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Trip Report 2017 Convention Rio Rancho, NM

Our trip to Convention began with a leisurely drive down the Blue Ridge
Parkway. The mountain laurel, rhododendron and wild azalea were all in
bloom, there were great thickets of them blooming and they were gorgeous.
A deer bolted across the road immediately in front of us and it was not until
we stopped later and looked on the front bumper that we were sure that it
had not left some hair on it.
Our next stop was the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which would
have been more impressive if we hadn't spent so much time on the parkway,
which had equally (certainly more) great views. Because of the traffic and
stop lights the drive out of the park through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
was awful. This is the most visited national park, though I believe that in
large part, it is because of its proximity to the two resort towns.

The next stop was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The hot springs
were used by the Indians, before the trappers and pioneers arrived. They
continued to attract tourists through the 19th century. But they became
immensely popular during the first half of the 20th century as health spas;
the gambling, horse racing, boot leg liquor other illicit activities were just
extras. Most of the hot springs had been diverted to the bath houses in the
1890's, but some hot spring pools were visible along the grand promenade.
Water emerges from the ground at 140 F. Cheryl took advantage of the
opportunity by taking a traditional hot spring bath in one of the restored
bathhouses. It felt great.

In Oklahoma City, OK we went to the Myriad Botanical Garden. We spent

much of the time in the crystal tube, a large diameter, tri-level tropical
conservatory with orchids, ferns, bromeliads, butterflies and birds. The
conservatory was celebrating its 25th anniversary and the trees were
mature. The canopy level was spectacular and as the trail led downward to
the lower level alcoves and niches filled orchids and bromeliads swung into
view. There is a very large outside pond with ducks and other birds and
really large koi. Some of the outside plants were as interesting as those on
the inside. There is also a childrens splash park where many children were
having a ball. Its well worth a visit, but we were told that it can be quite
crowded on weekends.

Just outside Amarillo, Texas we turned south to visit Palo Duro Canyon, the
2nd largest canyon in the U. S. It is well obscured until you are right upon it.

One sees the flat vista before you and suddenly there's a great gash in the
ground. As you descend into the canyon the colors were dramatic. There was
a rather corny outdoor musical about the panhandle with cowboys and
Indians and a tremendous George M. Cohen ending with lots of fireworks
and flag waving as twilight came and the sky darkened. As the sun went
down the canyon wall was spectacular. The performance was put on by
enthusiastic college students who were obviously enjoying themselves, as
was the audience.

Off interstate 40 at Santa Ana there is a municipal park with the Blue Hole.
The resurgence flows out of a submerged cave. It's 81 feet deep before one
encounters a small entrance to the underwater cave which is gated shut.
The water flow is about 3,000 cu ft per minute. The water temp was 61,
though the air temp was in excess of 100. The Blue hole is big enough to
support a small scuba operation as well as serving as a swimming hole. The
kids jumping from the rocks were having great fun while squealing it's cold!
In days past we would have put on bathing suits and joined them, but
greater maturity and all that.

Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and is amazingly historic (perhaps the
oldest, European settled city in the U.S.) and well worth a visit. We
wandered through the oldest house, oldest church, saw the oldest trading
post. Then we wandered through some of the multitude of shops selling
clothing, jewelry, nick knacks, etc. There were a number of local artists and
craftsman as well as native American Indians. It seemed to attract a lot of
itinerant travelers.

New Mexico can be very hot and it lived up to its reputation. When we
arrived in Rio Rancho Saturday afternoon it was over 100 and the
temperature remained in the triple digits for the week. Some of the local
news people claimed that they had not seen so much heat in June before.
After finding the Sandhill Crane Bed and Breakfast and unloading our gear,
we headed for the Star Center.
We checked in at Convention registration, where Margot was running the
show. For those who had pre-registered the check-in was exceedingly
smooth. Cheryl volunteered to assist registration and exchanged $2 bills.
Sunday was a matter of continuing to work registration, meeting old friends
and making new ones. Unsure of just when we would arrive, we had not

signed up for the geological field trip on Sunday, but it received some good
reports from those that did.
For those unfamiliar with Convention, the $2 bills are intended to make the
community merchants aware that the NSS is having a Convention there. A
lot of people suddenly spending $2 bills for gas, beer, pizza and other meals
and necessaries gets the attention of merchants. It works very well in small
towns, such as Ely, NV, Lewisberg, WV and Spencer, IN; not so much in Rio
Rancho or Albuquerque.
I had thought of Rio Rancho, NM as a small suburb of Albuquerque. But
actually it is geographically huge, the city has laid claim to a huge amount of
land and it likely will not be too long before it is the largest city in New

Monday Ted attended the Board of Governors meeting. It was a quite

unusual meeting in several ways. This was the last meeting for William
Shrewsbury as President of the Society (He had served for six years in that
position, a record, I believe). Three of the officers were absent and were
represented by proxies (it should be pointed out that they all had good
reasons, but the proxies were unable to address many of the issues likely to
be discussed.) And several of the Directors were also represented by
When they broke for lunch and the closed sessions they had scarcely gotten
further than the officer reports, which are among the first items on the
agenda. It was later announced that during the closed session of the
Directorate, the Directors re-elected the Operations VP, the Executive VP
and the Administrative VP for a one year term. You should be aware that
their titles really do not describe their varied responsibilities. (The Secretary-
Treasurer is elected at the fall meeting and the President is elected at the
spring meeting.)
Cheryl continued to exchange $2.00 bills and had a fine time at the vendors
as well as watching some of the climbing contests and going to the fine arts

I believe that the Howdy Party started on time at 7PM and would be
described as one of the better ones. There was a tent, large enough to seat
all of the attendees and we were able to sit inside while waiting for the
dinner to be served (normal practice is for attendees to stand outside in long
lines in the sun while waiting.) The event was well organized and people
went thru the line efficiently. The dinner was pretty good, and there were
extra servings for those who wanted them, but the bread pudding dessert
was not a hit. Still, there were many more positive comments than

Tuesday, Cheri and I drove to downtown Albuquerque in the morning to

look around the old town. Cheri had a bracelet that she had bought there
some years ago and needed to have it repaired. Most of the shops have
changed little in the last ten years and there still seemed to be a steady
stream of tourists.
We departed downtown sooner than we might have liked so that we could
get back to hear the Luminary Speaker, Dale Pate. The luminary series has
become a very popular venue at the conventions and seating is always full.
The series is always filmed and is available for grotto presentations. Dave
Pate NSS 12702 and a Fellow of the society began his presentation with the
question, How do you show 47 years of caving in one hour? I will try to give
a feeling about the caving community and explorations and not focus on
lengths and depths and feet surveyed. You can look that up. Then he
began a fascinating presentation. A self described farm boy from the black
dirt farms of south Texas, Dave began with a series of slides from his early
days in Purification System in Mexico, linking his experience with caving
music and companionship of the NSS community. He is an advocate of high
quality work in both survey and inventory work in caves. Do it right the first
time and you dont have to do it over is his moto In 2007 Dave began
working a position as National Cave and Karst Program Coordinator for the
entire National Park Service and went full time in 2012. A noted
photographer, he has been published many times and the slides were terrific
Cheryl went to the afternoon Geology sessions. Art Palmer has always been
interested in the epigenic versus hydrogenic cave formation and his
presentation on sulfuric acid vs carbonic speleogenisis processes, rates,
and products was stellar. While not aimed at the general public. Arts clear
and concise explations about carbonic acids solubility versus that of sulfuric
acid in different concentrations in dolomite and limestone environments was

The next presentation went from the hot sulfuric to fumarole caves of
Antarctica. These ice caves on the sides of volcanoes are a well-documented
phenomena first observed in 1908 on the sides of Mount Eremus. The caves
form at the stone-ice interface, where gas vents supply heat. They are
frequently linked to ice towers formed as steam from the melted ice rises
and cool. The caves are both warm, that is above freezing, and humid. The
scientists, Llamko and Fischer, analyzed gasses from several vents. The
analysis shows a strong air contribution as well a carbon dioxide isotopes
that could be from deeply sourced in the mantel.
Other presentations were about speleo-genisis in Pennington formation in
Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Tennessee. The Pennington Formation
contains intermittent soluble layers such as limestone and dolomite along
with insoluble shale, siltstone and sandstone. The area is close to Cap Rock
Coons Labyrinth cave, a thin maze cave in the Natural Area. The bedding
plains in the area may have great importance. A proposed dye tracing may
yield results that have implications for local ecology, biodiversity, and
resource management.
The next presentation was about water resources in Jamaica. Specifically,
dye tracing was used in the Martha Brae Hydrological Basin to verify
historical connections between the Tangle, Roaring and Martha Brae Rivers.
The last session was a very brief summary of the work being done on the
Caves and Karst Of Cuba by Evelio Piedra, a member of the Sociedad
Espeleologica de Cuba
Tuesday evening we attended the Fellows and Newcomers gathering. This
year the new comers were again far outnumbered, by the Fellows so we
talked with a lot of friends and a few newcomers. RASS members were a
sizable contingent.

Wednesday, the Investment Committee of the Foundation met at 7AM so

that some of the members could be free by 10 to attend a session. The
chairman was also the chair of the Convention and could not attend the
meeting and Ted filled in for him and ran the meeting. There never is
unanimity, but there was general agreement that the economy was soft and
getting shakier. All of the investments held by the Foundation were reviewed
and several potential investments were discussed.
This was the day for US Exploration, one of Cheryls favorite sessions. The
presentation by Steve Peerman on Fort Stanton Cave was outstanding. This
was followed by New Discoveries in Lechugilla CaveTwo major breaksouts

were made in the western branches and a dig near Red Lake provided over
3000 feet of new passage. In all 4.1 more miles of passage were surveyed to
create a length of 143.9 miles. Other presentation featured the Morrison
Formation, Isla de Monaand of course Jewel Cave.
The Wednesday Luminary series was given by Carol Hill and was entitled The
Story of Cave Minerals of the World, Geology of Carlsbad Cavern, and The
Evolution of the Grand Canyon via Karst. Carol noticed that the cave
environment of the Mammoth system where she began her caving career
and that of the Guadalupe caves were strikingly dissimilar. This provided the
main emphasis for the famous Cave Minerals. The history of the publications
made me recognize the importance of these books not only to the caving
community but to the general public as well. Carol Hill concluded with some
fairly controversial theories on the genesis of the Grand Canyon.
Congress of Grottos
Cheryl was the RASS delegate to the COG. Once again the congress was
poorly attended. Blake Jordan the chair was also the chair of the convention
and was unable to preside. Bill stringfellow presided over the session, as he
had so many times.
There were no burning issues but resolutions were passed to encourage a
change to the format of the NSS website. The resolution, introduced by the
Dogwood City Grotto (DCG), requested that the website become more
responsive, so that it can be more easily read on computers and mobile
devices without the need to scroll.
DCG also moved that the rules of procedure be amended to use gender
neutral language. Other issues involved the need to archive data and make
people aware of legacy data that might otherwise be lost. A motion that the
board consider encouraging legacy plans for caving data and that the board
provide resources. Cheryl has a complete agenda with additional notes and
will be glad to furnish them upon request.
Bill Stringfellow was elected chair of the Congress of Grottos for the coming

The annual auction is always quite interesting, even if you do not intend to
bid on any of the diverse items available. This year it was held in the large
tent and Cheryl was one of the runners holding up items and carrying them
to the winning bidders.

Thursday morning both Cheri and I attended a number of the Spelean
History presentations. The best of those which we heard was the one by
Bert Ashbrook. At last years Convention he had left us with a historical cliff
hanger. This year he reviewed his previous presentation, discussed possible
solutions to his cliff hanger, and then told us what he thought the answer
was. As it involved several cave maps, it would not be practical to try to
explain it here.
Teds afternoon was spent chairing the National Speleological Foundation
Trustees meeting. It was open to all, but the few attendees had either a
financial focus or were stopping by to thank the Trustees for previous grants.
The open session went smoothly and there were a few questions from the
attendees. During the closed session we interviewed a prospective Trustee
and after her departure and some discussion, she was elected to a five year
term. Then Trustees reviewed the auditors annual report and the
Foundation tax return.
Following the Trustees meeting the Foundation hosted the new NSS
President and his wife at dinner in a Mexican restaurant.

Friday Ted spent all morning and some of the afternoon at the BOG. The
NSS has an Endowment Fund that was to be provide regular income to the
Society after it had grown to a reasonable size. RASS had a significant part
in creating the Endowment Fund and contributed the first $5,000 to get the
Fund going.
Though the Endowment Fund had received about $325,000 in contributions
and earned more $100,000, it now has about $25,000 remaining. However,
for various reasons, essentially all of the funds in the Endowment Fund have
been spent. The Board of Governors has, to some extent, treated it as slush
fund, though some of it went toward the new office.
Many responsible members feel that the NSS needs a new Permanent
Endowment Fund with safe guards against this recurring. The motion on the
Agenda to create a Permanent Endowment fund lacked the safeguards that
would prevent a recurrence of the looting. And it was to speak against the
motion that Ted spent much of the day there.
The motion on the Agenda was not approved so my time was not wasted.
Perhaps by the fall Board of Governors meeting we can get a better motion
on the agenda for a Permanent Endowment Fund.

Later in the afternoon, Cheri and I went to the Coronado Memorial in Rio
Rancho. It is really about the Pueblo Indians that occupied the area before
and after Coronados invasion looking for gold and the Seven Cities. We
found it to be very interesting. We also learned that the river, Rio Grande
is not large or grand is because of upstream dams built in the 20th century.
The closing banquet was held indoors. The food was good and it was well
attended. This is where the Society makes the awards to individuals and
organizations who have distinguished themselves in past year or over much
longer periods.
RASS own Alex Sproul received the Societys highest award, the William
Stephenson Award for Outstanding Service. This award recognizes his
lifetime efforts in support of the National Speleological Society.

Afterward: Blake Jordan, an experienced caver, was the chairman of this

years New Mexico Convention, but he is in process of moving to Virginia, a
little outside of Charlottesville. Perhaps he can be lured into joining RASS.

Alex Sproul is well known to all of the older members of RASS, but because
of where he now lives a lot of the newer members know very little of this
long time RASS stalwart. For that reason I am attaching an OS nominating
petition that was submitted for Alex. Please take look at some of his lifetime
of caving and work for RASS and the NSS.
Respectfully submitted,
Ted and Cheryl Kayes