Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp

Aug 3-8, 2008

20th Anniversary Camp

by Beth Reinke


“Awe and even apprehension, if that has been felt, soon yield to the delicious air of the Cave; and after a time a certain jocund feeling is found mingled with the deepest impressions of sublimity, which there are so many objects to awaken.”  -- excerpted from “Rambles in the Mammoth Cave” by Alexander Clark Bullit


Once again I had a great time “unplugged” at the Mammoth Cave Restoration Field Camp.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather, a running ferry, cool caves, awesome meals, fellowship, physical labor and a feeling of accomplishment… so, once again, here’s “the restoration camp story” according to Beth.


Camp Setup:




A small crew of dedicated volunteers arrived at Maple Springs as early as Friday to setup camp and get things ready for the week.  This year’s leaders were Rick Olson (NPS rep) and Roy VanHoozer.  Back by popular demand, Shawn and Patti Horton were our camp cooks. 


Some of the setup crew attended the campfire talk at the park Saturday evening.  The program, entitled Let’s go Cavin’, was presented by camp friend, Keven Neff.  Always the showman, Keven entertained the group by suiting-up in his caving gear as he talked about his love for caving and led a few kids on a rinky-dink around the campfire.


Sunday was gathering day at camp.  Sunday’s pre-camp-prep highlights included hanging the special 20th anniversary picture boards prepared by Larry Matiz and a serious group discussion regarding how many cavers it would take to repair (i.e. jury-rig) one of the slightly damaged patio canopies.  After a fabulous welcome supper (spaghetti with red, meat or alfredo sauce, garlic bread, caesar salad and fruit), Roy and Rick lead a brief meeting to talk about the week’s agenda, goals and educational opportunities.


The Work Week:




The stepping off point for Monday’s work was supposed to be the elevator leading to the Snowball dinning room, but the elevator was acting up, so Plan B - hiking in from the Carmichael entrance - was put into action.  After the warm-up hike to the Snowball dining room, work crews were dispatched to Cleaveland  Avenue for removal of old electric cable and covering new electrical cable and to Boone Avenue for removal (chiseling) of concrete covering cables that led to old wall-mounted light fixtures.


After a delicious Mexican dinner (including enchiladas and homemade tamales), Preston treated the group with several great slide shows on Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and the western Kentucky Speleological Survey.





Crews were back in the same areas on Tuesday without the hike in from Carmichael as the Snowball elevator was back in working order.  Cable removal and covering continued in Cleaveland Ave and the “concretia” chiselers continued their labors down Boone Avenue.


Grilled burgers and hot dogs were on Tuesday’s dinner menu and Chuck DeCroix gave a fascinating talk and slide show on “Max Kamper and the Mammoth Cave Connection”.  For those who don’t know, 2008 marked the 100-year anniversary of when Max Kamper and Ed Bishop surveyed and explored 35 miles of Mammoth Cave and Max drafted his superb map, copies of which are still sold in the Visitor’s Center gift shops.




On Wednesday the group moved over to the Historic entrance for lint and trash removal in the Rotunda area up to the base of Gothic Ave.  Small groups also did some trail maintenance in Gothic Ave (covering cable and sweeping out footprints left by previous work crews) and Broadway (identifying old cable for future removal).  Work stopped around 3pm and we hiked up the hill to Dixon Cave for a brief tour and to assist Gary Berdeaux from Diamond Caverns with some photography work.  Among the cave pictures was a nice panoramic shot of the restoration crew in attendance.


Wednesday evening’s menu included ribs, meatloaf and a special cake in honor of Julie and Jim Angel’s 25th wedding anniversary.





The Historic entrance was the stepping-off point for Thursday’s work as well.  The tasks included wood removal in the Echo River area, transport of wood to the chop shop in Vanderbilt Hall and removal of waterproof lights in River Hall and just beyond Lake Lethe rise.  The Echo River workers discovered a THIRD level of a bridge (i.e. a bridge lower than the previous two that have already been removed).  The Park plans on checking out this bridge before we are allowed to do any further excavation.  Late Thursday afternoon the new Park Superintendent took a tour and was briefed on the Echo River restoration project.


After dinner (pizza at the shelter in the picnic area above the Visitor’s Center), a small group of tireless cavers took a night-time trip to “Roy’s Crystal Palace”, a nearby sandstone cave measuring 472.1 ft. and consisting of a big entrance room and stoop walking/crawling passage.  I was told that the stoop walking and crawling was nothing compared to the challenge of breaking into Elizabeth’s car in the deep, dark of night to liberate the keys lying on the driver’s seat of her locked car after the cave trip.





The group spent Friday morning in Long Cave doing reconnaissance and removing old, rotting wood from a deep pit.  We ate our packed lunches outside the cave entrance and then dispersed for a leisurely return to camp, relaxation, packing and fellowship before the traditional closing dinner and camp awards program. 


The volunteers, special NPS guests (Pat Reed, Eddie Wells, Keven Neff, Frank Henry Green, Rick Olson and Judy Pedigo) and several camp alumni (Steve Gentry and Rick Williams) were treated to a shrimp, beef brisket and tilapia dinner worthy of gourmet status.  The volunteers each received a green wind jacket with an NPS Volunteer patch over the left breast; a cedar post plaque each uniquely handcrafted by Rick Olson from some of the cedar posts removed from the Echo River area during previous camps; and 1-, 5-, 10- ,15-, or 20-year service pins.  This year’s special camp award recipients were:



Saturday:  Educational Trips / Camp Cleanup





Fun Food Facts:


Patti provided me with the following list of “food facts”, to which I exclaimed “No wonder my caving dungarees are snug; we surely are blessed to have you cook for us!”:


10 packages of buns; 14 loaves of bread; 10 packages of pita bread; 488 croissants; 1 case of garlic bread; 224 sausage links; 15lbs of bacon; 2 legs of lamb; 4 lbs Italian sausage; 50 lbs baking potatoes;15 lbs red potatoes; 15 dozen eggs; 12 lbs cream cheese; 10 lbs shredded cheese; 3 lbs Velveeta; 4 gallons cooking oil; 2 gallons ketchup; 3 gallons mayonnaise; 36 lbs of chicken; 32 hot dogs; 4 gallons milk; 6 gallons orange juice; 5 packages of tater tots (mostly for Bonnie); 12 lbs ground beef; 5 gallons ice cream; 50 lbs ice; 47 lbs bananas; 6 lbs spaghetti; 10 lbs flour tortillas; 2 lbs salami; 2 lbs bologna; 29 lbs beef sirloin; 12 boxes muffin mix; 3 canisters grits; 4 bottles syrup; 12 lbs butter; 5 lbs coffee; 32 lbs pork back ribs; 21 lbs turkey; 40 lbs beef brisket; 15 lbs whole country ham; 8 liters coke; 15 cake mixes; 940 cookies; 40 lbs tilapia; 10 lbs sugar; 10 lbs flour; 5 lbs corn meal; 3 cantaloupes; 1 honeydew melon; 50 lbs tomatoes; 5 dozen ears of corn; 18 bell peppers; 2 cases romaine lettuce; 60 lbs of hamburger; 9 lbs of shrimp; 70 home-made tamales; 40 lbs of charcoal, 12 lbs of mesquite chunks; 17 lbs of propane fuel;  11 months of planning; baking that started in January; 3 weeks of pre-camp panic; and 8 days of fun!


Archeological Finds:


During our cable / lint / river work, we found several interesting artifacts:



Special Thanks:


Thanks to the setup/cleanup crew (some arriving as early as Friday and staying into Sunday) who did a great job getting the grounds, house, kitchen, dining hall and bunkhouse ready for the group and leaving Maple Springs in top shape for the next tenants.  Thanks to Roy and Rick who lead and managed a diverse group of volunteers with patience and grace.  Special thanks to Shawn and Patti for their fabulous job in the kitchen and preventing any of us from wasting away.  And last, but not least, thanks to Bonnie Curnock who did another bang-up job on the 20th anniversary camp shirts – a way-cool, tie-dye, neon-green.


Camp Participants: (39 volunteers from 13 states)


Jim Angel (IL), Julie Angel (IL), Mike Angel  (IL), Kevin Betz (IN), Charles Blakeway (TN), Eric Buckelew (FL), Larry Bundy (IN), Linda Bundy (IN), Bill Copeland (MO), Bonnie Curnock (MO), Ken DeJonge (MI), Richard Falconer (PA), Preston Forsythe (KY), Shari Forsythe (KY), Tim Grass (WI), Claire Hoffman (MD), Patti Horton (KY), Shawn Horton (KY), Karen Kennedy (FL), John Kirk (IL), Brian Lantz (OR), Jonathon Lewis (KY), Larry Matiz (OH), Scott McGlamery (MI), Steve Petruniak (FL), Everett Pulliam (IN), Beth Reinke (IL), Todd Richards (OH), Charolay Russell (KY), Gary Russell (KY), Charles Schubert (MO), Mary Schubert (MO), Barbara Sina (MD), Elizabeth Slack (IL), Harry Sowers (VA), Larry Sowers (VA), Roy VanHoozer (KY), Charles Waller (VA), Sue Whittaker (WI).