This issue will only be published electronically. As usual, we will offer the
late fall 2002 issue both on-line and via snail-mail. The mailed version will contain
our annual membership list, which is only available to members.
Jim McConkey edited this issue, with copious help from Meredith Hall Johnson.
Phantom Trolleys Ride Again
October 25-26, 2002
by Josh Lepman
On Friday and Saturday nights, October 25th and 26th, 2002, the
Baltimore Streetcar Museum
will be staging the Phantom Trolley event. The museum is a
non-profit, all volunteer organization on Falls Road near Maryland Avenue in
Baltimore. We last put on the Phantom Trolley ten years ago. A number of
Sligo Grotto members assisted and after a long absence, I am requesting your
help with the event once again.
Anyone who participated can tell you what a fantastic time it was. What
happens is we take visitors for a trolley ride after dark. The cars stop at
different points along the line and costumed volunteers do various things to
scare the daylights out of them.
Last time the Harnages, Jim McConkey, Art Dodds, and Bob Shimuzu
participated. There were probably some others that I have forgotten and for
which I apologize. Art rigged a rope between two telephone poles and
suspended the son of a museum member from the rope using a pulley. He was
dressed in a sheet (ghost) and went flying through the air screaming as the
trolleys went by. Jim was a GIANT spider that lowered itself by its web
(rope) from above right into peoples faces as they looked out the windows in
horror. Other people were other kinds of ghosts and goblins.
The only way you can properly appreciate this is to be there and
participate. Innovation and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged. The
event requires a lot people and your help is needed. If you can participate
on one or both nights, or if you have any questions, please get in touch
We can arrange a limited amount of indoor sleeping spaces and an unlimited
amount of backyard tent space for people who want to stay over.
Contact Josh (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Presidents' Day Weekend 2002
By Anya Crane
Friday: I had taken Friday off so I could take my time getting to
Franklin. It was a new experience for me to drive there in the
daylight…most enjoyable. I could see the whole
valley and the Shenandoah ridge as I made my way South on I-81.
I arrived around 4:30, checked into my room at Thompson’s
Motel and decided to take a nap. (Sleep was part of my vacation
Allison’s knock at the door woke me up around 6:30 per the
message I had left at the front desk. We went to dinner. We dined
at the former Kokopelli’s. (The new owners also own the two bed and
breakfast establishments in Franklin.) We both had the pot roast,
which we found to be really tasty and tender. I decided to turn in early so
I “hit the hay” around midnight, setting my alarm for 9:00 a.m.
so I would not miss the next day’s activities.
Saturday: After socializing at breakfast, I ended up in a car full
of cavers on a hiking quest. Pat drove; Dave rode shotgun; and,
Allison, Liz and I “squoze” into the back. (Oh, I should mention that
we were in Pat’s 1990 Subaru Legacy.)
We had two maps, some snacks and some ideas on seeing a
little bit of countryside by car as we searched for the hike we
wanted. We looped North, South and West of Franklin on some back
roads. Each time we completed a loop, we returned to Franklin
somehow. But, that was good ‘cuz we got to greet different folks in
Thompson’s parking lot and make bathroom stops…The scenery was rocky
and picturesque. We saw cliffs and creeks, hills and pastures. We
even encountered a lone sheep in the middle of the road. (This was
ironic because Dave had been telling a story about someone having a
sheep as a “pet”.) After a stop for Liz to get some fresh air
(motion/car sickness), we made our way up a ridge and parked at what
Pat called “the right lot”. (She knew what we were doing. I,
personally, was along for the ride…)
We all fell out of the car, which, as someone pointed out,
was emitting an odor of burning…or, maybe it was just hot and sweaty
having carried five of us up the steep mountain road.
We went along the blue blazed trail until we felt it was time
to go. Then we did an about face and headed back to the car.
We all piled back into the trusty steed for our return trip
to home base (Thompson’s) for dinner. Allison got out a bag of
Reese’s cups that made a good appetizer.
On our way back to Thompson’s, we got pulled over for
speeding. The officer asked us if we had any guns. He issued Pat a
warning and let us go on our way. (How exciting for Subi, Pat’s car –
He made it up a big ‘ol mountain and then got stopped for speeding!
He’s still got it…)
We had an enjoyable dinner, went to “freshen up” and landed
in the party room later. When my contacts dried out, I went to my
room to get some shut-eye. I set my alarm for 8:00 a.m. Jim said we
would meet at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast and I meant to be on time.
Sunday: Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged the comb across my head…
Oh, sorry, that’s a Beatles tune…We had seen flurries the night
before but didn’t think there would be anything substantial. But I
woke to a two-inch blanket of snow outside on my car and the rest of the world.
We all convened at breakfast and coordinated who was riding
with whom to the cave. We were headed to Sinnit, which was my first
cave some years ago. I had gone last year at Presidents’ Day and
looked forward to seeing how much I remembered.
Plus, there were some folks on the trip that I hadn’t caved with
before. Each trip is different because of the people.
The snow was still coming from the sky, but in the valley by
the cave entrance, it was coming horizontally (parallel to the river
bed). Around 11:30 a.m., Jim, Jen, George, Adrian, Carrie, Meredith,
Kelsea and I went in. We went to the Waterfall Room, up the Silo and
into the Big Room. We all registered, too. We saw a cluster of big-eared
bats in the “hallway” (my first time seeing this type of bat).
We found various fossils in the breakdown of the Big Room and walked
its entire length. We made our way out of the cave 7 ˝ hours later.
There was no more snow and the wind had pretty much stopped.
That was good because we didn’t want to freeze from peeling our
dirty outside layers off next to the cars.
We made our way back to Thompson’s, off-loaded gear from the
cars, put some un-muddy clothes on and went to dinner. We had lots of
laughs over rehashing some of our cave conversations and kidding with
each other (basking in “post-cave glow” or suffering from fatigue and
After dinner, I took a quick shower to de-mud my skin and restart my circulation.
The warm water also served to soothe my soon-to-be aching muscles.
Those of us that were going back home on Monday showed up to
the party room for a last gathering. It was a much smaller crowd than
the night before. But we heard some good stories. And some folks
sampled some homemade salsa with another person’s home-preserved
habanera peppers. (I was too full of fried chicken and mashed ‘taters
to sample it. But those that tried it, liked it.) I conked out at
Monday: We took advantage of our last breakfast of the gathering to
exchange e-mail addresses and to promise to keep in contact…
As I headed out of town, I smiled as I accelerated, burning
the memories of a wonderful weekend into my mind.
NSS Convention 2002
By Jim McConkey
A bunch of Sligo folks headed up to Maine this summer for the coolest NSS
convention in years. The Union Fairgrounds and the new Camden Hills Regional
High School were our base of activities for the week. Sligo members attending
this year included Jim and Jen, Anya, Meredith, Kelsea, Jim Powers, Lynn, Gary and
Barb, and Paul and Charlotte.
The convention got off to an early start with a geology field trip to Acadia
National Park on Sunday. The highlight of the day was visiting many sea caves, both
active and emerged. I think the longest was all of 80 feet long, but they were still
interesting to see. That night a very strong storm took the campground by surprise,
and the gale force winds continued well into Monday. Since we were camped at the local
fairgrounds, many cavers moved their tents into the relative safety of the animal stalls.
Nobody in our camp lost anything more than a few tarp grommets, but we had all manner of
tents, tarps, and miscellaneous camping supplies blow through our camp.
The usual assortment of talks, discussions and sessions at the high school filled
the week during the day. The Monday night Howdy Party was held at the nearby Camden
Snow Bowl, and featured hundreds of freshly boiled lobsters. The chefs apparently missed
Clawd, the convention mascot, who made an appearance and posed for pictures. The ski lift
was operating, and a ride to the top and a short hike took us to the top of the mountain,
which commanded a spectacular view of the coastline. Unfortunately, they forgot to
tell us that the lift can't take very many people back down, and many had to descend
the steep and rocky slope in sandals, flip-flops or worse.
The convention organizers had somehow arranged for schooner rides for anyone who
wanted to go, so Jen and I went on Tuesday morning. It was a 60 foot boat that could take
about 30 cavers and 3 crew members at a time. We got to help raise, lower and trim
the sails, and a few of us even got to drive for a while. The cruise lasted about two
hours and took us all around the bay, and past a bunch of harbor seals and a cool lighthouse.
Wednesday night the famous caver band, the Terminal Siphons, rocked the campground
until the local ordinances shut them down. Thursday night was the annual slide and video
salon. I got talked into helping judge the video salon again this year. The night of
the annual NSS auction, I got word of a Sligo "flag" that I had not seen being auctioned.
Sure enough, it turned out to be a giant sized Sligo patch, almost a foot long. I couldn't
make the auction, but I authorized someone to bid on our behalf, and we won the bidding.
It was strange to have to pay for our own patch, but the money went to a good cause. The
patch was an anonymous donation, but we think it came from Grayson Harding's estate.
Friday evening was the annual awards and farewell banquet. Mike and Pat Dore, owners of
Scott Hollow Cave, were made Fellows of the NSS. Our friends Eric and Melissa Hendrickson of
Maine won an award for their work on the Maine Cave Survey and their work in getting
the Maine Cave Protection Act passed.
Friday morning a couple Sligo members took part in the now-annual Randy Gandy
Cave trip to Quarry Cave, just outside of town. The cave itself is only about 60 feet deep.
It was originally a naturally occuring cave, but was later mined clean. In the
short time since, some formations have started forming again. Locals have outfitted
the cave with a rug, and there is even a formation forming on top of the rug. Jim and
some Balitmore cavers hiked up nearby Mt. Megunticook that morning for a trip to
Inman's Cave, one of the few Maine caves that permits vertical work. The 18 foot entrance
drop is rigged with a 2 inch thick gym rope, but we chose to rig a caving rope and rappel in.
A short climb and scramble took us to another 6 foot drop, which we did several times
just to keep in practice. The fissure cave was very chilly at the lowest levels, but
since it was barely over 200 feet long it didn't take long to get out and warm up. There
were several other caves nearby, but the rest of the crew opted out and headed back
to the school to do some final shopping at the speleovendors.
The trip home took us through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green
Mountains of Vermont. We even stopped in Pennsylvania to take the Lackawanna Coal
Mine tour, which is worth the stop if you are ever in the Scranton area. Overall a
very nice convention and vacation!
Scott Hollow and Rehobeth Church Caves
By Jim McConkey
Our friends Dwight and Dale of Baltimore Grotto had invited us to head down to
Lewisburg to help take their niece from Colorado caving. Dwight and his brother
exhange a kid or two every summer for various adventures. I had helped take his
neice Emma speleocanoeing to Indian River and Whitings Neck a couple years back,
and this year it was her sister Rachel's turn.
We pulled into the Greenbrier River Campground just about midnight on Friday night,
put up our tent, and settled in for the futile attempt to sleep thanks to the coal
trains which roared up and down the opposite side of the river all night. Fortunately,
nobody was in a great hurry to get caving on Saturday, so we slept in, had a leisurely
breakfast, and then headed over to Scott Hollow. We stopped in for a short visit with
Pat Dore, and then went on to the cave. Mike was already inside working on a dig at
the second downstream sump. This sump is a major obstacle, and I was on a 20-hour trip
about 10 years back trying to find a climbing route over the sump. Mike and some
friends are using microblasting techniques to expand a fissure that is blowing promising
air. Unfortunately, their impact drill gave out early on this trip, and there is no
breakthrough to report at this time.
Due to various injuries, the trip ended up with just five cavers: Dwight, his daughter
Becky, his niece Rachel, and Jen and me. We suited up and headed down the entrance tube
right in the middle of the floor of Mike and Pat's new building, and started our way down
Mastadon Lane. We found the Mystic River 500 feet lower without much difficulty and started
upstream after snacks and new carbide loads. Our destination was the double waterfall.
It's a straight shot up the river, but several very large breakdown piles interrupt the
journey and require a lot of route finding. We finally arrived at the double waterfall
and stopped for pictures and lunch. The waterfalls are very neat. Some water falls
about 8 feet into a roughly circular opening in the rock ledge, and the rest of it flows
around the hole to form another waterfall over the edge of the ledge. Light passing
through the hole backlights the water under the second waterfall. On the trip back, we
all found out why Mastadon Lane is called Drag Ass Hill on the way back out. We got
back to camp about 9 p.m., and hungrily devoured a delicious spaghetti dinner. We
didn't even notice the trains that night!
Sunday morning we creaked out of bed, had breakfast and packed up, and headed for
Rehobeth Church Cave, just east of Lewisburg. Rehobeth Church is a historic (early 1800s)
wood church made from hand-hewn logs. The cave is in the field immediately behind the church.
Becky and Rachel had had enough caving in Scott Hollow, and sat this one out. Hank and his
daughter Sally came with us instead. It took a while to find the way in. Dwight checked out
one hole and declared it didn't go. While he was looking at another hole, I found the way
in through the first hole. We were soon headed down the bedding plane towards some very
large rooms and some nice formations. Weird chert nodules stuck out of the walls at every
turn. We were tight on time, so we didn't try to see the whole cave. This one definitely
requires another trip! Dinner at El Charro in Harrisonburg was a nice ending to a great weekend!