Experientia! This column focuses
on the impact a cave, an outdoor experience, or picking up something
new can have on the individual.
Time Underground (Summer 2004) Russell Hobart (BGG, editor)
The easiest way to get
someone to do something is to lie to them. So it’s not unusual
that my first caving trip began with a series of lies, weaved by my
good friend, Art Cammers (BGG).
They went something
1- "We'll just head
down to GSP so you can get to know everyone. We won't cave"
2- "Maybe you should
bring some warm clothes just in case we go into the GSP"
And finally the most
devious lie of all. . .
3- "No. There aren't
any tight spots"
Next thing I knew I
was at the end of a gravel road where a few cavers patch-worked some
gear together so I could accompany them into Crooked Creek Icy
When I think
about caves now I often consider presentation (the impression the cave
leaves on you when you get there). On that bright, humid
day, CCIC’s presentation was awe-inspiring. It exhaled a cold fog from
its under bite. We waited at the mouth a few moments, watching
it. It seemed odd that someone would look at this thing, so rich
with signs of foreboding (the lifeless grey rock, the cold, the dark,
the fog) and with no good reason, enter it.
So with no good
reason we clicked our lights, ducked our heads and were in. We took the
keyhole path and made our way by propping up with our hands and
swinging our legs, using them to sidle a crevice. Looking down into the
crevice I could see hints of
after layer of rounded stone. At times, the layers seemed
tantalizingly accessible as the space widened from something that could
fit an arm or leg to enough space for your whole body. Maybe. Then the
crack would close in again. A spasm of claustrophobia welled up in my
mind. What would happen if I slipped in? Quickly I forced
of thinking to an end. I had promised myself I wouldn’t lose
When we got
to the Boy
ladder the space opened up into a reassuringly large room. Now,
looking back I realize I was being given a cave sampler, small pieces
of what it means to cave. The next piece in the box introduced me
mud as we belly-crawled along the edge of a steep drop. Outside
combat veterans, cavers and pigs, no one else knows the joy of tucking
deeply into mud for safety. Relying on the viscosity of the beautiful
mud, I remained attached to my path.
Anyone who has been in
probably knows where we were going next. I didn’t. You also
know the joy of watching a newbie caver pop up out of a long
The wide eyes. The quick breaths. The quick words.
animal mind that lies under everyone’s surface. That was still
crawl along a dusty tube. Not bad. At the end there was a
about 3 ½ feet tall that felt like an auditorium. Art was
there and confirmed my hopes. “It doesn’t get any tighter than that,”
he told me. Perhaps if my mind were more settled, I could have
irony on the faces of Jerry and James Dixon (BGG), but it wasn’t.
was managing mania and collecting and cherishing every datum that led
me to believe I’d be ok. Irony didn’t fit.