Dennis Melko
NSS 36693 • Pittsburgh, PA • Sarah Furnace Preserve Manager • Rupert Cave Preserve Management Team

In 1971 I first visited show caves with my mother where my parents grew up, in what was Czechoslovakia (behind the iron curtain). I remember a guide pointing out bullet holes in speleothems where gestapo had chased partisans through a cave there. Another was high in the mountains.

My first “wild” caving trips were in 1977 and 1978 with BSA to Bear and Lemonhole caves. Sometime around 1990 I ran into Tom Metzgar, several times, just out in the woods, and he and Kim (Opatka at that time) encouraged me to sign up with their grotto while I was leading scout trips (that particular one to my very first “wild” cave; Bear). I had never heard of the NSS or grottos up to that point. I was just so fascinated with caves.

Today, I still maintain that same fascination with subterranean exploration and conservation. I’ve maintained a personal philosophy about caving, that it is a “cooperative exploration effort,” and not a competitive and/or sporting event.

In the years since my early induction to caving I’ve become proficient in, and taught, vertical skills; certified as a wilderness EMT (Pennsylvania); completed levels 1, 2, and 3 (twice) of NCRC cave rescue (would take level 2 again in a heartbeat and self rescue training); traveled to Mexico to drop deep pits 4 times; have caved in over a dozen states; have enjoyed numerous MARS, VARS, and NSS conventions; have met so many good people (who happen to enjoy caving).

In the late 1990s I met and started assisting Ed McCarthy with photo trips and also John Pearson, with the Bubble Cave conservancy, who introduced me to digging techniques.

I am profoundly happy to have met the Metzgars, and so many others, willing to share the joys of cave exploration. The MAKC is a wonderful organization dedicated to securing that joy for many future generations, and I hope to be of value towards that lofty goal.