 BRG meeting, due to VAR date change.

Sept 17-19, 2021, Fall VAR @ RASS Fieldstation in Bath Co., VA.  Hosted by BCCS.

Oct 1-3- NCRC Orientation to Cave Rescue (OCR), Martinsburg, WV.

Oct 7-10- TAG Fall Cave-In.  Hosted by Dogwood City Grotto.

Oct 15 BRG meeting, 6:30p, Jersey Lily’s-Salem. !!!

Oct 15-17 NEW!!! FALL VAR/MAR, at Grand Caverns, VA.  Hosted by 7 Valleys Grotto and Charlottesville Grotto.  MORE INFO SOON!!! 

Oct. 22-24 - NCRC Orientation to Cave Rescue (OCR), Blacksburg, VA.

Nov 13 – WVCC Banquet, Lewisburg, WV.   



Meeting adjourned 7:42p. 


Cold Beer!


Minutes Submitted by

Mary Sue Socky, Secretary,

Blue Ridge Grotto of the NSS


 Program:  Recent caving activities in VA and WV” by Dave Socky.   Excellent slide show!