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T2860 RECON Caving Mission Report 04_30_12 (Sent by Mr. Wheeler on Monday, April 30, 2012)

posted May 15, 2012, 7:24 PM by Lonnie Rimmer

Greetings Troop!  RECON caving mission complete.  Mission report follows:



RECON is T2860’s high school age scouting team.  Scouts must have begun high school as of September of their freshman year, or be of high school age, to be permitted to participate in T2860 RECON.  The exception is our “mascot”, currently Alex (gnomy).  Alex serves as the younger scout’s eyes and ears so he may recount RECON adventures in his own words to his peers.  The Troop has tried many versions of an older scout program with limited success.  RECON is our current effort and has been very successful.  All BSA rules and safe scouting guidelines are adhered to.  BSA Venture guidelines are utilized as a baseline for age specific permitted scouting activities. 


RECON formulates their major event schedule following the Troop’s annual planning conference (APC) in August of each year.  The RECON schedule is folded around the Troop’s schedule as best possible.  The expectation is that RECON age scouts will faithfully participate in Troop camps with the additional opportunity to enjoy Scouting with their peer group.  Food, fun, friendships, challenges and adventure form the baseline of the RECON activity selections.  New scouting activities are highly sought for RECON events (hence the name).  The overall goal of RECON is to encourage our older scouts to remain engaged in scouting.


RECON 2011/2012 events are, Oct – Top Shot, Nov – Pumkin Chunkin (cancelled), Dec – 2011 Participant Chow Down, Jan –bowling, Mar – False-Cape, April – Caving, May – Tractor Pull, Aug – Smith River Festival.


April Caving Report:


Several options for a caving adventure were researched but we finally settled on returning to the original T2860 EXTRAVAGANZA base camp location at Greenbrier State Forest, WV, near Organ Cave.  The Organ Cave waterfall tour was selected as our main adventure.  This wasn’t your baby stroller flip flop walking tour!  RECON Scouts donned mining helmets equipped with powerful headlamps, strapped on knee pads, and were required to have sturdy boots, long pants, at least two layers of shirts, gloves, and a determined attitude because this was going to be a challenge! 


Organ cave has 71 miles of mapped routes with much of the cave remaining uncharted.  The cave is the 22nd largest in the world.  We encountered a private caving team who had traveled over 12 miles underground when we visited with them during our journey.  Getting misplaced (no one gets lost) is a distinct possibility in this massive cave.  General Robert E Lee had 1,100 soldiers engaged in mining saltpeter within the cave for gun powder production at one point during the Civil War.  There are accounts of the Northern Army camping directly above the undetected Southern soldiers who were toiling hundreds of feet beneath them.  RECON Scouts learned many historical facts about the cave and enjoyed examining the many formations and water features.


Our tour compliment consisted of Grayson, Alex, Zachary, Jared, Mr. Tyson, and Mr. Wheeler along with two other men and our tour guide.  We crawled, slid, climbed, squeezed, pulled, and even sometimes walked, but we were consistently absolutely amazed by this fascinating natural treasure for almost five hours while underground.  We encountered underground waterfalls both small and large along with many spectacular formations.  Interestingly, a nasty thunderstorm rolled over us above ground but we were completely unaware of it.  Underground is a different world.  We quickly understood the compelling motivation of why cavers seek out underground adventures.  Each crack and crevice that you could squeeze through offered the possibility of discovering a hidden treasure at the other end.  Also of interest was that our very experienced and knowledgeable tour guide was admittedly claustrophobic!  Not a trait you would expect in a caving tour guide!  His fear level, however, was at an extreme threshold that we thankfully did not test. 


When we finally emerged from the cave into the sunlight we were exhausted, covered in cave mud and dirt, but exhilarated by the experience.  Mr. Martin brought us lunch that we happily munched at the cave entrance grounds.  Scouts voted to hold our evening meal at the cabins we had rented for our overnight accommodations.  Food is a serious subject matter with RECON Scouts!! 


We cleaned up, enjoyed a wonderful evening meal together, and then the game began! 


Grayson brought his newly constructed aggravation marbles game board with specially selected marbles and custom designed card deck.  This game seems benign enough until the “aggravation” begins.  I must say, I took exceptional pleasure in repeatedly sending Alex’s little blue marble back to home.  It took all four Scouts, having practiced amongst themselves with several games, to finally beat the three adults.  Our cozy little cabin with it’s warm fireplace was filled with Scouting friendships and many laughs late into the night.  These are the memories you carry with you always. 


Sunday was pack-up and breakfast at Granny’s, a local diner.  A beautiful travel day saw our little band of hearty scouts to home.  The adventure over with all too soon.


Thank you Grayson, Alex, Zachary, and Jared for giving us old guys an excuse to be young at heart again!  We couldn’t have asked for a better group to enjoy this experience with.  And thank you Kris and Brandon for your friendship and fellowship.  Together through the Scouting program we will work to raise boys to be men, and have some fun along the way!



Mark Wheeler