Mother Lode Grotto History

Part 1. – The Early Years … the 1960’s

(Original text by Tom Gliebe – Revised by Morley Hardaker)

A good functioning grotto is not all just cave trips. This history attempts to document the other aspects of the group, giving some insight into its organizers and its contributions to the caving community.

During the first months of 1961, a group in Stockton, California organized a caving club called the Pacific Speleological Club, under which the first issue of the Valley Caver was published in February of 1962. Tom Gliebe, the principal catalyst of the group, had eight members lined up, but due to lack of participation and unsuitable arrangements of the meetings, it failed to gain any formal status. Then, during the winter of 1961, Tom met Paul Damon, a new resident of Sacramento, who had just moved from the East and was eager to continue caving here in the West. Through correspondence and informal meetings of all interested persons, it was decided to change the name of the club to the Central Valley Cavers and its home base to Sacramento. As the new club organized, Paul Damon was elected as Chairperson, and Keith McDaniel as Projects Coordinator. Tom Gliebe elected as Editor, continuing to publish the Valley Caver as the club’s official news letter.

In January of 1962, the club was officially founded. At that time it consisted of seven members, Including the three officers. The first official club trip was taken on February 18, together with past members of a club called the Sacramento Speleological Society. Directed by Leigh Readdy, the Society had been in existence through the decade of the fifties, but then became extinct, just as the adventurous Hanford Cavers had done earlier.

(Authors Note: I just received the Autumn 97 issue of the California Caver. In it was a fine historical article by Darrel Tomer. In it he states that the Hanford Grotto also reformed under the NSS as the San Joaquin Valley Grotto).

This first mutual trip went to Green Grotto, (now nonexistent), near Auburn, CA. and also to Pink Grotto, where the group explored a room newly discovered by Leigh Readdy. Leigh then sealed the room again, to preserve it for scientific reasons, and it has not been looked into since. They then went on to the Mammoth Sink area just a short distance away from Green Grotto, exploring that one and other sinks, including a newly developed sink, found by Keith McDaniel. Named Keith’s Sink, it was later changed to North Sink. Tom Gliebe also found another sink with his nose, and to quote his write up in the Valley Caver #4:

This newly found sink was easily found, as it had a dead dog at the bottom of it. The boys estimated that it had been dead about a week (PHEW). They think that it caved in when the dog walked across it. The short fall broke his leg, and he probably bled to death. Thus the name “Dead Dog Stink” (Oops, Sink) came easily.

Trip reports were very brief at this time, and the newsletter consisted of only five to six mimeographed pages. It seemed to alternate between being published either monthly or bimonthly for the next few years. The first official club meeting was not until April 17th, of 1962, at Keith McDaniel’s home. During the rest of the year, meetings were sporadically held at various members houses. Dues were $2.00 per member and $.50 extra for each family member.

A few members attended some meetings of the San Francisco Bay Chapter, which just happened to be starting cave dives in Black Chasm. As a result, our members became acquainted with members of our neighboring caving organizations, and we were invited to participate in the Black Chasm dives to render aboveground support. This was to be the group’s first major project, lasting over a period of several years. Six of our members attended our first Western Region Convention, held at Kings Canyon National Park.

The year 1963 was a banner one for the club, which started out with eleven members. Paul Damon was elected as Editor; Tom Gliebe as Projects Coordinator and Keith Mc Daniel became Chairman. (Note that rotating the officers was the norm for MLG from the start.) A Treasurer and Secretary were also added at this time, and the club name was changed, for the third time to the Northern California Cavers.

Tom was also appointed Publicity Director, and he began placing monthly articles in local major newspapers to create interest in spelunking in the Sacramento area. Mike McEachern, Ron Ralph, Dick Rearden, and Ellis Hedlund joined the group in January. As the membership grew, a larger meeting place was needed, so in February a meeting room was found at the Sacramento Garden and Arts Center. Joining this association for $10 a year not only gave the group a permanent meeting place, but also allowed use of the center’s reproduction equipment.

The Club progressed smoothly; a constitution was drawn up, and papers were filed to affiliate with the National Speleological Society, and become a grotto. On May 1,1963 the club became the 70th affiliated grotto with the NSS, and again changed its name, to the Mother Lode Grotto.

During June, Tom arranged to have a feature article on spelunking and the Mother Lode Grotto run in the Sacramento Bee. Again, we quote the following excerpt from the Valley Caver:

The Sacramento Bee carried a large pictorial article on a recent field trip of our grotto in the Sunday, June 23rd edition of the newspaper. It covered one and one third pages. The field trip was to Mclean’s Cave in Tuolmne County, a small but quite picturesque cave on the bank of the Stanislaus River. The story was well written and did not reveal the cave’s location while stressing cave conservation. The pictures turned out very good, even though the newspaper photographer had never seen a cave before.

At the meeting following the newspaper article, the crowd was amazing and included another prominent MLG member to be: It was Bill (Go Go Go ) Roloff and his wife Lorraine and daughter Lenda. Bill quickly made news in the Valley Caver after a grotto trip to Robber’s Roost Cave. Quoting Ron Ralph’s article in the September/October issue:

Bill Roloff made a 100 foot belayed body rappel from the top of the cliff! As soon as his coveralls stopped smoking, the benefits of using a mechanical rappel device were discussed.

Shortly afterwards Bill retreated to his garage and started to design a number of styles of rappel racks and a mechanical ascender. It was not long before he came up with a rappel rack he liked and also the soon-to-be-famous Mother Lode Grotto Ascenders. Between then and about the end of 1969, over 100 of these ascenders were sold to cavers everywhere. (See the Valley Caver of Summer 1994 for the full Mother Lode Ascender story.) Beside designing and building vertical equipment, he trained others how to use his equipment. Being a stickler for doing things right, Roloff was probably responsible for getting the first formal training started on other caving techniques and safety as well.

In the fall of 1963, Pinnacle Point Cave became Sacramento State College’s archaeological find of the year. Ron Ralph and Mike McEachern moved on from their sport spelunking activities to become professional archaeologists at Sacramento State. Even Bill Millard and Bill Roloff turned into amateur archaeologists, looking for bones and moving around tons of rock.

Other highlights of the year included: The new grotto joined the NSS’s exchange newsletter program. Field trips happened almost every week, and the grotto soon acquired an old building, just below the powerhouse along the Stanislaus River. Used as the “MLG Field House” for a number of years to come, it offered overnight accommodations for any one wanting to stay there.

Another notable event was the making of cable ladders out of nylon rope, with pieces of garden hose for rungs! No mention is made of how they worked or how long they lasted!

By the end of the year the grotto had more than doubled in membership, now boasting 24 members. Among these was Bill Papke, who was recruited by Ron Ralph, one of Bill’s physics students at American River Junior College. Bill holds the honor of being our longest standing active member.

During the latter part of 1963 and most of 1964, the grotto’s membership rose to an all time high, due to the great number of college members and increased interest in spelunking by the public spurred by meeting announcements in the newspapers.

More new members and lots of caving highlighted 1964, an otherwise uneventful year. New caves were found, including Keith’s Chasm, Linda’s Cave, Turnpike Chasm, and others. Also Baird Cavern was opened commercially as Shasta Caverns.

Roloff now had his ascenders and rappel racks perfected, and also started making cable ladders for the grotto out of aircraft wire . The grotto obtained a resale license to begin selling Roloff’s , goods along with Justrite lamps (both carbide and electric), repair parts, carbide, and rope. Items were purchased wholesale and offered for sale with a 10% markup for the grotto. The grotto store lasted long after Roloff had quit making ascenders in 1969, and until Justrite went out of business in the mid to late seventies. As I recall, we were selling Justrite lamps for between $3.00 and $5.00 at that time.

Due to other demands on his time, Paul Damon turned the newsletter over to Bill Millard and Tom Gliebe, who was already Treasurer at the time. But come summer, both Bill and Tom were away on business and vacation, so after the July/August issue, the Valley Caver fell silent for the rest of the year.

The Valley Caver resumed again in January 1965, when Bill Papke became our fourth new Editor since the club’s beginning. Thanks to Bill’s diligence, the newsletter came out consistently on a bimonthly basis. Bill Roloff was elected Chairman and Chase Knoble became Treasurer. In May, the grotto lost its founding father, Paul Damon, who left to move back East. In September, thanks to the efforts of Bill Roloff and Chase Knoble, the grotto was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.

The grotto was host to its first Western Region Convention in September 1965. Held at the Toy Kitchen, on Highway 4, just East of Angles Camp. This was a local “Mom and Pop” restaurant, and caver hangout at that time. Also, a satellite branch of MLG, with its own officers, was formed in Oakdale California, to be closer to cavers living in that area.

Lorraine’s Cave was found in March, and Cave City Cave was still being visited. Cave trips were beginning to be made to Nevada, as California cavers begin to venture more from their home state
In January of 1966, Bill Roloff, Keith McDaniel, Lorrraine Roloff, Chase Knoble, and Bill Papke were reelected as officers. By March the grotto membership was at a high of 53. New members in the grotto were Mark Grady, Terry Curtis, and Pat O’Riva.

Two major projects were taken on this year, as the grotto was invited to look for and open up new passages in both Mercer Caverns and Moaning Cave. In Moaning the search was to find a supposedly large room somewhere below the floor of the main room. This was also a big year, as the NSS National Convention was being held in California for the first time at Sequoia National Park.

In September of 1966 Bill Papke took a sabbatical leave for a year, leaving Mark Grady to become the fifth new editor of the Valley Caver. Mark kept the newsletter going strong but changed it to a quarterly publication. The material in the Valley Caver at this time was very good, but due to a slump in activity in this part of California, the grotto slowed to an all-time low, and this was reflected in the newsletter as well.

The same officers were elected for 1967, but membership declined even more, partially due to losing a number of members to the armed services. Also, the Oakdale branch rechartered with the NSS to become the Stanislaus Grotto. The Diablo Grotto was also chartered that year.

Even so, caving continued to flourish during the year. And more work at Moaning Cave led to finding a new lower level to the Lake Room. The Toy Kitchen was still “The Place” for those caving breaks …. Or was it their food, with breaks for caving? On the minus side, Cave City, a grotto favorite, became off limits to cavers. The end of 1967 resulted in an MLG crash. Mark begin to write 98 % of the Valley Caver, and meeting attendance was often down to only the officers.

For 1968 the Valley Caver ceased to exist. Bill Roloff and Chase Knoble were re-elected for the third time, attendance slowed, and trips diminished. Morley Hardaker found the grotto that summer and joined in November. He was immediately bushwhacked by Bill Roloff, who railroaded him into the job of Treasurer (Some day Ill get that guy!), along with getting the returning Bill Papke elected to Chairman for 1969. Roloff was an expert at getting either new or ‘not in attendance’ members elected into some office.

A whole new slate of officers was elected in 1969, a first for a good number of years. Bill and Morley were joined by two more new faces: Gary (Lost Amador) Barrett as Vice Chair and Kriste Ewers as Secretary, and one old face, Tom Gliebe as Editor, for the fourth time. The grotto was finally out of its slump and on its feet again. The membership climbed back up to 30.

The Valley Caver, always the most troubled, again had the loudest voice (despite Gary Barrett), as it began to get full of the many cave trips done during the year. Many of these reports by relative newcomer, Gary Barrett, who was out to bag every cave that he could! He would cave continually almost every weekend. I have been with him, doing 3 to 6 caves in a day. Then, to top things off, he and Gari Davis discovered, and then conveniently lost, the now-famous “Lost Amador Cave” which today has never again been found. Also, we got another new and very active caver in the grotto, Steve Winterath, a high school student (who could have been the Paul Greaves of yesterday), poking his head into every hole that he could find and pestering everyone he could find as to where more holes might be! With Steve came his mother Gwen, who was not a caver, but who would take Steve to a caving area and spend hours in the car waiting for him to return. Gwen became our librarian and she was the one who retyped and assembled all the back issues of the Valley Caver (1961-1970) for the grotto library and additional copies for members to buy. If it were not for Gwen, you would probably not be reading this history today.

A major project was to design a gate for the entrance of McLean’s Cave for the new owner, Harold Price, because the cave had been getting too much traffic from the river rafters.

Part 2. — New Blood in the 1970’s

(by Morley Hardaker)

Many of the 60’s members were starting to drift away in 1970. Among them were the Roloffs, whose home was the mailing address for MLG. The membership voted to get the grotto’s first Post Office box, rather than using someone else’s home address. A revision of the grotto Constitution and Bylaws was undertaken. Gwen Winterath finished compiling the past Valley Cavers, complete with index. Grotto dues were raised from $3.00 to $4.00, plus $0.50 for each family member. The average treasury balance in the early 70’s was about $70 to $80. The new Chairman, Kenn Klaman, began organizing a series of training programs. Morley Hardaker presented the first one, a course on Cave Photography. A course on map reading was to follow. Kenn started a caver ability rating system, where to rate every grotto member : Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced. Also, a cave rescue program was attempted, but never really got off the ground.

MLG hosted a Western Region meeting in June at the Garden and Art Center and planned caving activities for the following day.

The last issue of the Valley Caver for the year had the newsletter’s first photographic cover (depicting McLean’s Cave), and this issue was devoted primarily to this cave. The cover was supplied by Morley Hardaker, who donated 100 prints from a slide that he had taken earlier that year.

The membership boom of 69 was short lived, as some bad relations with the local cave owners caused a number of caves to be closed, and cave trips dwindled. Chairman Klaman was so busy trying to get the grotto involved in meaningful projects ( conservation, Speleo-politics, scientific, etc.) that the meetings became all serious business, with no entertainment programs. Many regular members stopped attending, and newcomers found the meetings so boring that they never came back. It was at this time that the MLG instituted its first board meetings, which were open to anyone wanting to attend. The plan was to take care of the mundane business by the board and thus create more time at the general meetings for trip reports and things more to the interest of the general membership and guests of the group.

The grottos 10 year anniversary in 1971, saw Mark DuBois as Chairman, and Bill Papke rotated into the Secretary position and Steve Winterath taking over the job of Editor, The Valley Caver was being printed on recycled paper, and Jennie Armstrong supplied nice silk screen designs for the covers.

Steve’s mom, Gwen, having finished her work on the Valley Cavers, took on the task of organizing the exchange newsletters and everything else that was on file in our library. She wrote letters to the NSS, all the regions and all the newsletter editors, asking for copies of issues of theirs that we were missing, and at the same time offering to get them Valley Caver issues that they might be missing.

The Board continued to encourage members to get interested in projects that would benefit our caves and the caving community, rather than only engage in “sport caving.” Cave conservation and cave owner relations, were the big push for the year. Some NSS slide shows were obtained, and we tried to have a short slide show or training program at every meeting.

One conservation project done that year, was writing to our representatives in congress that caves be included in bills introduced to protect anthropology and archaeology sites in the state.

It should be noted that another grotto spearhead, Dave Cowan, “The man who could come up with just about anything we needed”, also joined the grotto that year.

By 1972, all the major members of the 60’s had disappeared from the grotto, except for Bill Papke! Gary Barrett became Chairman and Steve took the Vice Chair spot. Gwen, remained librarian, and also became Editor. The first issue of 72 was filled with letters from most of the NSS Board of Directors, answering questions posed in a letter from Gwen in the latter part of 1971. Gwen had read in an issue of the NSS News, that one of the directors had mentioned that “no one ever interviewed them about anything”. Gwen took it upon herself (as if she did not have enough to do) to send them all a letter, asking a half dozen questions, including: their personal cave interests, their thoughts on cave locations and cave files, and about newsletters.

The responses were many, and most of them, were two to three pages long. However, this was the only Valley Caver published this year, as Gwen passed away the following June. Her accomplishments were tremendous during the time that she was Librarian and her short stint as Editor. I believe that because of the letter to the NSS Directors, the Mother Lode Grotto was portrayed as a serious and beneficial group in the eyes of our parent organization. Gwen would be missed!

We have covered over ten years now and will end this segment here. How will the grotto progress with essentially a whole new group of members? The next issue will cover those middle years of the 70’s and part of the 80’s.

So where were we after ten years? Here are a few of MLG’s accomplishments:

  1. Graduated from a membership of sport cavers with only a crude knowledge of what we were doing, to a more experienced group that started to advance into more scientific aspects and become involved in more meaningful projects.
  2. Built a membership from 7 members to over 50 at one point, leveling off at 25 to 30 in the early 70’s.
  3. Increased our treasury from under $15 to over $30 – $40.
  4. Increased dues from $2.00 to $5.00.

The Mother Lode Grotto is eleven years old as we start into the year 1973 of grotto history. The grotto assets consisted of about $40 in the treasury and a few miscellaneous carbide lamp parts. Grotto dues at this time were: Individual-$4.00 and Family-$5.00. Aside from Bill Papke and Morley Hardaker, all the MLG members of the sixties were long gone. The seventies brought in a whole new batch of members, with Dave Cowan filling the shoes of Chairperson in 1973. With the passing on of Gwen Winterath in 1972, the Valley Caver remained silent until Claude Smith took over as editor. He published his one and only issue: Volume 12 #1, which covered January/February of 1973, before leaving the grotto soon after to move to Redding.

It was not until the end of the year that Cynthia Martin came along to become our next editor. “Cynthia Martin, and friend,” as she listed herself on the Valley Caver masthead, gave this newsletter a new refreshing style. She created a column called “Dear Dad”. In it, she writes to her “Dad”, in which, in a satirical style, she recounted tales of our members and various grotto activities, as seen through the eyes of a backwoods country girl. Other additions included some famous and appropriate quote for the cover of each issue, along with a “Children’s Corner” column. Also a “Caver of the Month” column,

where some caver was recognized for “Surviving his/her first cave” or “Getting lost in a small cave,” etc. But most significant was the end of the purple dittos, as with Cynthia came mimeographed newsletters. At this time the grotto deemed itself flush enough to buy two bricks, at five dollars each, in support of the NSS building fund.

In 1974 the grotto members participated in the political battle to support Proposition 17, which would stop the construction of the New Melones Dam and declare the Stanislaus River a “Wild and Scenic River.” Members passed out leaflets, gave money, and wrote letters their Legislators. We, of course, lost!

Cynthia Martin and “friend” continued to edit the Valley Caver, the “friend” being Jim Fiack. Later that year Cynthia became Mrs. Jim Fiack. Both would go on to play important roles in MLG history, in particular by leading the charge over various political issues. These two were brought to the grotto by Dave Cowan along with the Hopkins and St Louis families. Dave was having so much fun caving since joining, that he convinced all the others to join. At about this point Dave and his friends counted for almost half of the grotto membership.

The Mother Lode Grotto got into political affairs again in 1975. Again under (Now Chairperson) Jim Fiack’s leadership, we reviewed an Environmental Impact Statement of Ideal Cement, when the company applied to Amador County to develop a limestone quarry near Fiddletown. MLG members discovered two Indian archaeological sites and several small caves in that area. The grotto then filed a Field Archaeological Site Report on the two Indian mortar sites. Also there was the letter writing campaign to congress to oppose the private development of Mineral King. And later, when the Fiacks, were working with Senator Peter Behr to enact a Cave Protection Bill (Senate 1469), Grotto members again wrote to request that their legislators support Senator Behr’s bill.

The NSS National Convention was held at Frogtown near Angels Camp that year, and MLG members participated by being in charge of the registration tables. Another new member in 1975, was Jack Espinal, commonly known as Captain Jack, an Army Reserve Captain and an instructor for the ROTC program at La Sierra High School. He brought with him a knowledge of map reading, vertical and survival techniques, as well as other information that would benefit our grotto. He was probably responsible for the grotto’s first serious efforts into cave mapping and vertical work since the Roloffs left. In November he conducted a two day training workshop on “Map Reading for Cavers. This was the first of more workshops in the future, by Jack.

The biggest and best news of 1976, credited to the Fiacks and other grotto members, was that Senator Behr’s California Cave Protection Bill, was introduced into legislature in January. Some of our grotto members were standing by as expert witnesses, just in case the legislators had questions …. But they were never needed! On September 28, the bill was signed into law by Governor Edmond G. Brown.

Another highlight of the year was that MLG took a big gamble and hosted the “Spring Thing,” an event for the entire Western Region at Bear River Group Campground on Highway 88 in the high Sierras. Our grotto wanted to do a training type “Thing” and the gamble was that there were no caves nearby to attract the true cavers. The event boasted grotto competition in a Triathlon, consisting of a Tug of War, Relay Races, and a Orienteering Rally. Sessions on “The Identification and Protection of Cave Values” were also presented and, of course, the usual periods of fellowship and partying took place. While the turnout was only around forty, those that attended acclaimed it one of the best events ever, possibly because someone in the grotto found a five piece band that agreed to play all night long for food and beer. MLG ingenuity strikes again!

The coming of 1977 saw a decline in grotto membership, to below twenty members and Jack Espinal became Chairperson. Dave Cowan and Morley Hardaker went to Vancouver, Washington to attend the Northwest Regions Speleo-Educational Seminar, where Morley was asked to conduct a two hour photography workshop. The Fiacks, Dave Cowan, and Bob Martin traveled out-of-state to attend a Cave Management Symposium in Montana. Jack Espinal held a letter writing workshop where his class assignment was to write congress again to seek their support for incorporating Mineral King into Sequoia National Park. This bill was now being presented to the legislature. When Morley attended a Cave Registers Workshop at the Frogtown Convention and brought back lots of information on cave registers, interest was renewed in the grottos efforts to get going on a cave register program. Jon Thom, a new member conveniently from Sutter Creek agreed to start placing new registers in most of the Mother Lode caves. Also, due to the fact that some nice formations had recently been broken in Pearl Cave, we started a program to repair broken cave formations.

In 1977 it was our grottoes turn to host the annual Western Region meeting. Dave Cowan was chairman of the event and he located some property on the coast north of Santa Cruz, currently being leased from Henry Cowell properties, by a local Santa Cruz resident, who gave the okay to hold the convention on the property. Several trips were made there to clear trees and brush to make room for camping. On the Friday of the event, some of our members were there making preparations when the local sheriffs department showed up, threatening to arrest everyone for trespassing and illegal cutting of trees. The sheriffs office thought we were the local hippie population, and complicating matters was the fact that our “local resident” claimed to think that we would have only a dozen or so people there. In short the sheriff cited Dave (who honorably took all blame, rather than the grotto) for several violations and made everyone leave. Now we were in a real pickle …soon 80 to 100 people would be showing up, and MLG had no convention site to offer. The problem was resolved when we contacted the rangers at the Pinnacles National Monument Campground to see if we might hold our event at their western side campground. Meanwhile some of us stayed and rerouted the early comers to a nearby beach while alternate arrangements were being made. Fortunately the park had room and allowed us to come, where the rest of the event was successfully continued. But Cowan, then had to stand trial! Because the “local resident” was a real flake and because the judge discovered that we were not just a bunch of the local hippies but respectable business people, he threw the case out of court, stating that the whole matter was just a big misunderstanding on everybody’s part, and no one party was really at fault.

After all the excitement in 1977, 1978 was very calm. Bob Martin was now Chairperson and grotto membership had dropped to fourteen. While caving continued, very few articles were written for the Valley Caver, as only two thin issues were published. Cowan, Morley, and the Fiacks attended Oregon Grottoes Speleo-Educational Seminar in Vancouver Washington again this year. A new grotto project was to help to protect endangered Harvestman spiders by transplanting them from caves along the Stanislaus River to an abandoned mine higher up on the hillside. The Klamath Mountain Task Force was now starting serious exploration and mapping of caves in the Marble Mountains. Our members begin assisting, and we have been making major contributions to this program ever since. Cynthia Fiack resigned as editor at the end of the year, setting a new record for the longest reign as editor (over five consecutive years). Note: As of 1998 Bill Papke has broken this record, as he is now going into his sixth year! Bill also had three prior years as editor in the sixties.

Eric Popoff became Valley Caver editor in 1979 and published one issue. Cowan became Chairperson for the third time. The Harvestman transplant continued, with the grotto filing a mining claim on the transplant site to protect it until a more permanent measure could be put in effect. Frank Andrews, Eric Popoff, and others started a cave identification system, by placing identifying tags in caves in Amador County . Thirty two caves were tagged during the year.

Part 3. — The Middle Years – The 1980’s

(by Morley Hardaker)

Tracy Smith became interim Valley Caver editor in 1980 (one issue) until Jack Espinal (Chairperson again) took it over. He remained as editor for the next four years. The newsletter was published only twice this year due to lack of material, even though the membership rose to a high of 39 members by the years end. Dues were raised a dollar this year which would include members dues in the Western Region.

The Chairperson reverted back to Cowan again in 1981, and although Jack pleaded for more contributions to the Valley Caver, only one newsletter was published. Nothing else is available to report except cave trips during the year.

The year 1982, was the grottoes 20th birthday. Bob Pine was the new grotto Chairperson. The grotto had been meeting at the Sacramento Garden and Art Center for a token fee of $20 a year, raised to $40 in 1980, which we were able to afford. In March of this year, the city, said it would no longer pay for building maintenance. That forced the Center to raise its membership fees to $100 a year. Feeling that we could not afford that amount, we went searching elsewhere. Vice Chair Martin found us a room at the West Sacramento Library to use temporarily and allowed the use of his home as a backup
meeting place. We later found that some federal buildings were available for use by nonprofit organizations, so in July, we relocated our meetings to the Federal Building at 650 Capitol Mall. This year marked the start of Vern Smiths annual two-day Vertical Practice and Pot Luck Dinner Party, held every summer at Bucks Bar and at Vern house near Shingle Springs. This event, while not an official grotto function, was always supported and well attended by MLG members. December marked the first grotto trip to Onyx Cave in Arizona, which has been visited periodically in future years. This year the
NSS National Convention was held in Bend, Oregon, the first western convention since Frogtown. As a result, a number of MLG members attended. In spite of a very rainy event, most had a good time. This was the start of a trend for more MLG members to take part in the national conventions. We had money to make two contributions this year: $30 to the NSS building fund, and $50 to help start the Western Region Conservation and Scientific Grant fund.

Grotto membership rose to over fifty in 1983. Jane Armstrong became our Chairperson, and held this title through 1986. Also, there was a big push for members to join the NSS. One highlight of the year was for MLG to host the NSS Board of Governors (BOG) meeting on October 30th in Sacramento at Camp Pollack, a local Boy Scout Camp. Grotto members cooked and served a Saturday evening meal. The theme was Halloween, and participants were asked to come in costume. The event proceeds of $406 were given to the NSS Save the Caves Fund. The Bend Convention in 1982 must have spurred members into going to more conventions, as the Cowans, Irene Rodart, Jack Espinal, and Frank
Andrews traveled to Elkins West Virginia to attend the 1983 convention. Two “firsts” this year: The first “Mother Lode Grotto” T-shirt, a black on blue shirt with a caver climbing through a limestone crack, and one with alternate lettering saying “Mother Lode Fissuremen,” to sell to non-grotto members. The first annual Cinco de Mayo party was held at Mike Doran’s house in Drytown. (Note: Recently renamed “Sinkhole de Mayo”)

In 1984 our meetings were moved to a different Federal Building on Cottage Way due to renovation of the other building. The July 84 issue of the Valley Caver contained an excellent list of Leader and Participant Responsibilities by Jack Espinal that brought out some points not considered in our recent lists. National convention time again! This year in Sheridan, Wyoming. Cowans and Espinal attended, and got into internal politics by taking on the Congress of Grottos, who wanted to use conservation money to buy new ladders for Shelta Cave (Shelta Cave is on NSS Headquarters property.) We also suggested that they, the NSS, save money by having members build the ladders instead of buying them
outright. Cave registers were the main project this year.

The grotto meeting place was moved again in 1985 due to a change of policy on the part of the federal people, this time to Gardner-Feusi Co. on Garfield Avenue in Carmichael. This was Mike Doran’s place of employment. Our editor, Jack Espinal, got reassigned to the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and turned the Valley Caver over to Marianne Russo. Our first CPR class was given for two days at Mike Doran’s place by Phalin Klusman.

Finally, at last! In 1986 we got a real meeting place at the SMUD Training Building on S Street in Sacramento. Marianne relinquished editing of the Valley Caver to Mike Moore after publishing the year’s first issue. The grotto also bought an answering machine, to be kept at Mike Moore’s office, to institute a “Cavers Hotline” for upcoming trips and other events. However it left a lot to be desired, as members forgot to post many upcoming trips on the hotline. This was another quiet year, except that going to the national conventions was really taking hold. Twelve MLG members attended the NSS Convention in Tularosa, New Mexico and stayed for another week of caving in the Guadalupe Mountains. Jane Armstrong left her post as Chairperson, and the grotto treasury was bolstered to $465, mainly due to various grotto sales, including T-shirts and some special Cowan deals!! “Cowan, The man who probably has almost everything one would ever need! ….Provided that he could find it in his garage!!!

These next number of years have seen us become more scientifically and politically oriented, and begin contributing more and more to both regional and national events. Also we are into an era which involves members that our current members should begin to recognize.

Don Dunn took over as chairperson in 1987, and Mike Moore remained editor. Mike gave the newsletter a sophisticated new look by publishing using a Micro Mainframe in conjunction with a Mac Pro and Laser Writer. He hoped to get the Valley Caver back on the schedule of four issues a year, but due to other commitments, only one issue was published during the year. Member Phalin Klusman started a “caving school” within his local church group in Sonora, which in turn, brought new members to the grotto. The years one Valley Caver was composed mostly of the caving adventures of some of the kids in Phalin’s group. The school flourished for a number of years, however it was never officially connected with the grotto. Phalin also distributed a “Cavers Survey” (a complex cave register survey of sorts) to all grotto members. (See results below.) After a number of trips were made to caves in the “Rockpile” area, in which “bad air” (CO2) was encountered on various occasions, Dave Cowan suggested that the grotto find a way to take measurements of the CO2 in some of the caves and tabulate the results. With the acquisition of some limited equipment (a sling psychrometer, Bic lighters, and some sample tubes.), a couple of trips were made to Dragon’s Breath and Keith’s Chasm to take air samples. Paul Greaves devised a method to measure the CO2 content and tabulated the initial measurements. This was the start of the grotto’s first real research project.

It was also MLG’s turn to host the annual Western Region meeting, which we held at Fir Campground in Sequoia National Park. Highlighting the preparations was Cowan transporting to the campground, his infamous portable(?) icehouse, along with 400 pounds of ice, in which to hold cold beverages and the food for the Saturday evening banquet which grotto members prepared. Dessert was a giant birthday cake to celebrate the 50th birthdays of Dave Cowan and John Hopkins. For the second time, MLG produced T-shirts to be sold to commemorate the event. The annual auction raised $219 for the Western Region. New discoveries included Paul Greaves and Eric Popoff finding a number of new small caves in Marianna Gulch.

The Bad Air Project was officially founded in March of 1988. Dave Cowan was project leader and charter personnel were Paul Greaves, Ted Zerr, Phalin Klusman, Sandy Cowan, and the Lankfords. Prior measurements indicated that sufficient data could be gathered to support a viable report. However, a firm plan was needed along with more and better equipment. The thermometer in the sling psychrometer had already been broken while the instrument was being swung in confined spaces. A number of measurement stations were set in both Dragoons Breath and Keith’s Chasm, and the plan was to take measurements from each station once each month for two years. New equipment was purchased with the help of donations from Bill Papke, John DeBoer, Jack Espinal, and the Hewlett Packard Co., and also PMI donated some rope for the project. The making and sale of two more T-shirts (“Support Speleological Research” and the “Foul Air Research Team” [F.A.R.T.]), provided more project funding. The published report can be found in the California Caver – Vol. 39 #4, 1990. Another grotto project was helping on a bat survey in the Mother Lode area for Dixie Pearson, a bat specialist, on contract with the Department of Fish & Game. After Marianne Russo attended a park management meeting at the Lava Beds National Monument earlier in the year, our grotto members became interested in the National Park Services efforts to inventory the caves there. A number of MLG members began to participate in their annual Thanksgiving weekend cave inventory project. Also, our members discovered a new cave in the Marbles … Nicked Jagged! Mike Moore resigned as editor due to business conflicts. Kathy Lankford became our new editor, and Jane Russell returned as chairperson. Because of the Bad Air Project, the grotto treasury doubled in size to $1250; most of this gain was earmarked for the Bad Air Project. It was voted to raise grotto dues to $10 for Individual, and $12 for Family, starting in 1989.

In 1989 the Bad Air Project continued in full swing! Carlow’s Cave was added to the survey. This cave, along with new survey points added to the original caves, more than doubled the original 14 points. Cowan came up with a used oxygen meter, which when repaired by Paul, worked very well. Also, Jeff Neubarth supplied some CO2 scrubber masks, allowing deeper entry into the bad air zone; however, they were found to be hard to breathe through. The team learned that CO2 levels were higher in the fall. The project incurred a cave accident, when Phalin passed out after venturing too deep into the bad air. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was treated and kept under observation for a number of hours. It took a week for him to recover from the exposure. Also, Dragoons Breath was vandalized during the year. Dave Cowan invented a “cave puller” (rock hoist) to clear rocks to uncover Two Bit Pits 90-foot depth. Mike Doran led the grotto in making new cave registers, along with revamped register forms, in conjunction with John Wilson’s national program. Other events attended by MLG members were The NSS Convention in Sewanee Tennessee, and The first Speleo-Ed Seminar held at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, hosted by Diablo Grotto. Here, Cowan and Greaves gave a paper updating all on the Bad Air Project, and he Thanksgiving week CRF/ Lava Beds Inventory Project. Morley, Dave, and Sandy volunteered to be members of the 1990 NSS convention staff. Last of all, Phalin’s MLG cavers survey was tallied, with 21 surveys returned. The results:

  1. Gender: Male =17, Female = 4
  2. Age: <18 = 5, 18/25 = 0, 26/35 = 8, 36/45 = 6, 46/65 = 2
  3. NSS: Yes = 14, No = 7
  4. Cave outside the U.S. = 5, Outside Calif. = 16
  5. Type of main light? Electric = 15, Carbide = 8
  6. Backup Lights: Most use AA cell lights and/or matches!
  7. Rope Used: None = 4, Goldline = 2, Bluewater = 7, PMI = 10, Dynamic = 6
  8. Descenders Used: Figure 8 = 13, Short Rack = 5, Long Rack = 5, Petzel = 2
  9. Ascenders Used: Jumars = 14, Gibbs = 5, CMI = 1, Other = 3 (probably Roloffs)

Part 4. — The Growing Grotto of the 1990’s

(by Morley Hardaker)

The NSS National Convention was held in Yreka, California in 1990. and three papers were presented there on the results of the Bad Air Project: Seasonal Variation in Level and Concentration of Carbon Dioxide in Three Bad Air Caves by D. Cowan; The Hazards of Bad Air in Caves by J. Hildebrand and K. Lankford; and The Organization and Financing of a Grotto Project by W .Papke. Most MLG members participated in putting on the event, and doing all needed tasks. Dave Cowan was Logistics Chairman, and Morley Hardaker was Audio Visual Coordinator on the convention staff. In light of the success of Diablo Speleo-Education Seminar at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, MLG started planning a similar event to be held at the camp in 1991. The grotto became somewhat involved in the politics of the town of Volcano, when the town fathers were considering getting their water supply from Black Chasm Cave. Work was also done with BLM on various New Melones projects, including the Natural Bridges Inventory. The first ever, Mother Lode Grotto patch was designed, and we had one hundred made for us through Bob & Bob. License plate brackets with the wording Stalactite/ Stalagmite and Carbide In My Blood were another fund-raising effort. Finances became an issue, when after having paid for bad air equipment, patches, license plate brackets, and a down payment on the Berkeley Camp, our cash flow was down to double digits. It was decided that some fund-raisers were in order. Three selected ideas were, (1) Everyone donate some items to sell at a flea market; (2) Hold a grotto Christmas auction; and (3) collect a dollar from members who sign up for grotto trips, then donut show up with out calling to cancel. The auction and flea market were both a success, as the flea market made us $470 and the auction yielded $339. Those moneys, along with other profits collected from the patches, brackets, and T-shirt sales, put us well in the black and even allowed us to put $1000 into a CD for the research projects. A mortality of the year was the loss of our Post Office Box, due to nonpayment of the bill, which came due at the time of the convention when every one was away and no one got to the box to receive and pay the bill. A social event of the year occurred when a number of members attended the November wedding of Paul Greaves and Kathy Strong.

Marianne Russo started her four-year reign as chairperson in 1991. More than 150 attended the Speleo-Ed Seminar at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp in May. The evening auction raised over $800, to support the Cal Caver and Western Region Grant. Several major paperwork projects were tackled during the year. Most important was the long overdue revising of our Constitution and By-laws. A brochure describing the grotto and our activities was produced for handing out to prospective members. Also, cards with the grotto address were sent to REI to be given out only to customers inquiring about caving activities. REI had originally asked the grotto to conduct caving classes at their store. Their request was denied, as we did not want to advertise the sport, nor did we feel that we could handle the impact if we did take on such a project. While the Bad Air Project was officially over, it continued as the Cave Air Program to scour libraries for bad air articles for comparison with our own results. Further random sampling was also done in our three caves. Other activities were (1) participation along with other grottos to work out a program to gate and/or control access to caves with bat habitat; (2) joining Bats Conservation International; And (3) continuing to take part in the Lava Beds Inventory. Avalanche Cave was rediscovered during the year. Grotto finances were also bolstered again with another flea market ($248), and what was to become the annual Christmas Auction ($300).

1992 – We are Thirty Years Old !!! A birthday party was planned and held at Cave City. We attempted to locate and invite every past MLG member that we could find. In doing this, we found that 292 members had passed through our grotto since inception. Only two or three of the old-timers showed up. Among them were Keith and Mary McDaniel and Gary Barrett. However, we did get a number of letters from those who were unable to make the party. Among them was Karl Smith – NSS 783! He said, he was just too old to come. We discovered that the Nut Tree was selling cave speleothems. A letter was sent asking that they stop this practice and including a copy of the California Cave Protection Law. The Nut Tree yielded to our request and removed all cave related items from their shelves. The New Melones cave inventory was continued from 1991. As a result of changing our Constitution and By-laws, our Articles of Incorporation had to be revised, and the State of California had to approve the changes. This proved to be a bottleneck as they had already been rejected twice. These rejections tried the patience of Marianne Russo and Sandy Cowan, the driving forces behind this project. MLG suffered the loss of four active members, including our newsletter editor, when the Lankfords moved to Colorado and the Cowans finally got to West Virginia. Kathy Lankford was into her fifth year as editor of the Valley Caver at the time of their move. Bill Papke offered the use of his computer and volunteered to be temporary editor until a permanent editor could be found. Due to the success of prior flea markets, auctions, and sales, the grotto treasury jumped to over the $1000 mark for the first time! With all this new wealth, we purchased $250 worth of rescue equipment. Also, a number of copies of the book, Basic Caving were purchased for loan or sale by newer members. The annual Christmas auction netted us another $263 for the year.

Due to numerous complaints from the property owners adjacent to Ripple Cave, of people blocking their road and having noisy parties, MLG in 1993 contacted the cave owner, and with his permission erected a gate and fence and “No Trespassing” signs on the cave property. MLG holds the keys and controls entry to the property. Neighbors were informed that only those parked inside the gate had permission to be there. As to any others, the local sheriff could be called, or other appropriate action taken. The result was good landowner relations, and our grotto retained rights to use a cave that might otherwise have been lost. Grotto members also were among those to help start a California Cave Rescue Group, later to be part of the NCRC. Several members attended the national convention in Pendleton, Oregon. Our grotto was assigned an area of Soldiers Cave in which to clean formations. This project was to continue for the next several years. This was the year of the “Cookie Commitment,” where a participating member would be given a cookie jar to fill for the group on that trip. The empty jar was then passed on to someone else who would be going on the next trip. The years annual MLG Christmas auction brought in a record $776, exceeding many regional and national auctions. With such wealth, our members voted to give $200 to the NSS building fund!

In 1994 it came to our attention that some Sierra Club members were leading “Educational Caving Trips” to caves that we considered to be sensitive. We contacted the leader(s), persuading them to take these groups to “junk caves” where little damage could be done. We even sent a spy on one of their trips and discovered that there was little conservation or education, and that the “leaders” abandoned their group to cave on their own. MLG then contacted the Sierra Club to ask that they put a halt to this type of trip. The Sierra Club agreed! It was in this period that the grotto decided to resume its board meetings to handle administrative affairs and special projects, allowing more time at the regular meetings for programs and items of interest to newer members. One such project was to draft a Publicity Policy on how to handle requests from news media, other organizations, or individuals requesting information on or about caves. Also, more work was done to update cave registers and to design a more meaningful register form. The grotto contacted the local Sheriff’s Department to ask if they would give us a CPR and First Aid course. This was held in May, with about 10 members receiving their certificates. Ten MLG members attended the Texas convention in June. Grotto membership climbed to over 70 during the year. It was also about this time when Papke resigned himself to the fact that he was going to be the official editor of the Valley Caver, as no one else had stepped in to take over the job.

Because of other commitments, in 1995, Marianne Russo had to resign from her position as chairperson. She was replaced by Martin Haye. The grotto started work to compile a Members Manual which would include such things as: grotto history, constitution and by-laws, grotto policies, library and equipment lists etc. Copies would be made available to all members. Also negotiations were started to establish a Cooperative Management Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management. As Mother Lode caves have traditionally had very poor maps, many mapping projects were started in the area. Including: Rippled Cave, Avalanche Cave, Crystal Cosumnes Cave, and the Grapevine Gulch Caves. Eight members attended the NSS convention in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Bill Papke and Jim Hildebrand were honored as “Fellows of the NSS.” The demand was so great for the “Support Speleological Research” T-shirts, that we had a second batch made. The Valley Caver contained some interesting new items – a rogues gallery of member photos and a complete list of grotto officers down through the years.

It was again MLG’s turn to host the Western Region meeting in 1996. It was again held at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, and with another new T-shirt to commemorate the occasion. Members worked hard to make this meeting the best ever. Many conservation seminars were given, including bat conservation by Pat Winters, who brought real live bats to show. Other highlights were the Speleo-Olympics with new and redesigned games, and because the MLG wanted an unforgettable extravaganza, the real hit was the premier performance of the Cave Pearls doing their original rendition of Caving Girl!! Billed as “A Unique Dancing Ensemble”, consisting of five MLG ladies(?) and a questionable cow!! … This group is sure to live on to gain fame and fortune for the Mother Lode Grotto. When it came time to renew arrangements for our monthly meeting room with SMUD, we were unable to get a room suitable to our needs at their S Street facilities. We were forced to move our meeting place to their north area facility in the north area of Sacramento. Wes Hardaker, who had just taken a job in Switzerland, volunteered to host a Swiss E-mail list serve for the grotto. We gladly accepted!! Also the Cooperative Management Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management was signed at last. One of our first tasks was to field-check areas of BLM land for significant cave possibilities. Crystal Cosumnes Cave survey was finished and the map published. Our members were getting more involved with the WRCRC (Western Region Cave Rescue Committee), later to be the WRTC (Western Region Training Committee). The first annual Disneyland cave trip was held in February. Again, nine members attended the NSS Convention, held in Salida, Colorado. Morley Hardaker received the “NSS Fellow“ honor there.

While there were no major undertakings in 1997, many little things happened: -Papke designed a Western Region logo. – BLM submitted some maps of their land swap parcels for us to check out. – Members contributed restaurant names for the Speleo Restaurant Guide. – The Survey of Grapevine Gulch Cave was started. – Wes and the MLG list serve moved back from Switzerland to California, now both are located at the U.C. Davis campus. MLG members broadened their range of caving activities, both nationally and internationally, traveling to many U.S. states as well as Guatemala, Switzerland, China, Belize and Mexico. Many members took a field trip to Smith Safety Products in Santa Rosa, where they were able to test the strength of many types of climbing equipment and rope. Participation continued in rescue training with NCRC, WRTC or whoever! Participation continues with the Lava beds project, where they are now locating caves on a GPS system. For the first time in years, no MLG member attended the NSS convention in Missouri! The Cave Pearls performed again at the Western Region convention and again at the MLG Christmas party, at which over $700 was raised at our auction.

This brings us to 1998! Heather McDonald replaced Martin Haye as chairperson, and Bill Papke is still hanging in there as editor, setting new record – six years straight! (Don’t tell Bill – he might quit.) The grotto membership is maintaining its 70 members or thereabouts. The Cave Pearls have become a tremendous hit, and steadily increasing their repertoire of original material. Also Featured in the Summer 98 issue of the Cal Caver! We still have nine members living out-of-state, clinging to their MLG memberships and claiming that MLG is still the best!! The total grotto treasury now exceeds $5000. The Cave Air Research fund has been broadened to include use for research, conservation, educational, and preservation projects. Our Members Manual is now going through revisions and additions. The Grapevine Gulch Cave survey is finished and the map has been published. Three members participated in the Lehman Cave Lint Camp last spring, and nine attended the NSS convention in Sewanee, Tennessee this summer. In the fall of this year a number of MLG members participated in the mixing and slapping of plaster of paris, for the building of a cave for a new exhibit to open at the Oakland Museum next year.

The same slate of officers were re-elected in 1999: Chair – Heather Mc Donald; Vice Chair – Eileen Belan; Secretary – Tom Purciel: Treasurer – Morley Hardaker; and Bill Papke holding down his Editor position again. One task of our officers was to complete a revision of our Members Manual.

When the Oakland Museum’s cave exhibit opened in January, a few of our members were on hand in full caving attire, to act as docents at the exhibit on special weekends during the next few months. Also this years NSS convention at Filer Idaho, was attended by record number of nineteen MLG members.

When one of our members happened onto a local store selling the now popular LED lights, our grotto members realized a great money making potential here. As the grotto holds a resale license, we contacted the company directly, who agreed to sell these lights to us at the wholesale price. The grotto became the first to offer these lights to cavers at a minimal markup, well below the prices from commercial sources, and still make money for the grotto. As none of the caving venders at the Filer convention did not have these for sale, we sold over 60 lights at the consignment sales there, and over 300 sold for the year.

As all this new found income was burning a hole in our checkbook, it allowed us to give support to a number of cave related organizations. At this years Western Region meeting, funds were solicited for a new Lava Beds Research Center, to be built at the Lava Beds National Monument. MLG immediately contributed $100 and offered to match funds up to $500 to other grottos or individuals who would donate that amount. This challenge was met by several individuals and grottos, causing us to donate another $400. We also Joined BCI and the California Bat Conservation Fund for $100 each, and also WVCC for $50. Morley Hardaker and Gwen Fissel participated in the second Lehman Cave Lint Camp in October. One of our out-of-state members came out of hiding (At least on paper.) Jack Espinal contributed a three part article to the Valley Caver, on the use of the Garmin GPS II+ unit for caving.

Part 5. — Starting the New Millennium – 2000+

(by Morley Hardaker)

At the start of the year 2000, the grotto is now 38 years old! This new millennium brought with it, the same cast of of officers all up for a third term.
The sale of LED light continued, but just when sales started to drop a bit, it was announced that the company now had new brighter LED’s in their lights. We were close to exhausting our present supply, so we ordered 100 brighter models, gambling that cavers would want the new ones. The gamble paid off, as sales then increased again. Other than that there little activities other than the usual grotto cave trips, with the one major trip being the 9th Great Nevada Cave Week, which also drew cavers from other Western Region grottos, and was led by Heather McDonald and Martin Haye. Seven MLG members attended the NSS Convention this year in Elkins, West Virginia! This year we added to our prior list of donations, the Southwest Cave Conservancy.

After a relatively quiet time in year of 2000, many new things started happening in 2001, except that we retained the same slate of officers again for another year. but our Secretary, Tom Purciel, resigned in mid year due to work conflicts. Meeting notes were kept by various volunteer secretaries, until John Hargreaves was elected in December. Due to the sale of the SMUD building in North Highlands, our meeting place returned to SMUD’s main facility located along S street in Sacramento.

While LED sales continued at a somewhat slower pace, we felt that the market was good enough to invest in another 100 lights near the years end. Another bit of grotto financial business was to get our Tax Exempt Status (501c7) reinstated, as we discovered that the IRS had placed us in a dormant file. They were apparently unable to contact us near a time when we changed out P.O. Box. MLG business cards were made up to give to our local Recreational Equipment (REI) store, to be handed out only if someone specifically inquires about caving. We beginning to make plans for next year’s Mother Lode Grotto 40th Anniversary celebration!

Planning for the NSS Convention which will be held in Porterville California in 2003, and will be hosted by members of the Western Region. Seven MLG members signed up to be on the convention staff as Committee Chairpersons

Wes Hardaker changed jobs again, and to our advantage, his computer was modified to have server capacity, and he moved the grotto list server to his web address. We were also allowed to have free web page access. So Morley Hardaker designed and launched a Mother Lode Grotto web page …

A new research project was started! Member Rolf Aablu was engaged in a survey of arthropod species in the caves of the Northern Mother Lode region, including: Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Nevada, Sierra and Plumas counties. He asked for the MLG for help in the placing of traps and in the collection of specimens. The grotto has also provided financial support of $1200 to the the project.

After 10 years of intermittent exploration of remote Avalanche Cave, a map has finally been published, along with two other small caves in the Fall Valley Caver.

There has of course been the usual caving activities, plus a number of Grotto members have been working on the cave dig in California Caverns; an ongoing attempt to unclog a mud choked passage in hopes to discover more new cave. Heather McDonald organized the 10th Annual Nevada Marathon. Twelve 12 MLG members attended this year, along with John Moreno from Diablo Grotto and Dave and Elisabeth Bunnell. Along the way the group was joined by Doc Kellenberger, a caver from Elko Nevada. Doc learned of the Marathon, and asked Heather if he might join the trip at Lehman Caves, making a final total of 16 people. Doc, along with his son, have since become members of our grotto! Chalk up another out-of-state MLG member.

Along with our usual contributions, $500 was donated to the Red Cross NY Disaster Relief fund after September 11th!

In April of 2002, the Mother Lode Grotto entered it 41st year of continuous caving activities … Happy 40th Anniversary to MLG! April 1962 … Seven members held our first official meeting, of the Central Valley Cavers. This was the original name used before being chartered with the NSS in 1963, then becoming the Mother Lode Grotto. Today we have over ninety grotto members.

Time for a celebration! In October, with the help of John Fairchild, owner of California Caverns, and Greg Francek, manager of Black Chasm Cave, we put on a great weekend event. There was camping, slide presentations, memorabilia, and a catered dinner at California Caverns on Saturday. On and off trail cave tours were given there and again on Sunday at the recently commercialized Black Chasm Cave. In preparation, we invited all the former members we could locate. In spite of our late invitations, fourteen of our past members showed up! Two, Ron Ralph and Mike McEachern, were original members from the sixties! They, along Mickey McBride and family, came from far away states of Texas, Alabama, and Minnesota. Sixty-nine cavers attended the event.

This was a busy year in general for the grotto. Last year’s officers we re-elected to carry on for another year. Many cave trips took place this year, and many have become annual events. There was our Easter Egg Hunt held every year at Rippled Cave; The Vertical Waterfall Practice at Bill Papke’s secret waterfall in the Sierras; Plus a new event, as Doug Bradford became a member, and brought with him his annual Birthday trip to Crystal Palace. He traditionally wears a tuxedo into the cave, and invites others come in formal attire.

Finally, the annual Nevada Cave Marathon, a multi-grotto trip, which in the last few years has been organized by Heather McDonald. This trip consists primarily of caving, ghost town exploring, and hikes in the Nevada wilderness. This year, a special bonus, was a special tour of the Barrick Gold Strike mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the United States. Doc Kellenbarger, a mine employee and MLG member from Nevada, arranged the tour. Doc was one of four new Nevada members gained by contacts there. This year, nineteen cavers attended the marathon. The many reports on the Nevada trip submitted to our Editor, resulted in the largest Valley Caver (41 pages!) ever to be published.

Another special treat this year: In March, the Sacramento IMAX Theater invited the grotto to their premiere showing of Amazing Caves along with a slide presentation by Hazel Barton. About 90 members and guests attended.

Projects were a high priority this year! Rolf’s bug collecting project is still going on, and more members are now participating in the California Caverns cave dig. A new project this year is the cleaning of formations at Black Chasm Cave.

Finally, the Valley Caver has had a quality upgrade, as Papke found that Office Depot, (They print our newsletter) can print our newsletter direct from a CD. As a result, the quality of the images as increased over ten fold!

A busy year was 2003! The 2002 officers were retained again this year: Mark Hasbrouck – Chairperson, Heather Mc Donald – Vice Chair, John Hargreaves – Secretary, Morley Hardaker (Who else!) – Treasurer, and Bill Papke (Who else again!) – Editor. In February, our membership surpassed 100 members and by the end of the year reached 116 members. MLG has been acquiring members from other Western Region grottos and members from outside of California … Particularly from Nevada. We are now listing Nevada as a secondary state on the NSS web site.

Through the efforts of primarily Mother Lode grotto members, the Western Cave Conservancy (WCC) was founded to purchase and protect cave properties in the western United States.

Nine MLG members served on the convention staff planning committees for the NSS National Convention, held this year in Porterville California. Forty-nine MLG members attended the convention, volunteering to help in one capacity or another. It was Win and Win Big! for MLG and its members in most of the NSS Salons: MLG symbolic emblems, all won awards: Ted Zerr’s MLG rug received a Merit Award! Gayiety Hasbrouck’s two banners, and Bill Papke’s collection of 2003 Convention Logos all won HM’s! In the T-Shirt Salon: MLG’s 40th Anniversary T-Shirt, by Russo & Hargreaves, and the 2003 NSS Convention T-shirt, designed by Bill Papke, won HM’s. Of several maps entered in the Cartographic Salon, Heather McDonald’s map of Ponderosa Cave, won an HM in the Apprentice Division. Dave Bunnell won a Medal in the Digital Photography Salon, along with eight ribbons in the various Photo Salons! Dave also won a Green Ribbon in the Multi-Image Salon with “Californiacopia” and a HM with “California Caves” in the Cave Ballad Salon! To top things off, Dan Snyder was presented with the Spelean History Award!

Ten MLG members attended the Western Region Convention in October, held near Bend Oregon and hosted by the Willamette Valley Grotto. In addition, three grotto members attended the National Cave Rescue Seminar in Carlsbad New Mexico.

The ongoing project of digging in California Caverns, trying to locate new passageway, continues, with more and more members getting involved in the dig. Dave Bunnell and Hazel Barton completed a re-survey of Black Chasm

There were many cave trips this year, with many trips going the extremes of California or out of state. Sea caves were visited along the Mendocino coast, and the grotto went to Arizona to Onyx and Karchner Caverns and on our Annual Marathon to Nevada. Many cave maps were finished, with maps of U-Turn Cave in Nevada, South Peter’s Cove sea caves in Mendocino, Scat Cave and Pandora’s Box, all being published in the Valley Caver.

The Valley Caver continues publication, with more and more photos and still being delivered right on time as usual, with its ol’ Editor, Bill Papke, turning 70 this year!

A total of five hundred dollars in donations went to: BCI, California Bat Conservancy, West Virginia Cave Conservancy, and the Western Cave Conservancy. In addition, the MLG annual Christmas Auction brought in a record $1219 this year, half of which was pledged to the Western Cave Conservancy.

Last year’s grotto officers were elected for the third time in 2004! The usual grotto caving trips continued regularly, as well as eighteen people going on annual Nevada Cave Marathon working their way to Great Basin National Park,organized by Heather McDonald. A few of our members made the trek all the way to New Zealand for a month of caving! Much caving was serious cave mapping of a number of caves, one was Clay Cave, Napa County, resulting in a map by Matt Leissring and published in the summer issue of the Valley Caver.

Besides all the caving, a number of project type things were accomplished. Many members were involved in the Western Cave Conservancy, with it membership growing, but still waiting to hopefully purchase a cave. More members got involved in the dig at California Caverns, digging out up several hundred feet of new passage. Also, the NCRC held a weeklong training program at California Caverns, with several MLG people participating, not only as students, but also as staff. When Bill Papke suggested that we make a new trail to the waterfall where our fall vertical session, seven MLG members went to work to blaze a new, and shorter trail from the parking area to the falls. Part of this effort involved cutting a two foot diameter downed tree by hand’ and sliding it out of the way!

The Valley Caver received some upgrades …. Adding to the prior digital printing upgrades, the Valley Caver now sports color covers! A new feature too … Colonel Karst re-activated his column in our newsletter, which at one time was seen in Diablo Grotto’s newsletter! The color covers were partially responsible for raising the grotto dues, , to $12 per individual and $15 for families,starting in 2005. The last dues increase was in 1989! Another big expense this year was the purchase of a heavy-duty sewing machine for sewing harnesses etc. The usual donations went to: BCI, Lava Beds NHA, the Yolo Basin Wildlife Foundation, and the Western Cave Conservancy.

Mother Lode members ventured off to cave in many distant places in 2005. Caving was done in a number of other states such as: Missouri, Alabama, and Wyoming. Trips to other countries included B.C. Canada (Vancouver Island), Mexico, Australia, England, and New Zealand. Five MLG members, Marianne, Jerry, Kip, Ric, and Dave Bunnell attended the NSS National Convention in Huntsville, Alabama this summer! Matt and Heather made two caving trips to Victoria B.C.

Back home in California a new twist was to tote musical insterments into some of our caves for entertainment of all. Some of this caving entertainment occurred on one of our Samwell Cave trips, and again at Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace trip was the annual Doug Bradford Birthday trip, where to his surprise; an elaborate birthday was thrown for him inside the cave!

Serious projects were accomplished too! One major project was starting the exploration, surveying, and mapping of the old and some new found caves of Topple Table Talus area near Sonora. More new caves were found as exploration continued, so this project will continue into 2006. Then there was the continuing of the Pinnacle Point survey. Members continued to help with the dig at California Caverns. A finished map was completed of Little River Pit on the Mendocino coast. As many of our members belong to the Western Cave Conservancy, much effort was expended in finding ways to raise monies for the WCC, as they were on the threshold of purchasing Rippled Cave.

This year it was again our turn to host the Western Region Convention. The Berkeley Camp near Yosemite was again chosen to hold the event. The theme was Project Caving, with sessions on cave conservation, reports on the CRF project at Lava Beds NM, the surveying of Lehman Cave in Nevada, and the Topple Table Talus survey. Outside there was the usual vertical practice, a survey course, and a Geocaching course (To acquaint people with the use of a GPS). About 95 cavers attended the event.

Last years officers were retained again except for Eileen Belan who was elected as our new Chairperson The year-end treasury was $4257. The usual donations were given to BCI, WCC, WVCC, and the California Bat Conservancy.

There was a slight change of officers in 2006. Beside Morley Hardaker (Treasurer) and Bill Papke (Editor) who are never allowed to leave their offices, Eileen Belan as Chairperson, Heather McDonald as Vice Chair, and Kip Baumann was elected Secretary after taking over the job from John Hargreaves last year. The grotto treasury increased to $4,953 at the close of the year.

Along with trips to California caves, from one end of the state to the other, members traveled to other parts of the world to cave! At the invitation of John Hargreave’s parents who live in Botswana, ten of our members traveled to Africa to go caving! The group surveyed Mohu (Wasp) Cave there, the map was later published in the Valley Caver. There were several trips to Vancouver Island, Canada, and two members went caving in China. Some of the California caves visited were: Paul Gibson, Palmer, Samwell, Inskip, and a number of Death Valley caves just to name a few!

Beside just caving, a good number of cave projects continued. The Pinnacle Point and Topple Table Talus (TTT) cave surveys are still on going. A map was produced of White Owl Cave at TTT. Members participated on the Sequoia Parks Crystal Cave restoration, and on the CRF projects at Lava Beds N.M. Members, Bruce Rogers and Pat Helton are in charge of the research center projects so their projects are attracting other MLG members to go up and help out! The Cave City dig still continues, with the diggers being 90% MLG members!

There were many Speleo events this year! Beside the NSS Convention in Bellingham Washington, which Morley Hardaker, Bill Papke, Ernie Coffman, Matt & Heather, Dave & Elisabeth Bunnell, the Frantz’s, Beache,s, Hartwig’s and Aalbu’s, all attended! There was a Western Region Speleo Ed at Calvarous Big Trees S.P. where Bill Papke dawned his old Park Rangers hat to give his tour of the Big Trees! Finally, the annual Western Region meeting held this year at Don Picous Park near San Diego attracted 14 of our members!