GROTTO CLUB DELIGHTS IN GETTING UNDERFOOT
Thursday, July 19, 1990 12:00 a.m. MDT- By Lane Williams, Staff Write
If people want to explore caves, it helps if they want that sense of adventure that comes when a person goes where no one has gone before.
It also helps if they are a little bit crazy.Take TyRee Lamph, for example.
The polite, confident vice-president of the Timpanogos Grotto has explored some 200 caves. That includes 50 to 60 in Utah County. (Yes, that is correct.) Some are larger and others more spectacular than Timpanogos Cave, he said. Lamph has been the first to explore rooms of certain caves. And Friday he found two holes in Mineral Basin in American Fork Canyon that he's sure will be worth exploring as possible caves.
Not bad for a fellow who's only 17.
The Timpanogos Grotto is Utah County's caving club. It was founded in about 1973 and is part of the National Speleological Society, the national caving organization.
The Grotto meets the first Thursday evening of each month at the American Fork Police Department. They plan adventures and always work to preserve the natural heritage that caves represent. (Contact the Uinta National Forest for more information at 377-5780.)
An important part of their efforts to protect caves is secrecy. In Utah and eastern Nevada such caves as "Green-Eyed Monster," "Spanish Moss," "Porcupine," "Lemon Squeezer," "Gandy" and "Antelope Springs" receive periodic visits from cavers. But no one has written a complete list of exactly where all the caves are.
Group members rely entirely on memory and word-of-mouth. That, of course, has its disadvantages. Lamph said one Grotto member recently moved away and the exact location of a nice cave in the West Desert has been lost.
But the risks of open information can also be great. Lamph said that a few years ago, officials considered turning a cave near Oak City, Millard County, into a national monument, but word got into the newspapers and people destroyed the cave's millions-of-years-old features within a few days. Cavers seldom visit it now.
It's for that reason that a recent congressional law designed to protect caves is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The law instructs government agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service, to catalog caves in their jurisdictions and develop ways to protect and study them, said the Uinta National Forest's Cindy Swanson. Officials are working with caving groups to do just that.
Lamph said many caves cannot be opened to the public as national monuments. They are either too difficult to enter or adding new doors could create a cross-air flow that would destroy the delicate features inside.
The Timpanogos Grotto and their colleagues in Logan and Salt Lake City are happy to share their knowledge about caves with people who join the group and show a committed interest, however. One of the first caves they take new members to is "Nutty Putty Cave" west of Utah Lake.
The cave was probably a geyser hole thousands of years ago. Unlike most caves, it is relatively warm inside. Flowers can be seen growing near its mouth in the dead of winter. It is filled with narrow passages and a few relatively dangerous climbs, but nothing that can't be safely negotiated with a little care. The experience isn't recommended for claustrophobics, however.
The cave has few features like stalagmites, but fossils and physical challenges abound. (Brigham Young University's Outdoors Unlimited takes trips to the cave costing $9 per person.)
The Timpanogos Grotto has ongoing projects. They are developing a cave search and rescue team (Lamph said cavers, whose volunteer efforts were rejected, could have found Joshua Dennis more easily than officials did last year in an abandoned mine). They are also mapping a large cave in the Uinta Mountains, maintaining the gate on "Spanish Moss" cave high in Rock Canyon and putting a gate on recently discovered "Lemon Squeezer" cave in American Fork Canyon.
"Lemon Squeezer" cave is the perfect example of why cavers do what they do. Discovered about two years ago, it is within a few hundred yards of a campground. No one had ever seen it before.
Grotto members hope to eventually get into a cave in Provo Canyon. Experts suspect that there may be expanses of "virgin" cave hidden only by a little dirt. The however, will not let anyone in.