MAKC, GAG Help Clean Up Schofer Cave

Thanks to the work of many cavers, including MAKC Board member Jeff Jahn, and life member Dean Snyder, the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy (MAKC) had the MAKC members’ event over the weekend of June 13-15, 2008 at Onyx Cave in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Like last year’s event at Strangford Cave (gated in 1993), this was the first caver access to Schofer Cave since 1994, when it was gated.

The Schofer Cave trip access was obtained through Greg Turner of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Like last year’s Strangford trip, the Schofer trip was by special arrangement for a project. This year we cleaned up litter and graffiti in Schofer Cave. Last year we did the same in Strangford.

Much to our surprise, when we arrived at the home of Ed and Kim Kehs of Greater Allentown Grotto (which includes Onyx cave in the backyard), we discovered that Dean had not only prepared an informational packet on the caves we could visit during the weekend, but he had also designed t-shirts for us. On Friday evening, prior to the trip, Dean also gave an informative and interesting slide show presentation on the history of Schofer Cave.

Several new members attended, including Ben Summers, a member of Commander Cody, and Charles Chapman (and son, Conner) of Central New Jersey Grotto. Welcome!

Many of our regulars also attended, including board members Jeff Jahn, Kerry Speelman, Mike Schirato, Sue Moore, Phil Gowaty, John Shero; members Tom and Kim Metzgar and Kim’s nephew Tyler Reed, Vince Kappler, Mike Spencer, Steve Warnek, Kelly Hart, Dean Snyder, Ben Summers, Ed Kehs, Jr., Karen Kehs, Zoe Kehs, and a few others whose names we don’t recall at the moment. The GAG members went home at night to sleep in nice, cozy beds.

Greg Turner of PGC and Charlie Eichelberger of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy meet us at the cave at 8 a.m. on Saturday. It was sunny and warm (as was the entire weekend). Upon arrival, the gate was opened and everyone geared up to begin the cave cleanup. The bat-friendly gated entrances are on the side of a small hill. Trash bags and wire brushes were handed out and Charlie went into the cave first to check out pools of water in the cave for invertebrates. Then shortly after, we followed checking out the cave.

From the entrance one enters relatively small passages averaging four to five feet in height with a hands and knees crawl through a small pool of water. After carefully working our way through a couple hundred feet of passage, one comes to drop where cavers had to climb down onto a plank across a chasm, in the Big Room.

The Big Room contained trash, breakdown blocks, and large pools of water. The pools of water contained isopods and other invertebrates which Charlie was documenting. The Big Room is where most of the litter and graffiti was located, and most of it was in the water. We collected broken glass, batteries, combs, beer cans and bottles, raccoon bones, and other miscellaneous pieces of trash. There is still more trash in the water, which got to be several feet deep, mainly because the water got too cloudy after a time. Fortunately, we feel we got most of the batteries in the water, which was a big concern of Greg’s. A few cavers worked on graffiti removal. Schofer Cave is great beginner cave because of the variety of passages encountered.

Kerry was the official trip photographer.

We all exited with the weather still as good as ever and all looking forward to enjoying the rest of the weekend at the Onyx Cave property.

Other caves visited included Crystal Cave, the commercial cave, as well as Dreibelbus Cave, thanks to the arrangements by Jeff Jahn and Mike Mostardi of Commander Cody Caving Club. Special thanks to Ed and Kim Kehs for allowing us to camp and explore Onyx Cave.

By Kim Metzgar and Kerry Speelman