The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
page 06  [contents] (< prev) (next >)
 vol. 40. iss. 1, December 2005

This column focuses on the impact a cave, an outdoor experience, or picking up something new can have on the individual.
First 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 like this-
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 Cave. 

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

layer 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 this line of thinking to an end. I had promised myself I wouldn’t lose it.  

When we got to the Boy Scout 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 to mud as we belly-crawled along the edge of a steep drop.  Outside of 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 CCIC probably knows where we were going next.  I didn’t. You also probably know the joy of watching a newbie caver pop up out of a long crawl.  The wide eyes.  The quick breaths.  The quick words.  The jittering animal mind that lies under everyone’s surface.  That was still ahead. 

We started with a mostly upright crawl along a dusty tube.  Not bad.  At the end there was a small room about 3 ½ feet tall that felt like an auditorium.  Art was waiting 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 seen irony on the faces of Jerry and James Dixon (BGG), but it wasn’t.  I was managing mania and collecting and cherishing every datum that led me to believe I’d be ok.  Irony didn’t fit.