Musings of a Cave Crawler

“Now let me at the truth which will refresh my broken mind”

Mumford and Sons

One of my favorite places on earth is pitch black, damp, muddy, cold, and a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. I can’t really explain why I love caves so much. I’ve always sought out small spaces- apparently smushing my tiny self in between the mattress and bars of my crib as a baby. But my love for cave probably also stems from the feelings of wonderment, awe, and curiosity that momentarily overwhelm me when I go underground.

For the past couple of summers, I’ve led caving trips for campers ~10-17yo. Adults put up an emotional barrier to “protect” themselves from the bad in the world with the unintentional side effect of “protecting” them from the good as well. Kids don’t have that shield. If they’re happy, sad, angry, awestruck- you generally know it. Seeing a camper go from scared of the cave to WOAHHH THE CEILING IS SO SPARKLY I CAN HEAR WATER DRIPPING WHAT’S DOWN THERE OMG THIS IS SO COOOOOOOOOOOOL; I deeply, truly love it because I feel that way too.

Shoe, me, and Ness. Post-caving trip last summer.

Going to Skyline Caverns was exactly what I needed after an exhausting week. Even though we weren’t crawling into muddy squeezes, I still felt overwhelmingly appreciative of mother nature’s beauty. Skyline Caverns were found in the 1930’s by Walter Amos, a geologist/ cave enthusiast. In addition to having three(!?!) underground rivers, the cave has anthodite formations. I’ve spent a good amount of time in caves and had NEVER seen these sea urchin-looking stalactites before. The best part- scientists have over 200 theories on how they form which means that the amazingness of nature has once again stumped our mortal brains.

Anthrodites

We spent this past week learning about captive breeding for endangered species and discussing the ethics behind ex-situ conservation. We’ll be continuing these engaging but draining conversations next week with questions such as: Should zoos exist? What role do they play in conservation? Should species welfare outweigh individual welfare? *In case you’re wondering, I vehemently support AZA Accredited zoos which are very different from the sketchy roadside things or even some larger zoos that don’t prioritize animal welfare, engagement, and in-situ (in the wild) conservation* These discussions are important to have. More heads are better than one, and when the planet we live on is at risk, it’s the obligation of all to fight for it. But to a highly sensitive and overly empathetic person like myself, it can be a lot.

That’s why I needed the cave. To remember the bigger picture of WHY conservation matters, WHAT am I trying to protect, and HOW astonishing our Earth is. I miss working with kids outside. It fills my soul, keeps me on my toes, and is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tense and fast-paced world.

Advice from a Cave: 

via a sign in the gift shop

  • Breath deep
  • Find beauty in unexpected places
  • Search inwards
  • See the “hole” picture
  • Good things take time
  • Look beneath the surface
  • Hang tight

One of the underground streams in the cave. This one used to have trout as part of a USFW study.

Flowstone. Formed (as the name implies) by water flowing and depositing minerals over thousands of years.

Hailey, me, and Julia in the deepest part of the cave- 250ft underground!

Revel in the dark so you can appreciate the light,

kira