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Feb 2019 Caving

Wind Cave, Pequa, PA
Feb 23-24, 2019

The February 23-24 campout was built around a caving trip and was expected to be an activity fun to do regardless of conditions above ground. While the ground happened to be mostly free of the white stuff, the cave turned out to have more than a little ice. This was the first time the troop went to Wind Cave, located in Lancaster County, on the banks of the Susquehanna River.

ASM Fitzmaurice made arrangements with Terrapin Adventures (301) 725-1313 to guide the scouts thru a day of spelunking, after which, the troop would camp overnight at Tucquen Park Family Campground (717) 284-2156. Scouts assembled early on Saturday at Andrew Chapel and departed for the Pequa Boat Launch to meet up with guides. The guides passed out helmets and headlamps and gave a brief safety talk. Major points of this talk included keeping three points of contact with the cave and to follow all guide instructions. After a short walk to the cave, the troop was split into 2 groups and the plan was for both groups to enter the cave, then each group would loop around via different passages and return to the main entrance, emerging for lunch. This would make it easier for the guides to manage and allow for a better experience. However, the guides took a preview of the cave the day before the trip and found much of the cave to be unsuitable, if not impassable, for scouts given the icy conditions. As the scouts advanced into the cave, they inched carefully along a slick, icy path. Each group made its way thru their respective routes keeping three points of contact, even though it meant cold hands and wet clothes. Scouts worked as a team, and the ones in front would relay messages about the path to ones following. Eventually, both groups made it back outside and had their lunch. The guides & ASMs recognized that some scouts were a bit too cold and wet to want any more caving, and so the option was given for the scouts to choose to do a service project of collecting trash about the area while the more adventurous among us could go back inside the cave that afternoon.

Both groups set off after lunch on their respective tasks. The outside group with trash bags and the cave men making use of a different entrance that required crawling head first. Once inside, the group climbed down an actual aluminum step ladder to reach a lower level, then squeezed between the sides of the cave to reach yet another drop. Negotiating this drop, required each person to get on their stomach, let their feet dangle off a ledge, and listen for instructions as to where to place a foot. One couldn’t see the footing, so the guide had to tell each person… and even take a boot and place it on a rock so the climber could lower himself down safely. Safe to say that this was a new experience for most scouts! As the group moved along, progress halted in a fairly good sized chamber. Stopping like this was a bit unusual, so there must have been a good reason. As it turned out, taking a break to look at the inside of a cave was only part of the reason for the halt. The main reason was that to exit the cave seemed to be up a largish, steep incline of slick ice that had to be scaled to reach a rocky ledge whereby one could crawl out thru another upward sloping narrow tunnel to the outside. So the best part was last! It took a few minutes to decide how, without ropes or ice picks we were going to get up and over a 5-6 ft tall slick, mini glacier. With the help of our guides, the scouts rose to the occasion. A guide wedged himself halfway up the ice slope and helped each caver up over the icy obstacle. Pulling yourself over the rocky ledge took muscle and will power and each scout was able to make it…. In truth, the guides were more worried about the adults not being able to make it than the boys….I myself had doubts if I could make it out or if this cave would be my home till after the spring thaw. But as I had to drive scouts home the next day, this writer had no choice but to get moving. The scouts thought the caving was great fun but as it was getting on, the troop needed to set up camp and get started on the cooking competition. We thanked our guides and they wished us well as the troop returned to vehicles to carpool to the nearby campground.

Tarcquan Family Campground was located within five miles of Wind Caves. The scouts set up tents and a couple patrols started on their Dutch oven meals. There being a dinner cooking competition, a successful Dutch oven creation would be sure to attract favorable opinion of the judges. At the time of this writing, the winner was unrevealed, but just as hunger makes the best sauce, each patrol had a strong chance of winning the competition. [Edit by webmaster: the winner was Bob Whites and Viking combined crew]. The campground had most sources of water shut off for winter, so the water jugs were loaded into a car and we were directed to a spigot up near the camp office to use. This saved the scouts from walking thru a very muddy, very soupy dirt road to get water. Other than this, the campsite was fine. The Scoutmaster kindly purchased some firewood and the adults got one good fire going and as they say, “Light a campfire, and everyone is a storyteller”. A cold, drizzling rain started up and kept up most of the night, dampening the fire and causing most all to turn in early. The next day we broke camp and returned to Andrews Chapel where we were met by friends and family.

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