8 Steps to the Perfect Caving Adventure

When you’re going caving, the first thing to do is find proper clothing to wear. In my case, that involved borrowing a pair of overalls from my brother-in-law, pairing them with knee-pads, and stuffing leather gloves into my pocket. Add a snug-fitting helmet, a headlight that works well, and old shoes and you’re all set. (Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the advice of old shoes, which y’all will hear about later.)

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Next, you find a group of fellow adventurous people, meet up with a brave guide, slide through a box to make sure you’ll fit through the tight places, then line up, number off, and begin your exploration.

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Actually, exploration might be a misnomer, because I’m fairly certain that I never want to squeeze through places 300 feet underground if said places haven’t already been thoroughly explored. I’ll let other people blaze the trail, then follow along quite contentedly, thank you.

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After you set off down the path you need to remember two things:
1) Right is always right – or at least that’s the case in the particular cave we were visiting. If we were ever separated from the group we just needed to keep going to the right and we’d be fine.
2) Don’t get separated from the group. Just, don’t.

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And, well, one more thing to remember: Don’t think about where you are or what you’re doing. Seriously. There’s nothing like belly-crawling, side-scooting, and clawing your way through a space barely big enough to fit your body through to induce panic. Especially when you consider that you’re hundreds of feet underground with solid rock on all sides. So, you just don’t think about it. Instead, you go into performance mode and get it done. (And have slightly blurry pictures to show for it since the adrenaline causes shaking.)

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Also, it helps if you choose a guide who’s bigger than you so that when your clothes get stuck on the jagged rocks while you’re belly-crawling you can calmly (haha) remind yourself that someone bigger than you just got through and all you need to do is back up a few inches and free yourself. See? No biggie.

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Also, try and remember that caving in the Spring is different than in the summer, and you’ll probably be going through water and a lot of mud. Hence the reminder to bring old shoes – or be prepared to buy new ones. Especially if you work in the food industry where shoes are a must and mud is looked at askance.

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And of course, conclude your spelunking adventure with a steep muddy hill to slide down, and a sleeping bag to burrow your muddy-self into. Because, sleeping in a dark cave – right after facing all your fears and crawling deep underground – is a very logical thing to do.

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And that’s it for today, folks!

Currently
Setting: Home!
Listening to: The beauty of nothing 
Question of the Day: Have you ever slept in a cave? 

Busting Fear {Aka, Belly-Crawling}

One of my favorite things that I’ve ever done is going caving. I did it for three years in a row and posted about it each time in total excitement. (You can see the posts here: caving in 2013caving in 2014, and caving in 2015.)

And then we didn’t go caving for a while. I missed it a lot and hoped we’d begin doing the adventures again, so when my adopted mom informed me that another caving trip was being planned, I right away worked it into my schedule.

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Today I’m heading with my adopted parents to the Creation Museum where we’ll stay at their RV there so we can get an early start to the Cumberland Caverns in TN the next day.

I’m not sure when I’ve ever been so freaked out about something that I know will be a good experience. Like, seriously. Somehow the passage of a few years is making me wonder if I’ll even fit through the crazy-small holes, crevices, and tunnels in the cave any more.

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Some friends asked me if I’m excited about caving…and I am. I’m just more freaked out currently than excited. There are so many things I could worry about, so many things I could imagine going wrong, and so many easy ways to back out of the “extreme” caving part of the adventure. (I mean, come on, we’re also doing a walk-through tour, my adopted dad is doing a concert 300ish feet underground, and we’re all going to camp out. It will be a spectacular time. I could easily back out of the belly-crawling part.)

And yet, I’m totally planning on going the whole nine yards, belly-crawling and wedging myself into tight places included. I’m doing this for several reasons, including the fact that I’m not letting irrational fear keep me from great experiences. I mean, I know that people bigger than me fit through the tight spaces, so there’s no reason that I shouldn’t. Then there’s also that whole stepping-outside-my-comfort-zone deal, where I push and prod my comfort zone walls to new dimensions by doing things that freak me out. And plus, “extreme” caving was literally one of the highlights of all three years I did it. Maybe it will be a highlight of 2019, too?

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Currently
Setting: At my adopted parent’s house
Listening to: Dad play the mandolin 
Question of the Day: Have you ever gone caving in a place small enough you need to belly-crawl?