Since the kids are in camp and I have more time to write, I’ll tell you about the time I went spelunking and almost died.
By the way, if you saw my post two days ago about Me Versus the Mourning Doves, you may not have seen the update I posted yesterday. After I wrote that post the wind got really bad and knocked the hanging plant off the wall, so I went out and put it upright on our brick walk. I went out to water my garden the next morning and found a freaking rabbit chewing on the petunias in the hanging basket! Gah!!! I can’t win. Josiah said, “nature always win.”
So onto spelunking and my near-death experience. During college and after I graduated, I dated this guy who liked the outdoors and adventure and crap. I’m not opposed to any of that, but I’m not a natural thrill-seeker. But I am competitive, so if someone challenges me, it’s hard for me to back down. Unless it’s something like riding a roller coaster. Forget that, I’m not getting on a stupid roller coaster and dying of a heart attack on the first hill.
Anyway, this guy and I used to mountain bike and camp and white water raft and it was fun. I enjoyed it for the most part and liked being an “outdoorsy girl” for a change. He lived in Ohio and I lived in Virginia at the time. We met in Ohiopyle, PA, about halfway between us, every three weeks or so. We camped and did all the outdoors stuff. One time, his brother came along, who was even more of a thrill-seeker than my boyfriend. He wanted to try spelunking. Spelunking is the same as caving. You go in a cave and crawl around and get dirty and stuff.
Well, back in the early 90s the cave where we went didn’t have guided tours like they do today. They gave you a map of the caves and set you free. Go left at the giant rock. Follow the path for about 30 feet then squeeze through the crack to the other side. Seriously? We followed the map, trying to match the landmarks on the map to what we saw in front of us. It wasn’t easy.
We were dressed in old, yucky clothes because we were going to get dirty. We had hiking boots, backpacks, helmets and flashlights attached to our heads. It was the real deal, people. We walked through water and mud. It was pitch black. We turned off our headlamps at one point and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. If those lamps died we were screwed.
We had a picnic in the cave. Sat right down and ate our lunch. After lunch we tried finding some cool area on the map. I don’t remember what it was called because it was over 20 years ago. But it must have been really cool because not only were we crossing crevices that were 15-feet deep, but we got to a point where we had to lay down on the ground, remove our backpacks and squeeze between boulders. It was like being in a MRI, except we were sandwiched between two giant rocks, so really more like a giant panini grill.
We pushed our backpacks through the crack ahead of us because the space was too narrow to fit. The space got narrower and narrower and when we realized that our helmets were too large to fit through the panini crack, we figured we must have made a wrong turn and should go back. I was a little panicky because I was preparing myself to become a human panini sandwich, but my sense of girl power was not going to give in to my fear.
We turned around and realized that we couldn’t exactly find where we were on the map. Holy crap, we were lost! We were going to die in this cave. Our lights would give out and nobody would find us and then we’d get hypothermia and die in this 52-degree cave! I knew it!
As we looked at the map I noticed that my light was getting dimmer. My headlamp was dying. I was going to die!
Then I really started to panic. I could handle the getting dirty, walking through mud, jumping over crevices that could result in a broken limb or worse, and shimmying through a panini grill, but my headlamp going out? No. I started hyperventilating and crying a little. Where was my girl power?! My boyfriend and his brother tried to tell me it was okay, but that wasn’t much comfort. My freaking light source was going out! So they tried even harder to figure out where we were.
Somehow, by the grace of God, they figured out where we were and got us on a path toward the exit. By then my headlamp was so dim that I had to hold onto my boyfriend to make sure I didn’t step into some crevice that would my end my life. After about 30 minutes, we made it to the exit (a whole in the side of a hill) and walked out. The sun hurt my eyes. We were alive!
At that point I decided that my adventures in spelunking were done. Once is enough.
A few years after my spelunking adventure, I had to get an MRI. They rolled me into that tube and I started panicking. Get me out of this thing. Get me out, now! I don’t know if it had something to do with my spelunking experience or just an unrealized bout with claustrophobia. But I didn’t want any part of it. Since then I’ve always had an open MRI. I still don’t like them, but they’re tolerable.
We’re going to Mammoth Cave next month. We’re doing the guided family tour, where it’s lit along the way and there’s little chance of me getting dirty or falling in a crack or being smashed to death like panini. At least I hope that’s the kind of tour we’re taking.
Have you ever been spelunking or gone into a cave?