As the Nutty Putty Cave Access Manager, I had the privilege to visit the cave on June 15 with some very experienced cavers and our dialogue while driving along the west side of Utah Lake led to the unrealistic expectations of many new cavers that join the grotto. It was obvious that the biggest new member disappointment deals with not being able to find out where all of the Utah caves are located.
New cavers see the very low $15 annual Timpanogos Grotto membership fees and think, “Wow, for just $15 I can join and then receive access to all the known caves of Utah.” That is far from reality.
I know very few cavers that know where more than 20 of the hundreds of Utah caves are located. Most cavers get exposed to Utah caves one cave at a time. Line upon line, precept upon precept. As they gain the favor of a Trip Leader qualified for a certain cave and they prove themselves by being responsible in that cave, word spreads that they can be trusted and another Trip Leader will invite them along to another cave. The biggest disqualifier occurs when the new caver is reckless and unwilling to follow direction from the Trip Leaders. Over time the responsible new cavers become exposed to many caves. It should be noted that most private cave trips have a purpose far beyond just experiencing the thrills of the cave. This may include cleaning the cave, installing monitoring equipment, or mapping a new section of the cave.
So why can’t joining the Timpanogos Grotto be like buying a “Map of the Stars Homes” that would allow new grotto members the ability to just start touring all of the local Utah County caves? Why? Cavers destroy caves. Cavers destroy cave habitat. Cavers destroy cave features. Cavers are just plain bad for caves... But wait a minute. If cavers do all of this damage, then why are their caving grotto clubs like the Timpanogos Grotto?
The Grottos are established to teach good caving ethics and help preserve caves. People join the Grotto to get involved with cave conservation, preservation, exploration, and mapping. Unfortunately, many cavers just want the next rush, the next challenge, the next video game type experience. And this is why most seeking the high adventure adrenalin thrill never get to do it with caves. Out of frustration, they end up moving on to other adventure sports like bungie jumping and hang gliding and leave the subterranean world behind.
But there are a few of us who learn to love caves and want to invest time with conservation, preservation, exploration, and mapping projects. Those that express these desires to help get invited on private cave trips. One of the first thing new grotto members realize is that they will rarely see highly published cave trips attempting to garner huge masses of the public. Instead, most cave trips are planned in private amongst groups cavers that have proven themselves to be involved for more than just the immediate rush of adrenalin.
And this is where the Nutty Putty Cave fits so nicely into the Utah County caving experience. The Nutty Putty Cave is a sacrificial exploration cave that allows beginner to novice cavers the adrenalin rush in a rather safe horizontal caving environment. It is difficult to do any real damage to the Nutty Putty Cave because there are no delicate features. Most of our visitors have no grand motives of conservation, cleaning, or mapping. Instead, they are there for the thrill of making it through the next tight spot and into that next room. The Nutty Putty Cave fuels the desire to explore more caves and this is where we invite our Nutty Putty Cave visitors to give caving more thought and hopefully we can inspire you to join the Timpanogos Grotto and learn to care for our other great caving resources. And while you won’t be immediately flooded with cave access directions, you will find opportunities to both enjoy and preserve the caves of Utah.