The Big Batcave Campout of 2015.  Temps high of 47 and a low of 27.  72 souls in that cave.  6 boys accepted Jesus and raised hands at the altar call. 

Skully Welcomes you to the Bat cave!

Click on a picture for a larger view!  Pictures found at end of text.

Video by James Gilpin from the Batcave 2015

The Batcave preparations started with a email of reserve us 3 spots in the cave in December.   3 weeks out we were granted permission to camp in the cave.  The week before.  Treasure chest prizes were purchased.  3 12 packs of candles were bandsawed into 4" candles for the candle light walk.  Gear was packed and paper work and food of all kinds were prepared.  All kinds of arrangements were made for men and boys to get rides and for the early crew on Friday for the work detail of cutting firewood and clearing the path to the cave.

Outpost represented:

Evangel Temple 1, Central 7, Grace Community 12, Morrisville 21, Life 360 11, Lebanon 2, Praise 2, Ozark 4, Oak Grove 11 and Dwight and his Grandson. This year Lord provided a great group to go down and clear the trail and cut firewood and bring it up to the face of the cave. 

Special thanks to

Mark Jones, Rob Batchman, Jimmy Winch, Ernie Moad, Robby Helfer, Joshua Pennekamp, James Evans, Garret and Zek and Phillip.  This group worked hard to cut down dead trees and haul them up to the cave entrance.  We also cleaned up the cave.  This year we found the trail to the cave well worn down.  The cave had at least 2 fire pits back in it and 2 large garbage sacks of trash was removed and the area was cleaned up.  Lots of broken glass.  Several green trees had been cut down and hacked at.  We cleaned it up and made preparations for the next 62 that would be coming in.

Going down early has it's advantages.  Your gear is setup in the light and you get the best spots and you get a chance to hang out around the fire or build a debris hut as Joshua Pennekamp did.  Nice job by the way.  James Evans sat up the Rappel Rope and we enjoyed several rappels by him and Garrett and Zeek. 

Commanders, dads, friends work together to get to the cave.  Lot's of preparations are made. It's bring your own, cook your own or go hungry.  We find our old clothes to wear on this one as your gear gets smoked up, mudded up and scratched up and it's all worth it. 

From 6 to 7:45 pm we had 62 campers hike up the 1/4 mile hike along the river.  The trail starts out in a field.  Cross a barbed wire fence.  Then up and down a river bank and then a stroll down along the Osage Fork River.  It's awesome.  Then at the cave entrance you find a candle on top of a skully welcoming the group to the bat cave.  Extra welcome was a HUGE American Flag right over the path thanks to Ernie Moad. 

At 8:00 pm the call went out for the evening council fire.  It takes 72 people a while to congregate at the face of the cave.  We handed out one candle to each person and then had Brian a Pastor from Morrisville light the first candle and then all were light from his candles flame.   We did the normal cave talk.  Rules, History, Facts about caves, Biblical uses and then all were instructed to head to the back of the cave to be reverent and to be thinking on things they were thankful for. 

In the back room of the cave 800 feet back before it goes up into the upper rooms we have a nice room back there that will fit about 100 people.  We line the walls of the cave with our candles prepared for the council service.  Rob Batchman brought the service with a story of a Father and 2 sons that went caving and how they got stuck in the back of that cave for about 4 days with no light.  He was telling the story at the point of when the last carbide light went out for the father and his two sons... and then started talking about Paul and Silas being in stocks singing praise to God.  Rob had gotten a big wooden stock that had been used at Sight and Sound Theater and we smuggled it to the back of the cave and in the dark.  Ernie Moad helped me get those foot stocks over my ankles in the dark... HA!  That was funny trying to sneak in the dark and put on those stocks. 

Rob told of the Jailer who was about to take his own life when Paul and Silas stopped him and told him they were all still there.  The Jailer and his family were saved.  Rob tied it in and the candles were relight showing Commander Jones in stocks and how believing in Jesus can set you free. 

Commander Jones shared a short devotion about a wooden cedar cross that was made from culled wood how he had been impressed to make one for each person in the batcave.  The wooden cedar cross stood for Jesus sacrifice on the cross.  The 21" long crimson cord stood for the shed blood of Jesus and the length of that cord being divided by 7 God's number made 3 for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The hole in the top where the cord went through was to remind each of us that there is a hole in our heads and sometimes we loose sight of Jesus and get off on our own self.  Our own desire. Our own flesh.  Yet grab onto that crimson cord and pull yourself back to the Cross of Christ and Stop there as in that is the Power not only for Salvation but also for a more than overcoming life as the HOLY Spirit has the legal right to help us over come...not in our own efforts but by the help of the Creator of the Universe. 

Pastor Brian lead us in a closing prayer and during this alter time we saw 6 boys raise their hands for salvation.

Then all night long... tromp, tromp, tromp to the fire and then tromp, tromp, tromp to the back of the cave.  Several stayed up all night long.  I lost my ear plugs some where in the middle of the night. But soon dozed off to sleep.  All night long I was troubled by a aching pain in my knee... youngtimers is starting to get me.  A couple of times I was up taking Advil to num the pain.  I thank God for Doctors and medicines to help times like these.

Saturday morning came.   7:00 am a group of 20 was around the fire enjoying the hot heat from those Oak logs.  Yup I had to pile on about 10 more.  Dwight Cooper had taken me to this cave some 20 years ago and was once again camping with us.  He took my wild stack of logs on the fire and told the old Indian story of a teepee  logs standing tall with no smoke make hot fire.  I grinned at him knowing he was speaking truth and was glad he was doing it and I didn't have to.. I was winded just throwing on the 10 logs....GRIN!  God uses all of us to make it better. 

9:00 am morning devotion.  Rob finished his story from last night and told the outcome of the Father and his two sons and how they came out of it alive.  The boys had hunted golden treasure chests all night and the morning.   When they found the 7 chests they brought them to me and we recorded their name in them and at devotion they got to pick a prize out of the big treasure chest.  This time the boys found a treasure chest called GRACE.  This allowed them to pick a friend as well to pick from the treasure chest.   They loved the metal matches, flashlights, Key knives and more.  The chests were open and we had one young man read the scrolls that lead one through the ABC's of salvation.  The treasure map shows the real treasure to be in your heart when you accept Jesus and keep your faith in him there. 

After devotion they rappelled time and time again.  Even Obama came to the cave.  We tried to lead him to Christ but the verdict is still out on that one.  He even rappelled. 

11:30 am we backpacked out.  James Evans and the Ozark group stayed and played and did the cave clean up.  Thanks James. 

Joshua Pennekamps Debris Hut

We all need leaders.

73 crosses Made from Cull stock

16 feet of crosses!

Skully was part of Obamas first elective group.

Rangers are Patriots!

A light for Obama Care!

Were Talking firewood here!

Jimmy and Ernie haming it up.

What a fantastic place to visit

Yup Campfire Shrimp!

Brothers united by Christ!

Yum Fried Chicken on the Campfire

Kasie part of the Mission!

Report by Joshua Pennekamp from his Facebook Page.  Great report Joshua!

This weekend I was forced to take a break from backpacking. Nothing had been planned. So, this weekend was as typical as a typical weekend without backpacking could typically be. I went cross country skiing, attended a pine wood derby race, organized desperate and neglected camping gear, went to a basket ball game, did some statistics homework, practiced the mando; my guitar; and harmonica, sat next to and had lunch at the Tower Club with Sen. Bob Dixon, and met the Canadian Consul General Dr. Roy Norton. I also finally had time to write. Actually, I finished up a previously started piece, to be precise, from a few weekends ago, concerning a camping trip to “The Big Bat Cave.” (It's a bit long, but here it goes.)

What Did You Do This Weekend?

Weekends seem to become more and more evanescent these days. People slave at their tasks all week, with the hope of the most welcomed Fridays propelling them forward. The weekend is an elusive creature. It vanishes in the blink of an eye, and then is swallowed by the most dreaded and abominable “Monday.” These seem to last for eons upon eons, dealing us to question ourselves: how does one seize the weekend?

This weekend I decided, to make the most of these precious times, to go camping... with seventy other guys... (and one stray dog)... in a cave. It all started Friday morning. I had not yet had a chance to make proper preparations, so all I brought along was a large bag of food in the boot of my car on the way to my Humanities class. I made my way from class to my vehicle as fast as possible and drove to the Central Assembly Royal Ranger Annex a few blocks down to meet Mark Jones and the other guys. In the parking lot I pulled open the rear hatch to reveal the contents of the trunk. Where most teenagers and college-aged dudes have a large boom box taking up valuable real-estate in the back, Joshua Pennekamp has something entirely different: his Emergency Camping Equipment (ECE), for no one can quite possibly know when an unexpected adventure might suddenly happen! Or realize one late hour before slumber that you have not packed for the camping trip the next day and have had absolutely no time the whole week to do so, due to other minor responsibilities.

The ECE was quickly procured, and scattered all over the pavement. Now to organize. The following was quite interesting and collected many eyes from by-standers and passers by, for it seemed to resemble a panicked squirrel feeling the first snow-flake falling in winter. The thoughts ranged from “No, this is definitely not needed.” to “WOW! I haven't seen this in months! I can't believe I found it!” and “This is a highly advisable piece. I should need this, yes. I take it.” By the end of the packing and the mad dash of stashing odds and ends back into the trunk, and helping my mother (who was loving and kind enough to pick up my car and drive it home) start the '93 Volvo 940 Turbo “classic” “restoration” car, my gear was loaded in the back of Mark's pick-up, as he was calling for me to get in so we could depart.

The ride in the country was a pleasant one, with rolling hills, and rustic farms, and a bout of travel sickness. We came to the farm land where we were to camp. We locked the gate behind us to keep the cows in and posted a sign for all Rangers to follow. We parked the truck, grabbed our gear and walked down the dirt path to the cave. The cave had an entrance shaped like a large-mouth bass, with only one open gill (it had a large overhang, and side entrance). This is where large farm equipment used to be stored for dry keeping. Now it was home to a half dozen hibernating bats.

Since this was a migratory cave, and the end of January, all the seasonal bats were gone. What were left were deep piles of... we will have to let the imagination do it justice. Count your blessings, those are the remains of who knows how many tons of annoying insects. Surprisingly, even a bit unnerving to some, were the camping stuffs of other people in a corner. No one came back for it the whole time we were there, so we assumed it was the owner's son and his friends' things.

The first of us came up to collect firewood. The duet of singing chainsaws filled the air, as the rest of us carried the wood up to the cave. We picked all the trash, tidying up the area as good Rangers should! Always leave a place better than you find it!

Inspired by patriotism, Ernie posted the colors from two trees standing guard at the entrance to the cave, while James and his friends set up the rappel rope on top of the cave. As I looked around, I knew I had not much to do. I could be content, set up my tarp and sleeping bag, and sit lazily by the fire... or, do something. I unpacked my tarp. Then it was noticed. There was no way of tying off my shelter! I had no rope. Not enough at least, only a short hank.

This would make my weekend. I had three hours-or-so to build a shelter. I chose to build a San Carlos Shack or Chippewa Shack (Beard, pg. 24), also known generally as a Wicki-Up, Hoop Shelter, or Debris Hut. These have been built for thousands of years by many peoples native to the Americas, from the sub-arctic areas, to the arid deserts. The principle idea behind the shelter stays the same: build a dome out of flexible saplings by bending them over, and weaving other sticks throughout to form an up-side-down, dome-shaped, basket-like structure, followed by thatching for waterproofing out of any material at hand: such as leaves, grass, or bark. The nice thing about this structure is, that it can be put up in a matter of hours, and using very few materials, so one does not have to cut down the entire forest.

I searched around to find a half-dozen flexible saplings, with approximately a thumb to two-thumb thickness, ten to fifteen feet tall. I took these from select areas in different locations as not to cause a patch of complete deforestation. Fortunately I had been smart enough to throw in my Ka-Bar BK9 (a heavy duty survival knife, with a nine-inch long, carbon-steel blade), making the task much simpler. A pocket knife would have done in this scenario, a chip of flint, or even breaking the saplings by hand. For the sake of time and neatness, the large blade was a welcome tool.

I began by trimming the ends of the saplings. Next, I cut the base and tip into points. These were then pushed into the soft earth near the water’s edge and bent over to form half of a hoop. I tested out the length by laying under the hoop. The fit was perfect. A second sapling was bent over the first to form a dome, and secured in the ground. No tying was necessary. This process was repeated a few more times, until the structure began to take shape. The left over trimmings of the saplings now came into play, which were woven criss-cross throughout the other pieces, forming a good, sturdy shell. No pieces of the saplings were wasted. Now that the shell was complete, it was finally time for thatching: the most time consuming task. Having the large tarp available to me, I put it to good use. Handful, after handful of leaves were placed on the tarp until it was completely full. It was then hauled over to the construction site where the covering was deposited on the building. This was repeated five to seven times until there was a few inch thick layer of debris on the hut, and no more light could be seen in the space, except for the small opening, which presented a marvelous, floor to ceiling view of the river.

Now for the decor. I went for the vintage rustic look for the interior. The space was furnished with an old wool blanket, which covered the bedding, a Swiss rucksack, for added ambiance, along with all of modern amenities, such as running water, and waterproof bedding. How so you say? A hydration bladder was installed on top before thatching, which was filled with three liters of fresh water, ready for drinking, and the sleeping arrangements had a s Gore-Tex sleeping bag cover, if any weather should trickle through. The only thing missing, as pointed out by Mark Jones, and Justin Fisher, was the bathroom. But surely, given enough time, all such things could be arranged!

The shelter was now ready. The sun was going down. This was not the end of a day. The fun had just begun. As night fell, we were all gathered around the fire. A hot fire. As we munched and crunched, which we do for most of the time while we are out- some even bring steaks, and shrimps, and fishes, and squirrels- but that is beside the point, as we munched and crunched on our delectable provisions we awaited the glow. The glow of lights moving through the trees, casting shadows of legs and feet on the trail, the feet of kids and young men, and young at heart.

The first drifters came in pairs, next double pairs, and baker's dozens, then they came in droves, and flocks, suddenly herds of children were running through the cave, crawling, climbing, and absorbing the mud! What a time! Over seventy people came!

At eight in the evening, everyone was handed a small candle. The fire light service was headed by Mark. We lit our candles, turned off our headlamps, and headed to a hind side of the cave. In the large room, filled with the flickering dances of tiny flames, and the attention of a multitude of large eyes, Rob gave an incredible story. At this moment in time, every candle was blown out. Pitch darkness surrounded us. The story was about three lost cave explorers, a father and two sons that lost their light in the darkest depth of a cave, who faced death. From there, he brought the importance of the life saving light of the gospel, and six boys gave their lives to the Lord. He explained by letting everyone light another person's candle and telling how we are lights in this world, and as we light our candle, we light other candles around us until this world is not as dark as it was before.

From the serious atmosphere, the mood merged back into the fun of food and fellowship. Boys stomped and romped, men spoke and laughed, and the occasional burst of a fire cracker, or the riff of a harmonica, by yours truly, filled the space. It was dark. I was tired. It was time for my retreat. Off to the boughs and bed I went. Before crawling in for the night, the inner fire needed to be stoked. Two fun sized candy bars did the trick. A pair of hand warmers in the sleeping bag helped as well, as did the extra wool blanket. After a little struggle, military sleeping bags can be difficult at times, everything was zipped up for the night. Now if only earplugs would have found their way into the backpack, and later into the ear canals, the night would have been more restful; however, there still was found amusement in listening to the friends over yonder, the popping fire, and even in the rambunctious, rowdy crowd of weekend, mother-freed boys in their cave explorations. They pressed on for as long as they could bear, but at one in the morning, not even their inconceivable, beastly, childhood energy could keep them up.

The scene was silent. The moon, softened by midnight clouds, seemed to emulate off the tamed river's face. It gathered itself, then spread wide, to paint the faint, whimsy shadows of the pleasant surrounding chaparral. This is and would be home for the night, beside the river, near the cave. I then dozed into slumber.

The next morning the rustling of a restless dog awakened me. It had been at-least the one trillionth inspection of his. What a happy one he was. The sun was up, the clouds were likewise, it was time for me to follow suit. Up by the fire there was bacon, sausage and donuts galore, so much food as never seen before. Why did I even pack a breakfast when it was already broken so quickly by people sharing, and when one could be filled on the rich scraps of all the others? My sunrise friend knew this sure! His tail shook with excitement! Everyone took nicely to our affable guest, never did he bark, bite, or scowl. He was kind enough to even take a bath for us twice while we were there, a kind gesture, but not too for the olfactory senses.

After the morning meal, actually there was no clear progression between it and lunch, we had our morning devotion. Everyone was gathered round, paying close attention to what was going on. Prizes were involved! Who would not be on the edge of their seats! Many small chests were hidden throughout the cave while we attended, hoping to be found by curious treasure hunters. They were all located, even one from a previous year, and all the finders got a prize! These included, but were not limited too, ferrocerium fire lighter strikers, fancy magnifying glasses, and other cool boyish gadgets. Then the story of the lost boys and father were summarized, and another small devotion given. After this, we were free to do whatever.

Quite a few people were interested in the hoop shelter and came by for a visit. At one point sleet and rain started to pour down, a chance to test the waterproofing qualities of the structure. I crawled inside with a nice book, watching the rain drops fall. It was very comfortable in the shelter, not a drop of moisture was in sight; however, other things did drop from the ceiling. Small spiders, like ninjas, escaping the onslaught of precipitation, speedily rappelled from the dome, down to the safe ground. The short flame from my lighter took care of those pests. It was as if “Space Invaders” had been brought to life!

The rain drizzled on and off, but the shelter stayed dry. A thing like this could save your life some day! Hypothermia is a force to be reckoned with. Don't mess with it.
Sadly, all things must eventually come to an end. The food was gone, the people were gone, and the energy to continue was gone. So we decamped. Our stray gregarious friend was sad to see us go. The party was over. It was time to go home, and this is how I seized my weekend, building fond memories with life-time friends.

Now go. Go out there and seize your weekend! If you have had enough time to waste reading this, and anything else you can find on the interwebs, surely you have enough time to go for a walk, ride in the park, or engage in your very own interests thereby finding your own adventures! It is crucial for everyone’s well-being to go. What are you waiting for? For most you sit all day behind these screens and keys at work, why would you want to be at home doing the same? Make a plan and seize your weekend!

-Joshua Pennekamp
March 1, 2015


Beard, Daniel Carter., and Daniel Carter Beard. Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004. Print.