OAC Blog: Island Ford Cave – Dec. 2018

January 7, 2019 Admin Account

“Be safe and have fun.”

That’s Little, Tamiya’s, advice for going on an underground adventure like the one the OAC took to Island Ford Cave in December.  

Since caves aren’t usually effected by precipitation and they stay a cool 55 degrees Fahrenheit all year long, they make the perfect spot for a late fall/early winter outing.  

There’s a few precautions adventurers should take when heading into a cave, and the OAC learned all about it:  You need “clothes you can get dirty in, helmet and a light” says Tamiya. 

You also need guides like Matt Allenbaugh and Susan Herndon-Powell who know the safe routes in and out of the cave, and a few other important emergency supplies like extra lights, water, food, and warm layers.  And, of course, you need someone at home who knows where you went.

The rest is pure adventure.

Crawling through passageways, climbing over creeks, and exploring an environment that feels like a totally different world. 

“The thing is, it is super amazing!  We got muddy…” James, a Little, grins.  “Like you can see on my pants – we went through a river.”

“I like that it was fun and challenging at the same time,” says Liberty, another Little. 

There’s a lot of good to be found doing something fun and challenging at the same time:

It gives kids something to do where they are not “inside on their phones or watching television… something to do besides being on technology,” Liberty tells us.

James believes it’s important to take kids into places like caves because it can “teach them about nature and how they make things in a different way.”  For example, “Erosion makes mountains and it makes mountains into caves, which bears need to hibernate.”

“We’ve seen markings in the cave… mag-na-tites, and magnabites… and… I keep calling them magnabites.”  James recalls.

“Stalactites and Stalagmites?” one of the leaders, Kat, helps. 

“Yeah! I saw a lot of things!”

“We’re all family” another Little, McKayla, says about their group after just their third outing together.  “They always treat you kindly and they don’t bully and they’re really sweet.”

To minimize impact on the cave and keep Littles with their Bigs, the group divided in half to take two trips into the Island Ford cave. 

Group 1:


Group 2:

The enthusiasm within the group continues to grow:  One of the leaders, Susan, says “I think it says something about the program that even though I might have missed this outing for other obligations I was still super excited when my plans changed and I was able to hang out with the kids for half of the day.  These kids are awesome.”  

After a full day of crawling, climbing, exploring, and adventure, the OAC is ready for their next big adventure!  Check back next month for a hike to a waterfall that is (finger’s crossed) frozen!

Happy Trails!



Follow along on the Outdoor Adventure Club Blog as we post an update following each outing.  

To catch more of the action, follow PLAY Roanoke on Instagram and keep an eye out for our monthly story takeovers. 

To participate in the conversation surrounding the OAC and outdoor mentorship in our community, join the Friends of the Roanoke Outdoor Adventure Club Facebook group!



For those hearing about the OAC for the first time, here’s a brief timeline of the how it came to be:

  • In 2017, Roanoke Outside in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) created the Outdoor Explorers Program for underserved youth aged 8-10.  The program pairs together each youth (referred to as a Little) with a Big Brother or Sister (referred to as a Big). It has been an awesome success and the OAC became the next logical step for serving youth aged 11-13.  
  • Then, Roanoke Parks and Recreation joined the partnership, and combined efforts to win grants for the program from Keen and The North Face ($5,000 and $8,000, respectively.)
  • On September 28 of this year, members of the OAC met for the first time in the Market Square for a free screening of An American Ascent, a film about the first All-African American team to hike Denali, North America’s tallest peak.  That night, they also met and ate dinner with Scott Briscoe, one of the mountaineers in the film. Fittingly, Mr. Briscoe was also a Little with BBBS in his youth.

By providing 12 months of outdoor adventures, one-on-one mentorship and support, as well as transportation, instruction, and proper gear, the OAC is eliminating all barriers to the outdoors for underrepresented youth in Roanoke.

The post OAC Blog: Island Ford Cave – Dec. 2018 appeared first on Roanoke Parks and Recreation.

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