Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp


The third annual Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp was held on July 21 - 27, 1991. Camp coordinator was Norm Rogers and Bob Ward was the NPS representative in charge of the camp. Superintendent David Mihalic spoke to the group at the Sunday evening orientation meeting.

Monday the party was spilt up into three groups for different project areas. A vertical group was formed for areas requiring vertical work. A horizontal group was formed for work in the other cave areas and a special carbide dump clean up group was formed to clean up carbide dumps.

The horizontal group started by moving aluminum beams and grating from River Hall to the base of the stairs at Mammoth Dome. The NPS had planned for this to take till Wednesday and had to scramble for other projects when the cavers finished it by noon Monday. After lunch the group returned to River Hall to remove the gate to the Echo River Passage and a few went to remove a concrete and stone stand that had previously held a fish tank and blind fish display.

The vertical group bopped a few pits recovering trash, change, a demolished Minolta camera and other debris that tourists had dropped accidentally (or on purpose).

As to the carbide dump clean up crew, well, they had a nice one just off of El Ghor. Now the park service said these were carbide dumps and to be sure some people had probably dumped used carbide in them at times in the past. However, as cavers are sometimes reasonably intelligent, it didn't take too long to figure out that a lot of the carbide was actually slaked lime which was used most frequently in pit toilets to keep down the smell. So the carbide dump crew was also the latrine cleaning crew. Admittedly most of this stuff was probably 50 or more years old and the smell was gone but the thought lingers on.

Tuesday the horizontal crew began to remove wet rotten wood from the areas along Echo River Trail and haul it to the staging area where the aluminum was stored the day before. The vertical crew managed to hide well and probably accomplished some work while the carbide crew continued with their conservation effort. On Tuesday evening Norm Rogers presented a slide show of caving slides in the house. The secondary purpose of this show was to occupy John Vargos attention while part of the crew was preparing a surprise birthday party for him. John was quite surprised and pleased when he entered the cookhouse to find a large group both singing and signing Happy Birthday to him.

Wednesday was a break from normal as the plans were for in cave activities to begin about 4:30 PM. The day was spent with a trip to Horse Cave, Ky. to see the progress on the ACCA museum and a short talk by Dave Foster. A short cleanup trip from the New Entrance and out Frozen Niagara was an excuse for some to see another part of the cave. In the afternoon some cleanup work was performed in and around the Maple Springs facility where we were staying for the week.

The fun really began when the entire crew went to the cave after the last tour had departed. Tonight the plan was to rig the firetower at Mammoth Dome and haul out all of the aluminum, wood and other debris that had been staged at the bottom of the stairs. Due to the regular tours through this area the work could only be accomplished after hours without having a detrimental effect on the tours.

We were joined by a group of kids from the Mammoth Cave Job Core Center who thought they were coming over to pick up paper , cigarette butts etc. Boy were they surprised! This was probably the hardest they had had worked since they joined (or were sentenced) to the Job Corps.

I have heard that some of the female cavers spent a time sitting on the aluminum grating while resting and waiting for rigging to be completed . It was reported a NPS representative told them that they would have grate butts when they got up. To which one replied "I had a great butt before I sat down!"

The debris was hauled up the tower and out of the cave to a waiting flatbed truck. Work was finished around 10:30 or so and a group of tired dirty cavers headed back to Maple Springs for showers, cherry cobbler and bed. Three days of work by the cavers had accomplished a task that would have taken the parks limited maintenance staff five or six weeks.

Thursday - a day off ! Many went to Great Onyx again to explore, photograph or just hide out. A trip to the Labyrinth was led by Bob Ward for some while others went shopping in nearby tourist traps. A few slept or sat around recovering.

Friday the last day was spent in cleaning up the various areas where we had been working as well as doing some trail patching in Audubon Avenue. Tools were collected and returned to the storage areas and work for this year was completed by early afternoon.

Saturday was the day reserved for reward trips to thank us for the work done. There was usually an easy trip for those who wanted something easy after a week of hard work and a hard trip for the gung-ho cavers who just couldn't get enough! For easy trips there was a walking tour of the upper levels of Floyd Collins Crystal Cave where the hard tour was to be a trip to Floyd's Lost Passage. The other easy trip in the Violet City area of Mammoth (easy walking passage with a crawl or two) led by Kevin Downey turned out to be a seven hour rinkydink and not at all what had been anticipated.

All in all another good year with old and new friends together having fun and accomplishing a lot.