Have you heard the term "spelunking?" I had heard the word before but it was new to me. Turns out I was spelunking without even knowing it! Spelunking is basically "hobby" caving. Well, this post is about just that and this article is about my first time going "spelunking" A.K.A. "caving" with my friends and husband.
This past weekend we decided to go a little deeper into a cave. In fact, the particular cave we chose happened to have seven miles of winding corridors to explore (of which we only went in about a quarter of a mile or so) as I am not experienced and wanted to keep it as safe and fun as possible!
Here's a picture of the entrance. I love how green the forest is this time of year. (Spring 2022).
See the rocks in the photo above? As you walk further into the cave the boulders get much more immense and create a mountain of jutted crumpled looking walls hiding smaller passages to other chambers and rooms. We walked into a few. It was like being in the catacombs under the Vatican (or so I imagined!). One can still get lost in what we did (and yes, we did for about 5 minutes). Definitely not for the faint of heart. Obviously, since you're reading this after the fact, then you know I made it out alive so you can relax and enjoy the read!
The walls and ceilings are very tall in most places and with our headlamps and friends, it is pretty fun and amazing as we could see all kinds of different colored rocks, large rock walls, strange carved ceilings, and sand mounds on the ground along the way. It's almost as if an ocean was once there.
The mounds of terrain filled with with flat, jagged, and smooth uneven rocks both large and small kept me pretty focused on looking down, but the slower I went the better I could soak in the surroundings. One of our friends actually found a passage way between the rocks underneath us and on the sides of where we were walking and often times we didn't even notice!
Here's a photo of my husband, "Dave in a cave!" That's me shining my headlamp in his direction to catch the shot.
If you look carefully behind David my husband (almost like you are looking straight past him), there's an arched rock opening leading to a path of another corridor. It's hard to capture it with only a headlamp and a cell phone light as I had to watch my footing so I wouldn't trip. There is no flat clear, or easy pathway so you have to focus a bit.
We went in about a quarter of a mile. Now that may not sound like much, but in the dark - it's plenty! We had to climb over large huge rocks using our full body, hands, and feet to pull us up! It was fun.
Here's a picture of our goal for the day- the waterfall inside the cave (with what we could capture with the light we had).The ceiling was high above the fall and disappeared into a cracked crevice like archway of darkness like something out of Lord of the Rings- certainly other-worldly indeed. I felt like I was in a mix of Saint Peters Grotto or somewhere ancient. I probably was! Who knows how long that cave has been there?
We got a little lost for a few minutes going into the rooms off the main corridor. Since the entire cave is filled with tall broken rock walls, we mistook our way back out for another spurious wall when in reality it was our route. We originally climbed down into an area with rooms before the water fall and once we went back and forth from the cavern rooms near the fall we got disoriented and looked back up and that "wall" was actually our way back out and we had forgotten that we had to climb back up and out. Eventually we figured it out and went on our way.
Once we were back on track, I realized how easily people could get lost in caves. It's dark, and everything looks the same. One can become disoriented quickly if panic sets in as caves and caverns are not straight paths. Cave passages undulate and curve, changing the floors' elevation and the ceilings into a pattern of jumbled sameness with stones upon stones, curves upon curves, and grey upon grey (rock and walls). You can't tell that a wall has space above it because of the grey and brown colors that blend into the shadows and ceiling. The walls and ceilings just fade into blackness out of sight. We overlooked it because the wall looked like it went to the top of the ceiling when in fact there were many many feet above it but you just couldn't tell from below.
I am a scuba diver and familiar with getting disoriented and the little tricks your mind plays on you. The same thing happens in deep water- you can't always tell how far you are from the surface and sometimes you can't tell which way is up or down. The important thing is to "stay calm" so you can think rationally and use your time to assess. One can not catastrophize, or one will lose it. Panic can mess up an already stressful situation fast and is not an option. Breathing and staying calm helps you think things through better and we were back on track in no time and had a great time, and after all- it was an adventure! Being with calm friends helped too. My friend Lori, made sure to remind me of things we had seen on the way in (a spray painted green turtle drawing) to help me feel relaxed and I appreciated her pointing that out.
Was it all worth it? ABSOLUTELY! It was a dream come true for me. Like I said, I do love an adventure! Plus you create memories with friends and loved ones that last a lifetime. I encourage those who want to do it to go but don't go alone and make sure you mark your way well so you can find your way back out. Take extra batteries or lamps too and do less not more- there's always another day to learn more after you familiarize yourself with the place.
Here's another photo below (I did not take the pics below), but they are in the same cave.
This last photo is stunning and must be from a different part of the cave system, but what a beautiful shot! I included a link to her website below. She sells gorgeous postcards of it too.
(Last Photo by Carol Erikson)
One thing you want to do when visiting humid or damp places is to be sure you have sunscreen and bug spray. The mosquitoes love that combination, especially if it's a hot day (they get thirsty!). We always pack our natural eco-friendly sunscreen and bug spray for hiking, spelunking, or anything outdoor-related. I suggest you do the same to truly enjoy the experience without catching a sunburn or a mosquito-borne illness. So, make sure you come prepared! You can order ME AND A TREE natural effective sun protection and mosquito repellant online here.
Thanks for coming along on this spelunking adventure with me, and Happy Spring-Summer Adventuring to you this year! Come back soon and see my latest adventures!