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Insides caves

 For years I've wanted to go caving.
When I started working at The Grand Rapids Press,
I got to know the outdoors editor, because we worked together weekly.
We talked about camping, canoeing, caving, taking bike trips, hiking and more.

When he was organizing a caving trip, I wanted to go with him.
Unfortunately, it seemed like most of the caves in Michigan
were meant for experienced cavers ... spelunkers.
Well, O.K., maybe not experienced spelunkers,
but people who didn't have issues with clastophobia.

I have some issues with tight, enclosed spaces.
That may have been enough 
for our outdoors editor to leave me behind.

Today ... or rather this past Monday ... Mr. F and I had the opportunity to tour Mammoth Cave,
the world's longest cave to date. It has many passageways to explore for every level of experience.
We signed up for the two-hour tour with guide and 20 other people.

I was feeling the fear.
Even though we had eaten a full meal an hour prior,
I was feeling low-blood sugar.
I asked the woman we bought our tickets from,
if a person wanted to leave the cave in the middle of the tour
if she could.
I didn't want to go.
But I knew Mr. F wouldn't do the tour without me.

It was two hours ... but some of that was taken up by getting to the cave and coming back.
Hopefully, it was a long trip to the cave.
I had to chill out with deep breathing and buck up.

Our tour guide gave us several opportunities
to not go inside the cave, including the moment right before heading into the cave.
The bus was right there. A person could ride the bus back to the visitor's center.
She mentioned people with health problems, claustophobia, getting wet
should consider staying behind.

We would start out descending 14 flights of wet stairways.
Go through some passages where we would have to duck our heads.
Go through tight passages where we would have to maneuver through slowly.
The closer we were to the entrances of the cave, the wetter it was.
We would get lightly rained on. The paths were slippery in many areas.
I was low-blood sugaring and my anxiety level was rising.
I continued to calculate how much time we would be in the cave.
Continued taking slow deep breathes.
Thought about how silly I was being,
and realized I would be the only person to stay behind.
There were people much older and younger and out-of-shape than me.
I could do this. It was a tour for tourists, for God's sake.

I gave up that last chance to stay behind.
The beginning was easy. There were handrails. That helped.
The woman in front of me was kind enough to prepare those of us behind her
when we had to duck or the ground was slippery and it was too dark to see.

The further we got into the cave, the less anxious I became.
It was fun and beautiful.

When we reached the end of the cave, I was relieved, yet happy I had gone through it.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Good for you!!!!!
I'm really proud of you for conquering your fear long enough to have a cool experience!!!!!
That sounds like it was really cool. I've been to the Sea Lion caves down in Oregon, but this sounds much cooler.
Jan. 16th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Good for you!!!!!
Thank you, M!
Yes!! It was good to work through all that fear. It was well worth it.

I don't know anything about the Sea Lion caves in Oregon, so I can't compare.

Mammoth Cave is supposed to be the longest known cave ... in the US(?). It's great that people of all experience levels can go to it and enjoy it at whatever level they want.
Jan. 16th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)

im glad you got to go. i hope it was wonderful.

Jan. 16th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks, K. :)
It was a fun experience, once I settled into the situation. All that fear in advance was all for not!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )