Thursday, September 27, 2018

2018 NSS Convention in Helena, Montana

 Part 4 of our big summer vacation. (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

The main reason we were in Montana was to attend the annual National Speleological Society (NSS) convention. It's in a different location each year. So far I've only made it to conventions in the West: Washington, California, Colorado, Nevada, and now Montana. I knew it would be a good time, and the kids couldn't wait to go after their fun experience at the Junior Speleological Society (JSS) two years ago in Ely.

We signed in and then went to the big campground and set up next to some friends. The first day, the kids learned about bear safety and practiced deploying bear spray.

I went and listened to a couple talks and met old friends to catch up. Then I went over to the vertical area and climbed 100 meters of rope in the vertical rope climbing section. I was slower than I used to be, but turned out to be the fastest in my age group (probably the only one!). The next day I climbed 30 meters and then helped the JSS with their vertical practice.

Several kids competed, and Desert Boy even got fastest for his age group, which made him very happy.

One event we all enjoyed a lot was Speleoolympics, a cave-themed obstacle course. They had gone to quite some effort to set it up, including cool banners. One of the challenges was walking a balance beam across a swimming pool. Here Desert Boy takes a plunge.

Desert Girl made it up the rock wall and is heading down the slide.

And somehow she lost her shoes during the course, but found them by the end.

I went with JSS as a chaperone to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. We started off by doing a service project, pulling mullein.

After lunch we went for a cave tour. The setting is beautiful.

It was a really fun cave tour. Much of the cave is vertical, but with the addition of lots of stairs, it's passable without any ropes. They've added a second entrance, so the tour is mostly downhill. There are lots of beautiful speleothems, like these rimstone dams.

One part of the tour required sitting down and sliding!

Our group posed for a photo in one of the rooms.

I was very impressed with the LED lights embedded in the handrails in the last section. They're going to upgrade all their handrails this winter.

The last room was filled with beautiful speleothems, some quite large.

Next it was time for gold panning. These kids sure had a lot of fun activities!

We received word that all three of us made it into the Speleoolympics finals. Desert Boy had fun hamming it up.

The kids also moved quickly through the course. Their small stature made it easier to get through and under obstacles--or over sometimes!

Here's Desert Boy making his grand finale on the slip and slide.

Desert Girl chose to have her friends join her. Three of them were chased by the "shark."

The "shark" part became especially apparent as they splashed into the pool. It's great seeing the next generation of cavers have so much fun!

Another JSS field trip was a boat ride. They really had a fantastic schedule. I went along for this too and the climbing gym.

On Friday night was the final banquet. The kids ate first and then headed out for a movie and bat talk.

That allowed us moms and friends to party it up!
Such a fun week! My photos were few and far in between so don't really do it justice. But if you like caves, this is a great event to go to, with lots of talks, workshops, cave trips, contests (art, photography, vertical climbing speleoolympics), parties, and more.

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