Identifier: 20060826-Caving
Purpose of outing: Caving
Advancements: Orienteering
Mode of travel: Car
Planning horizon: No reservation required
Capacity: 16 youth, 9 adults
Fees: Food costs and travel
Distance: 86 mi, 2 hrs (one way)
Location: Dam #4, 20, Downsville, Washington, MD
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpesburg, MD
Contact: Troop 1501
Dates: 2006-08-26


Since early last year, the Troop has wanted to return to caving. We had marked caving into the December calendar, but the dearth of experience in local caves found the venue intimidating among potential parent volunteers and the Holiday season otherwise oppressive, so we never made it out. With the influx of new boys in the Spring, an interest in getting out of the Summer heat for an activity, and a relative dearth of expertise in local caves, we had the following options to schedule: 1. we could hire out or purchase a venue (explored last April for a $45/person price or a Loral Cavern venue), or, 2. we could get Jim Hertsch to lead an expedition to some beginning caves with which he was familiar. As Jim was willing, we jumped onto that opportunity for late August. I had advance information that a couple of folks were looking for an opportunity for orienteering at 1st and 2nd class levels, and Antietam presented a great collocated opportunity. Jim planned the venture for the Dam 4 [Dam #4, 20, Downsville, Washington, MD] (adjacent to C&O canal) and Dellinger caves with camping along the C&O canal campground outside Sharpsburg Maryland.


Although I programmed the PLC with advance information on caving based on a best practices Boy Scout site, our detailed planning did not gel until the Tuesday prior. I’m not sure that made a difference, because I can’t think of anything we would have done differently on the trip, given that they were beginning caves, but I did not see the actual caving, being the guy who stayed behind and protected the gear from the thunderstorm (which did not hit the cavers, by the way). We might have better prepared the boys with an equipment list review and demonstration further in advance, which fell victim to a key scout not being present to present his program, planned by name at the PLC. Lesson learned there to ask boys making commitments whether they’ll be present at the meeting they’re planning. In any case, we executed the following program [with variances] below:


0730 Depart (2 hour drive with 20 min stop) 0930 Arrive, Set Camp 1100 Lunch (brown bag, or on pick up on the way) 1130 Depart for Cave 1, Cave 2 (1 adult remains with gear, sets up 1C2 orienteering) - 2C1b 5 mi hike w/map and compass addressed en route to Cave(s) or next morning, see below [a fairly severe thunderstorm fell on the campsite approximately 7pm-7:45pm] 1730 Return to Camp, Prepare Dinner [Actual return between 9:15pm and 9:45pm] 2000 Campfire (energy permitting) 2200 Taps [Another thunderstorm with heavy rains but less wind hit the camp at 11:30pm-12:15am]


0630 Reveille [Actually we slept in until 7:15am due to late retirement the night before] 0700 Prepare Breakfast 0830 Strike Camp, Lock Cars [Actual completion of Camp Ground was 10:15am] 0930 Orienteering/Hike - Depending on situation, may [actually arrived at 11am] go to Antietam Battlefield nlt 1300 Depart for Home - Lunch on the way back. [Actual was 1:15pm] nlt 1500 Return MUMC [Actual was between 3:15 and 3:45pm]

Assessment: Only 5 boys and 3 adults went along for the battlefield orienteering, which is too bad, because one of the Scouts showed his stuff as an amateur Civil War buff and walked us through a great battle run down while I did quizzes based on the park maps and compasses brought by the boys. The monuments and local features were perfect for size estimating as featured in the Scout Handbook.