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Into the cave

SU Outing Club caving chair Jaclyn Mace shars her love of the underworld during an exploration of the Clarksville Cave near Albany.

Don't confuse spelunking with caving. Jaclyn Mace will be peeved if you do.

"Spelunking is a bunch of people in bike helmets and hand-held flashlights," said Mace, who is caving chair for the Syracuse University Outing Club. "Caving is unlike any environment you've ever experienced before."

Mace's intense passion about caving dates back to a dream as a child. The English and anthropology senior envisioned shrinking to the size of an ant and exploring their tunnel systems. On her first caving trip to Bentleys Cave east of Albany nearly three years ago, Mace found her youthful daydreams were being realized.

Photo: Lily Betjeman

White-Nose Syndrome and Caves

A deadly fungus known as White-Nose syndrome has killed more than 1 million bats in the eastern United States and Canada and continues to ravage delicate cave ecosystems at an alarming rate. As a result many caves will be closed during the winter months to prevent the spread of the fungus.

"I thought to myself, 'I want to do this for the rest of my life,' " Mace said.

Bentleys Cave has a reputation as for being tricky for novices. During Mace's inaugural trip, she and her companions were in the cave for nine hours including being lost for one and a half hours. Still, Mace was fascinated with the underground world and wanted to stay there and explore.

It is SUOC tradition that first-time cavers lead the exploration of the cavern. During a November excursion to Clarksville Cave southwest of Albany, the cavers pushed through a tight crawl that seemed like it wasn't going anywhere.

Beyond that point, they were rewarded in larger opening with the sights of red string-like roots hanging from the ceiling. Tree roots had broken through the rock. Crystal water droplets gathered gently at the tips of the roots.

Mace remarked that discovering the tree root cavern added to her respect for Clarksville Cave.

While caving provides thrills not normally found above ground, Mace has concerns about amateur cavers and their lack of proper caving technique that can be potentially hazardous to fragile cave environments.

Mace wants people to enjoy caving responsibly, and she loves leading trips and her talent for it is evident in her ability to put new cavers at ease.

But there can be too much of a good thing in caving. Too much foot traffic can disrupt the natural habitats of some cave inhabitants such a bats.

"I don't believe in commercial caves," Mace said. "Caving is a spiritual sport, it connects you with yourself and with the earth."

And with skilled companions including those who regulary join SUOC's expeditions, that kind of spiritual connection through caving can be made.

Caving in Upstate New York

The cave locations in Scoharie and Albany counties shown on the map are approximate. Note: It is important to cave responsibly. Never enter a cave alone, have at least three sources of light and visit caves with a guide unless you are experienced.

View Caves in upstate New York in a larger map

I second anon's request

I realize that the locations of caves owned by the NCC are somewhat publicly available, but it is bad form to publish them online. Please remove the google maps link and instead encourage readers to contact their local grotto for location information.

Thanks for your feedback

We appreciate your remarks about Lily's great caving video and article. We couldn't agree more that it's awesome. Prior to publishing we had a conversation about using the map because of the reservations you mentioned. We chose to include an introduction that notes that the markers are only approximate locations and safety recommendations for a responsible caver.

Thanks for supporting The NewsHouse.

seriously awesome article but

seriously awesome article but last I knew... cave locations were not supposed to be published publically (which is why you canNOT find their directions/locations on the internet anywhere) to reduce cave vandalism and untrained individuals from running into caves.... That's why outing clubs and grottos are formed, which have access information...
(lily) I noticed you placed location markers on google maps for these 5 caves... is it possible to take them off?

I never knew caving was big

I never knew caving was big up in New York. I will have to check it out.

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