Saturday, September 27, 2008

Legacy - Down Under in North Alabama Caves

This past Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I was able to help Randal with a really fun educational workshop for teachers all on caving sponsored by Legacy. I had had it on my calendar for a full up year. There were 25 of us all together - 2 folks from Legacy, Marijean & Toni and 3 cavers on any given trip, Randal, Michelle E., Nathan (who joined us for the one Michelle E. couldn't make it to) & then myself.

Wednesday was check-in at the Paint Rock Valley Lodge in Estillfork. The lodge has 4 restored "shops" in it - a store, a garage, a soda shop and a barber shop - along with loads of other wild antiques. Its really really cool and was a perfect place for the workshop.

The entrance to the barber shop.

Inside the sundries store.

We had a classroom session on what Legacy does: Legacy was created in 1992 by a group of individuals dedicated to providing quality, fact-based environmental education materials to the citizens of Alabama. Today, the organization brings together state and federal agencies, businesses, environmental groups, associations, and concerned citizens to provide comprehensive environmental education programs without duplicating efforts of other organizations. Legacy’s goal is to operate as a true partnership of all groups interested in environmental education, to develop and provide balanced environmental education programs, and to prevent duplication of effort by supporting existing quality environmental education programs. Revenue for Legacy’s environmental education programs comes primarily from the sale of Alabama’s “Protect Our Environment” license tag. Other money comes from the partnership program, donations, corporate sponsors, in-kind donations, grants, and special events.

Randal covered some basic caving safety and then we got to take them to Crossings. We went over the different names for formations as everyone got their "cave legs" in the entrance room. When we hit the saltpetre dig area Randal went over how and what saltpetre was and the mining of it from caves during the Civil War. We saw a few pips and made it back to the restoration area.

Everyone's shoes and boots in the back of Randal's truck - their first taste of mud.

Dinner was at the Lodge and then they had some entertainment.

Thursday was a bit of classroom work in the morning and then we were off to Hering Cave.

We pointed out the nice colonies of fossilized corals, saw some crayfish, a few bats and a salamader (who is probably still blind from all of the camera flashes). Lunch and a tour of Cathedral Caverns was next on the list.

I stopped a few times in the way back to the Lodge... AL65 is one beautiful, windy, valley road.

Then it was back to the lodge for a quick dinner and off to Sauta to watch the bat flight. Keith Hudson of the AL Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources met us there and gave a really nice bat talk. And as a final treat we were able to bop into Sauta's upper entrance for a few hours. Nathan will most likely post some photos of the cave and of the teachers here in the next few days.

Friday morning Bill Gates of the US Fish and Wildlife Service gave a talk on the new thermal bat detector. Everyone visited, ate lunch and then said their goodbyes. I think everyone had a nice time and learned a few things that they'll be able to take back to their students. And I made sure I gave everyone an invite to come up again and go caving whenever they wanted. And I really do hope some of them take me up on my offer - because there are so many more beautiful caves to see!

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