Before you know it, your kids will be addicted to spelunking.
They will, that is, if they participate in the Intro to Caving program that the Blacksburg Parks & Recreation department is offering this Saturday, April 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for ages 11 and up.
Spelunking is just a fancy word for caving, of course.
The cost for the program is $20 for Blacksburg residents and $30 for non-residents. Registration is available online or by calling (540) 961-1135. No prior caving experience is required.
Participants will meet at the Blacksburg Community Center at 9:00 a.m. and travel to the cave with experienced guides. Once there, they'll "push, pull, crawl, and squirm through breathtaking passages . . . [and] view unique cave formations" according to the program description. Proper equipment, instruction, and assistance will be provided by the guides.
According to the National Speleological Society, beginner cavers should wear or pack:
"1. What you need to wear depends on the cave. Basically, you need to dress the way you would dress for humid fifty five-degree weather in which you might have to crawl in mud or wade in a stream. In general, wear old clothes that can get muddy, wet and possibly ripped. Caving is extremely hard on clothes. Army fatigues are good. An old pair of jeans is good for most beginners' trips, and obviously you'll want to wear a long sleeve shirt of some sort. You may want to wear coveralls if you have them. A lot of cavers wear polypro long johns underneath of coveralls.
2. Wear boots that provide ankle support and good traction. There are all sorts of surfaces you might be walking on in caves including uneven and occasionally slippery rocks, slippery clay, goopy mud and wet streambeds (like walking in a creek bed). You'll need traction for climbing rocks. If possible try not to wear athletic shoes--tennis shoes, running shoes, etc. They don't provide ankle support and don't provide much traction in the mud. If you have nothing else, they'll have to do; but they'll make your trip harder, wetter and more dangerous. Definitely do not wear sandals. (I once had a guy show up for a beginner trip with nothing but sandals. I asked him if he had read the equipment list I had given him and he said he had, but he pointed out that it hadn't said he couldn't wear sandals. Don't wear sandals.) Many Americans are starting to borrow an idea from our British cousins and wear rubber boots ("wellies") with good tread into caves
3. Wear wool or synthetic socks. Cotton socks don't insulate when wet, and likely as not your feet are going to get wet. It is best to wear an inner nylon sock and an outer polypropylene or wool sock.
4. Depending on the cave, you'll probably want to wear kneepads if you have them--either the kind you get in at a hardware store or an athletic kneepad. You can go caving without kneepads, but most cavers wear knee protection of some sort because crawling on rocks without kneepads hurts.
5. Gloves can keep your hands from getting muddy and cold. Some folks cave without gloves, but if you do so you'll probably end up with dry, shriveled up hands--cave mud does that. I recommend a pair of cheap, well-fitting leather gloves. (Walmart has leather gloves for all sizes of hands.) Some people wear rubber gloves. I don't like rubber gloves because they make my hands sweat too much--but each to his or her own. Cotton gloves are fine in caves that aren't too muddy."
For a complete curriculum on caves, visit Project Underground, Inc.'s website. Project Underground is a non-profit sponsored by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, The National Speleological Foundation, the National Speleological Society, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, the Richmond Area Speleological Society, and Dogwood City Grotto.
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