New Access Information for Horse Skull/Jack’s Hole Preserve

Cavers may have heard that it’s been a challenge to access the Horse Skull/Jack’s Hole Cave Preserve lately due to lots of downed trees on the property and some issues with parking. Our great property manager Andy Zellner coordinated cutting and flagging a new trail that leads from the paved road, through the beaver swamp, across the power line cut, and through the woods. Details on the parking area are still being worked out, so please contact Andy Zellner at horseskull@scci.org before you visit the cave to make sure you have the most up to date information. Cavers should not use the neighbor’s driveway at this time.

Jacks Hole Preserve

SCCi Leases Varnedoe Cave

The SCCi is pleased to announce a new lease agreement of Varnedoe Cave. This fine cave is located within the city limits of Huntsville, Alabama and is one of the more popular multi-drop caves in the southeast. Both entrances to Varnedoe Cave can be rigged all the way to the Fox Skeleton Room where the register is located. Entrance 1 has a pit series of 73’, 15’, 41’, 72’ and Entrance 2 has a pit series of 115’, 12’, and 69’ with the latter entrance route dropping near the waterfall in the Fox Skeleton Room. Beyond the Fox Skeleton Room are meandering passages that lead to tall dome complexes and a formation area. Access to Varnedoe Cave requires a permit. Contact the Varnedoe Cave Access Coordinator Julie Schenck Brown at varnedoe@scci.org at least three days before you would like to visit the cave.

Varnedoe Cave with Elliot Stahl and Joy Palmer (Photo by Alan Grosse)

Varnedoe Cave with Elliot Stahl and Joy Palmer (Photo by Alan Grosse)

Frick’s Cave Open House This Weekend

Don’t forget that the Frick’s Cave open house is Saturday, February 15! Several people have asked us what the cave is like. It’s a large horizontal stream cave and will be very cold and very wet this time of year. Be sure to wear plenty of warm layers if you go inside the cave and be sure to bring a change of clothes! Others have asked if they can visit the cave another day if they miss the open house. The cave is only open one day a year, so if you want to see it, be sure to join us Saturday!

If you would like to go into the cave, you will be required to use gear and clothing that’s been cleaned and disinfected according to the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy. In addition, white-nose syndrome was found inside the cave last winter so please also clean and disinfect your gear after the trip.

Stream passage in Frick's Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV

Stream passage in Frick’s Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV

Right now the weather is looking great for Saturday! Hopefully that won’t change! We’re planning to cook burgers and hot dogs between noon and 4 PM. We’ll also have a fire so everyone can warm up. Please join us around the fire to visit with friends, eat some great food, and meet new friends.

The address for the open house parking area is 1536 Fricks Gap Rd., Chickamauga, GA. Directions from the intersection of GA 136 and GA 193 (between LaFayette and Trenton): Go south 2.1 miles to Harold Stephens Road. Turn right. Continue until you dead end into Fricks Gap Road. Turn left. Follow this road to the signs for the open house parking.

We hope you can join us for this once-a-year opportunity. We look forward to seeing you!

Formation area in Frick's Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV.

Formation area in Frick’s Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV.

Large Room in Frick's Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV.

Large Room in Frick’s Cave. Photo by JV Van Swearingen IV.

 

 

 

DATE CHANGE for the Frick’s Cave Open House!

fricks cave open houseDATE CHANGE for the Frick’s Cave Open House! We recently learned that the memorial service for Steve Hudson, a friend to many of us, will be held on January 25. We know many of our supporters will want to attend Steve’s service so we have rescheduled the Frick’s Cave Open House for Saturday, February 15. Please share this information with your friends and your Grotto lists so we can get the word out.

The open house will be held from 9:00 to 4:30 p.m. eastern time. Because the federally protected endangered gray bats are not currently in the cave in the winter, the SCCi is able to allow members to visit the cave on this single day. We plan to host a cookout (weather permitting) in the afternoon. Save the date on your calendars and keep an eye on our Frick’s Cave open house page. We’ll post any updates or announcements there.

Southeastern Cave Conservancy Acquires Significant New Preserve in Central Tennessee

December 19, 2013 The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) is excited to announce the acquisition of the Run To The Mill Cave Preserve! The preserve, which contains at least two known caves, consists of 75.3 acres of land located in central Tennessee, in the southern part of Cumberland County.

Run To The Mill Cave

Run To The Mill Cave contains over two miles of huge “borehole” passages. The underground stream that flows though these passages eventually becomes the Sequatchie River.

The acquisition is important on a number of fronts.  From a water conservation perspective, Run To The Mill Cave represents the underground headwaters of the Sequatchie River. An underground stream that flows through the cave receives the underground drainage from nearby Grassy Cove. This stream eventually reaches the surface at the Head of the Sequatchie spring in the Devilstep Hollow portion of Cumberland Trail State Park. Much of the land area at the surface of the preserve also drains into the cave through an intermittent stream that flows into the cave entrance following significant rainfall events. Run To The Mill Cave also contains significant biological resources. The cave was recently discovered to host what biologists believe to be among Tennessee’s twelve largest hibernating populations of endangered Indiana bats. Possible sightings of at least two other threatened or endangered animal species have been reported in the cave as well. Finally, Run To The Mill Cave is an extremely significant recreational caving resource.  The cave, which had been closed to recreational access for over 15 years prior to SCCi’s purchase of the property, contains nearly three miles of passages and extends 445 feet below the entrance.The upper levels of the cave contain several pits that require expert technical rope skills to negotiate, including the 167-foot deep Tilted Well. Below Tilted Well lie over two miles of large stream passages, and also several areas containing remarkable cave formations.

Run To The Mill Cave contains areas with remarkable cave formations.

Run To The Mill Cave contains areas with remarkable cave formations.

Due to the recent discovery of a wintering colony of  Indiana bats, SCCi will now manage Run To The Mill Cave in a manner consistent with its other caves that contain significant populations of hibernating bats.  Cave visitation is on a permit-only basis, limited to times when the hibernating Indiana bats are not present. Permits may be requested by contacting the preserve managers at runtothemill@scci.org.  Individuals wishing to visit the cave will also be required to follow the SCCi Cave Visitation Policy, which includes following the Conservancy’s Clean Caving Procedures. Run To The Mill Cave is presumed to be positive for the presence of White Nose Syndrome (WNS), based on visual evidence of white fungus observed on tri-colored bats in January 2013. WNS is a disease of hibernating bats that has killed millions of the animals in the eastern U.S. and Canada since its discovery in 2006.  The condition is named for a distinctive white fungus that grows on the noses and bodies of affected bats.  While WNS is not directly harmful to humans, the loss of so many bats may have significant and far ranging impacts.  Bats play a major role in many ecosystems, and benefit agriculture by crop pollination and insect control. SCCi is currently raising $200,000 to pay the costs of acquisition and funding for long-term stewardship of the new preserve.  The Lyndhurst Foundation has already made a generous $50,000 grant in support of the acquisition, and SCCi members have also contributed or pledged another $50,000 to date. Donors wishing to support the Run To The Mill Cave Preserve acquisition may contribute securely online by going to the SCCi web site, www.scci.org, or by mailing a check to the address listed on the website. For additional information and more photos of the preserve, visit the SCCi Run To The Mill Cave Preserve web page, or contact SCCi Chair Ron Miller at chair@scci.org.