Monthly Meeting Minutes – Jersey Lily’s Salem, VA

February 18, 2022



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

Lauren Appel                                                        Trish Geiger                                          Nick Schmalenberger

Susan Burr                                                            Karen Kastning                                     Cyndi Hutchison

Doug Feller                                                           *Pat Banks                                             *Beth Banks 

Lynn Ott                                                                 *Kelly Perkins                                       *Dr. Tina Salowey                                      

                (* denotes guest)


Meeting called to order 6:40p  by Chair Marian McConnell.

Introductions were made, new folks welcomed


Trip reports:

1/15/2022: Nick Schmalenberger visited his parents in California, and took them to Clay Cave, Napa Co. CA.  Clay Cave formed in an old volcanic ash deposit – so old, the ash had weathered to clay. Erosional formation of the cave happened after the ash deposit became clay. Parts of Clay Cave are so narrow that you must walk sideways to get through.  Nick also found an old magazine, Mercator’s World, Nov-Dec 2000 in his parent’s collection.  It contained a very interesting article by Walter Carl Hartwig, "Under Brazil: Mapping the Caves of Ancient Amazonia.”  


1/22:  Greenbrier Poor Farm Cave, WV, grotto trip.  Doug Feller, Susan Burr, Lauren Appel, Jeff Huffman, Larry Manning, Kelly Perkins, Summer Skye (Ward).  The field we had to drive through to park was a sheet of snow/ice. Luckily, everyone had an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle. It was also VERY cold, so we quickly changed & headed down to the entrance. The entrance was very pretty with snow covered frozen branches & ice stalagmites & stalactites as you climbed down into the cave.


We chose to do the right side of the cave first, with the objective of going to the formation room in the back. It was a routine trip for the most part. The one climb up near the stream still posed an issue for some of us shorter people. Also, the area in the back to get to the climb up to the formation room was a little trickier than before. We all made it safely & had a good time taking lots of pictures of the beautiful formations.  After heading out & making it down the drop back at the stream, we all decided to explore down the stream a ways. Then we headed back to the entrance area.


Next, we did the left side of the cave. In the back of that section, we went across the large flowstone & explored back there for a bit. Then everyone but Susan Burr headed out the upper passage & Susan stayed below to try to get pictures of them from below. Once everyone was down, we headed back to the cars & then over to the bowling alley to eat.


1/22: McClung Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Bob Alderson, and Bill Koerschner on Team 1 and Greg Springer, Seth Rogers, and Brandon Sass on Team 2, and Paul Walko, Eli Meyers, and Erik Nieman on team 3, and finally, Nick Socky and Matt Vest on team 4. Bob, Bill, and I did 2 nail climbs in Freeman Ave which resulted in 150 feet of new cave and then we surveyed the stream passage beneath Freeman Ave, most of which had a distinct ceiling. Nick and Matt Vest worked on the bolt climb in Beetle Run Room. Greg and his two new cavers did one upper tube in Chocolate Ave. Paul Walko and team surveyed in the First Breakdown and in the Beetle Run Auxiliary passage.


1/29: McClung Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky and Bob Alderson. On Saturday (1/29), Bob Alderson and I got into the Waterfall Room at the end of Musser’s Mess in McClung Cave. It took a little digging to get through the tight spot, but we finally got into the large breakdown room. We also surveyed another large upper-level breakdown area before the Waterfall Room. In all, we netted 410 feet of new cave for the system since the breakdown rooms had not been surveyed before (only sketched).


2/2:  Nick Schmalenberger, Rolland Moore, and Martin DiLeggi continue to work on their Botetourt Co. VA streambed dig.  They have opened it up to a vertical, free-climbable pitch. There is a sinkhole, passage, but it gets filled up with rocks and debris with every rain.  They haven’t given up hope yet. 


2/3: Lowmoor Cave, VA. Participants included David Socky, Tom Malabad. Katarina Ficco, Andrea Futrell, Rick Reynolds, Wil Orndorff, and Zenah Orndorff.  Bat count day in Lowmoor Cave, VA. It was raining so we parked in the Sofa section of the mine. We hiked through the mine to where the bat cave section was that we had been surveying on. We found several large clusters (30 to 50) of bats. Wil and Zenah searched the whole mine for bats while the rest of us went to the cave. Tom Malabad and Dave Socky went to the back section of the cave while Andrea, Katarina, and Rick checked the front end of the cave. It was a successful bat count.

2/5: Carson Leatherland and his dad visited Marian and Dan McConnell and took a look at the Catawba Murder Hole entrance pit.  They had a nice visit.  The Leatherland family owns Cow Cave, Botetourt Co VA.  BRG needs to reschedule a survey of their cave.


2/5: McClung Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Brian Williams, and Bob Alderson. We had a really good survey in McClung Cave in the Seven Fingers area. Our first goal was to finish off a lead we had left late last year which was expected to be only a hundred feet or so. We ended up spending all day in that lead, surveying a little over 500 feet, most of which added to the length of the cave. We were stopped by 30-foot-high dome with a good lead 20 feet up. It was a productive 11-hour trip.


2/12: McClung Cave, WV. Participants included David Socky, Bill Koerschner, David Smallwood, and Mary Hicks. The other team-Greg Springer, Sydney Hansen, and Chris Coates. Went to the Seven Fingers proper. Took a right up Freeman Ave after Bat Bone Crawl, then a left up the trunk passage which is the access to Seven Fingers. Then a right down the DPI survey that Nikki and I did a while back. We did a leapfrog survey. Greg and team started at the end of the DPI survey at station 34 while our team went to the next intersection and went right. We surveyed past the next left lead, but then went to the left at the next intersection. It got climby, tight, and crawly. We didn't reach the end. There is still lots to do. Greg’s team got 1114 feet of survey. We surveyed 659 feet.


2/14: Catawba Murder Hole VA.  Marian McConnell reports … we had 3 visitors - Jason Johnson, Roanoke City Deputy Sheriff (new to the area) and his sons Tristan and Kennan. Tristan and Kennan were going to try to come to our February BRG meeting but didn't show. They also stayed to watch the movie.              



Tomorrow Sat. 2/19/2022:  BRG trip to Rapp’s Cave, WV.  Sign up with Susan Burr.

Next Month’s Trip  To be announced.   




2/18/2022 BRG Treasury Report – Dave Socky, Treasurer

Fund Amounts

$       0.00             Cave Bucks

$       0.00             Conservation Fund

$   104.12             Equipment Fund

$ 4252.64             General Fund

     $ 4356.76     Total Funds


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



Newsletter – Another successful DUMP. 

Membership – Susan Burr is handing out BRG membership packets.  Any left will be mailed to BRG members. 

ROCKS   need to get out and survey Cow Cave for the Leatherland family. 

S&T -  Dan will have shoulder replacement in March; he will have a long recovery after that. 


Membership Proposals:    none** (see last page). 


Old Business:

·         Donation to CaveSim in memory of John Fox was received.  Dave Jackson says Thank You.

·         The Caverns at Natural Bridge, VA.  Susan Burr reported that she had 12-15 volunteers ready to help clean the cave, but NEVER HEARD BACK from the Caverns Manager, despite sending numerous emails and phone calls.  So, cleanup has been cancelled. 

·         Karen Kastning and other NRVG folks who have offered to help Betty Jones with moving John Fox’s office from the 3rd floor of their house to the basement.  Other stuff has been discarded.  Much of John Fox’s cave belongings are being stored at Karen Kastning’s place.  Betty wants John’s caving stuff to go to cavers.  Karen brought some of John’s cave stuff to the BRG meeting, mostly packs and gloves, and encouraged folks to take it. 

·         Karen Kastning brought John Fox’s copy of the NSS 75th Diamond Jubilee book – it went home with Lynn Ott. 


New Business

·         The contract has been signed!  MAR/VAR, May 20-22, 2022, Grand Caverns, Grottoes, VA.  Look for registration info soon.

·         Area Show Cave cleanups – Grand Spring Cleaning has been cancelled. VAR is looking into other conservation projects.  Look for updates in emails and in the DUMP.

·         BRG Call-down Rescue List:  Although Blacksburg Cave Rescue Group (BCRG) is responding to cave rescue calls, keeping BRG rescue info up-to-date helps them.  Currently, our “mini” list is out of date and only has three contacts. 

o    Would anyone consider volunteering to be on the BRG Call-Down List?  (People were very good at recommending others for the list.) 

o    NOTE: People ‘on the mini list’ would be the first to be contacted by NCRC, BCRG, or EMS for a cave rescue, and would be responsible for “alerting” BRG folks that a cave rescue was in progress, and would they be willing to respond.

o    Ideally, a person on this “mini list” no longer “responds” or helps rescue efforts underground – but, using  a BRG rescue call-down list and a phone, they can contact and send able BRG rescue volunteers directly to the rescue site, and coordinate with BCRG, NCRC and other rescue groups.

·         Vote For Your FAVORITE FIVE!!!  Vote well and vote often!  Voting ends April 1. 



·         Please sign the sympathy card for Cliff Lindsay’s family.  Cliff died 1/10/2022.

·         Please sign the Thank You card for Al Stewart, who generously donated his cave book collection for auction, with the proceeds going to BRG. 

·         Grotto Get-together at Keith & Lisa’s Catawba property 2/20/2022 is too short notice, will be rescheduled. 

·         The Cricket Maze Cave 2022 Open House has been cancelled. They will try again next year.

·         Spring Restoration @ Grand Caverns Apr. 22-24 will not happen this year.  Other venues are being explored.   

·         CaveSim  is coming to VA and MD this fall!  More info soon.

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

·         The upper entrance to Boar Hole, WV, is very closed.  Use the Radio/Culvert entrance on Carroll Bassett’s property instead!

·         Winter closure for bat caves in West Virginia is Sept. 1- May 15.  

·         Winter closure for bat caves in Virginia is Oct. 15 – Apr. 15.   

Please respect all cave closures.


Calendar 2022:

·         NEW- Feb 26. Is rescheduled date for Virginia Cave Board Meeting, 11a, EnGeo building at JMU in Harrisonburg VA.

·         Mar 18 BRG meeting.

·         Apr. 15 BRG meeting.

·         Apr 22-24  Grand Caverns VAR Spring Restoration will be someplace.  Contact Meredith Weberg.

·         Apr 30:  Silers Cave Open House.  Contact Jim McConkey for more information.

·         May 20-22, 2022 – Spring VAR/MAR, @ Grand Caverns (rescheduled)

·         June 5-11  Virginia Cave Week.

·         June 13-17, 2022 – NSS Convention, Rapid City SD.

·         Jul 16- 21, 2022 – NEW!  NCRC National Weeklong, which will be held in Covington, VA. 


Meeting adjourned 7:33p, followed by  Guest Speaker, Dr. Tina Salowey (Hollins U.) on “the Karst and Geology of Greece, and the importance of caves to the ancient Greeks and Mythology.”  Excellent, informative program! 


Cold Beer!


Minutes Submitted by

Mary Sue Socky, Secretary


** After the BRG meeting ended, Pat Banks approached Mary Sue Socky and asked about joining BRG.  In the 1960’s, Pat attended Roanoke Technical College/Western Virginia Community College (WVCC) and was a student of Al Stewart.     Pat Banks was part of the  Virginia Western Community College Cave Club (VWCCCC), an offshoot of UVA Grotto.   In the Constitution and Bylaws of the Blue Ridge Grotto, Article IV, Membership, it states:  Membership in this Grotto shall be granted to those who are interested in speleology.  Members of the Virginia Western Community College Cave Club (WVCCCC) are invited to participate and join the Grotto now and in the future. 


Wow, what to do?  This is a new one!  As BRG membership Chair, I instructed Pat to:

1)      Write a short letter telling us of his interest in caving,  going caving with Al Stewart and WVCCC in the 1960’s, and request membership in Blue Ridge Grotto. 

2)      Fill out  and sign the “BRG Membership Agreement” form and pay dues.

3)      Mary Sue Socky will be Pat Banks’ sponsor. 

4)      Mary Sue Socky recommends that Pat need not to have to meet the “caving requirements” since Pat already suffered on the old weekend cave trips to Unthanks Cave, Gilley Cave, and others with Al Stewart in the 1960’s. Pat has shared many of his old photos to authenticate aforementioned suffering.    

5)      We will bring up Pat’s membership at the March meeting, and either vote him in at that time (suggested) , or make him wait until April 2022 for his membership vote. 


NOTE: Pat and Beth Banks live in NC; they occasionally visit Boones Mill/Roanoke to see their kids and grandkids and attend BRG meetings.