While the MAKC does not own Coon Cave—it’s on the Forbes State Forest—we assist the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) with managing the cave, including helping them close it for the bat hibernation season in winter.
Coon Cave poses some interesting challenges for cavers. The cave is generally cooler than other regional Loyalhanna Limestone caves. Perhaps, before White Nose Syndrome, that is what made the cave good bat habitat. There is usually knee deep water in the entrance passage, which most well-prepared cavers enjoy. But cavers are also well-aware of the risk of hypothermia and dress accordingly. This complete soaking makes essential footwear, i.e., BOOTS, the best choice for traversing the entrance climb on the way out.
Another, more recent development, is the growth of the porcupine population on Chestnut Ridge. If ever there was a reason to wear coveralls or dress in layers to cave, this is it. The predominantly noctural porcupine sometimes makes a daytime appearance (see photo). But where in the past one might smell the “damp mud” cave odor that usually emanates from a larger cave, in the present-day there is the odor of porcupine scat. Not to digress, but this now seems to be attracting turkey vultures, who seem to love the smell.
Back to caving, however. Gloves, coveralls, boots, should be among the priority gear for traversing Coon Cave. Visitors have been observed going to the cave in shorts and t-shirt, which is bad enough. But imagine having a small scratch or cut and having bare skin contact the scat in the entrance? And not being able to sanitize your hands for an after-cave snack, maybe unaware of what you have just crawled through? Organized caving clubs, called grottos, should be able to direct neophytes to avoid things like this. If someone is taking you to this cave without proper equipment, training and knowledge, beware!