Extreme Caving

Y’all, we did it again! Happy, happy Monday from a thrilled little blogger who spent part of Saturday and Sunday crawling around in the depths of the earth. I had such a fantastic time and I’m excited to be able to share our adventure with y’all. (I’m spending today at my adopted parent’s I’m dropping the “adopted” for the rest of this post house and the internet is slow so it took what felt like half of forever to upload these pictures, but me oh my, they’re worth it.) 
I went to my parent’s house on Wednesday of last week then Friday morning we traveled to the Creation Museum and had a wonderful time. I had so much fun getting to hang out with my friends who work there. I was especially glad to spend a couple of hours with my good friend, Susan, and her family. 
Early Saturday morning we loaded the car up and drove the five and a half hours to McMinnville, Tennessee to the Cumberland Caverns. This is the third summer in a row that we’ve taken a group of people there and it’s one of the events I look forward to most each year. We had around 130 people take part in the adventure which. 
When we got there we piled all of our backpacks and sleeping bags up and then I had a great time talking to people while Lynae (who was in charge of the trip) was taking care of registration. I especially had fun with Elizabeth and her dad, Chris. Their family has been friends with my parents for a long time but I hadn’t gotten to know Elizabeth until this trip. 

The past few years we’ve done the caving trip a couple of weeks earlier in the year and it’s been really hot outside. This year I did’t feel a huge temperature change when I walked into the cave, except of course because of the lack of sunshine. 
Stepping into the cave is truly like dropping into another world. I tried to keep my gushing at bay, but I kept telling Lynae that I wanted to hug the cave. It’s beautiful. Detailed. Awesome. When I spend time in a cave I’m reminded all over again about how amazing and creative God is. I can hardly grasp the fact that for all we know there can be caves like this under us and we don’t even know it. 

The Cumberland Caverns are huge. And when I say huge, I mean that it’s one of the largest caves in the USA. The place where Dad does his concerts can fit six hundred people. The place where we camp out can sleep four hundred people. There are miles and miles of underground passageways. At some places the ceiling towers more than a hundred feet above the floor. That, my friends, is huge. 

After a walking tour Dad did a concert for our group. It was a lot of fun because Dad let the audience pick the songs that he sang and he told a lot of cool stories that went along with his songs. The caving trip provides a friendly, almost family-ish feeling that I love.

After the concert we had supper and watched the Extreme Caving DVD (which was filmed mostly in the Cumberland Caverns) then it was time for the spelunking adventure. This is my favorite part of caving and I was excited to have Elizabeth as my spelunking pal. 
When we get down into the cave it narrows down and even though 68 of us went on the spelunking tour, most of the time I could only see two or three other people because the group spreads out and goes one-by-one because of how small it is. 

Elizabeth and I hung back so we could be at the very end of the group. We did that for several reasons, but the main ones being: 
1. I don’t like the idea of being surrounded by people while in tight spaces hundreds of feet underground
2. That way we could go at our own pace and we wouldn’t be holding anyone up
3. We got to be with the guide who stays in the very back and that way we could ask lots of questions 
4. I’ve been in the back every time I’ve done it and so I’m partial to that position 

 There were three guides with us. One at the front, one in the middle and one at the back. Andrea was the back guide and Elizabeth and I had so much fun talking with her and learning cool stuff about the cave that we wouldn’t have heard other wise.
This is a picture (below) of Andrea coming out of one of the belly crawling places. I’m not good with distances, but I’m guessing this was about fifteen feet long. And it’s not a straight stretch, either. To get through it you have to twist and turn and wiggle around rocks and use your feet to propel you forward. Plus, you’re going slightly uphill so you can’t see the end of the crawl space. It’s a little bit freaky.
Also, please note that Andrea is really small, so the tunnel is even tinier than it looks like from this picture. To this day I’m not sure how anyone bigger than me fits through these tunnels. But they do.

With crawl spaces like that ^ the spelunking goes really slowly because Elizabeth and I had to wait for 68 other people to go in front of us. Most of the time I didn’t mind waiting, but at other times I would be in a tight spaces when Elizabeth would stop walking and if I could I would back up, but other times it was best to just wait where I was. 
In the picture below I was waiting at this particular place for a couple of minutes and it was so tight I literally could not turn my head more than halfway. (If I took off my helmet I probably could have.) It was times like this that I would come up with a diversion tactic so I didn’t get claustrophobic. Hence the picture and also lots of fun conversations between Andrea, Elizabeth and me. 

I’m a tad bit confused with the names, but I’m pretty sure that this picture below is of the Lemon Squeeze. Andrea was gracious enough to stop for a moment for me to get this picture to show how small it is. Again, I’m not sure it does an adequate job. (For size reference: Look at her hand on the ground. She’s small so therefore her hands are small.) There’s one place that we went through that is only 11 inches tall.

At one part of the cave the ground is all bumpy and looks really cool. The last couple of times that we went though the cave the guides had everyone stop in this room and turn off their lights so people could see what complete darkness looks like. 
The group didn’t do that this time, but I told Andrea how much I liked that part so we waited until everyone else besides the three of us were far down the tunnel then we turned off our lights and experienced extreme darkness. It was crazy. 
I think I’ve worn this sweatshirt every time I’ve gone caving. I’m normally cold when we start out spelunking and then part way through I warm up, then a little bit after that I’m down right hot. I took my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist, but then when we would go through tight spots I had to untie it and carry it with me. 
When I hit one of the belly-crawling parts I accidentally dropped it and since I couldn’t reach back and grab it I had to pull it along with my feet which made me feel a little bit freaked out because it was such a tight space and my sweatshirt added bulk to the crawl space. 

Elizabeth is so sweet and since she’s pretty small she fit in the tight spots better than me and offered to carry my sweatshirt. At one point in time she warned me that it was going to get dirty. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to carry it that I told her “That’s fine, make it a game and try and get it as dirty as possible.” Next thing I knew she was polishing the rocks with it and truly did get it filthy. I was happy with anything as long as I didn’t have to carry it… 

The last two years after spelunking I’ve been disappointed that I hadn’t stopped to actually think about how far underground we were while in the middle of the adventure. The reason I hadn’t is because I was afraid I would get claustrophobic and freak out and that is not a good thing.
This time I felt like I could handle it, so I asked Andrea at one point how far down we were. She said she wasn’t sure, but probably about 400 feet. I let that thought soak in for a minute while looking at the rocks all around me and imaging the tight spots I had just come through and the tight spots I would be going through. Then I started feeling all hot and weird inside so I quickly stopped thinking about it again.
There was so much neat stuff to see underground. I especially liked all the neat rocks that looked like they were covered with glitter and the fossils.

After spelunking for about two hours Elizabeth announced that it felt like we had only been down there for 30 minutes and she wished that we could keep going and going. I told her I had felt the same exact way the first time I went on the adventure. I’m so glad that Elizabeth and I could do the spelunking together. It was so much fun!

After we were done spelunking I was so tired that I was happy to go to bed. I woke up multiple times during the night and I would open my eyes, stick my head out of my sleeping bag, catch a glimpse of the rocky ceiling in the dim light, smile at the adventure of it all and go back to sleep.

I’m so glad we got to go caving again and I really hope I can do it again next year. It is seriously one of my most favorite adventures that I’ve ever been a part of.

What about you? Have you ever been caving? Does it sound like fun to you? 
*These pictures were taken by my mom, Chris, Elizabeth, Andrea and me. Thanks everyone for letting me use them! 

3 thoughts on “Extreme Caving

  1. Rachel M. says:

    I don't consider myself to be very claustrophobic. I'm not afraid to be in elevators, or closets, or things of the sort. However, just the thought of squeezing through those tiny places hundreds of feet underground makes me want to start screaming. You know, it doesn't even have to be way far underground. My family went to this “scenic cave” site in our area, and one of the little cave you could go in used to be a natural refrigerator. Anyway, it got pretty narrow after just like, seven feet, with turns you had to go around, and I was like, “Nope! Nope, nope. Back up mom, we're exiting this cave.” XD

    Regardless, this looks like so much fun! I wish I WASN'T claustrophobic, so I could sign up. XD

    Like

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