||[Dec. 15th, 2006|01:46 am]
Oh my god. I am so very very sore right now. My arms and shoulders are agony every time I move. My legs too, but not nearly as badly. I'm sure you're wondering why. Well, I've taken up a new sport, caving. I went on my first trip last night, to a cave in Antioch called Swirl Canyon Cave. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that it would be a nice, pretty easy cave. Um..no.
We met at the Shoney's at Hickory Hollow mall. I started to get worried when I was asked about the need for kneepads and was told that we had to crawl about 100 ft to even get into the cave. Yay. So we get to the cave and park in a field nearby. Everybody geared up and then a short hike into the ravine where the cave was. Some trouble with getting the gate opened but we finally got in there. The initial crawl was a bit rough. There was a bit of water flowing through so I had to be careful crawling, trying to avoid getting too wet. Once we got past that point, we were all able to stand up.
As there were about a dozen of us on this trip, we decided to split up. A few of the guys wanted to go one way, our trip leader had planned to go the other. Since there were so many, we split up. I went with the leader. One thing about this cave, it was very much a wet cave. There was a small stream that ran all through it. At first I tried to avoid getting into the water, I was wearing tennis shoes after all, with some success. But it quickly became obvious that if I wanted to go through this cave I was just going to have to bit the bullet and get my feet wet. So I did. The water was cold, but not as much so as I had really expected, and it was warmer than I think a stream on the surface would have been at this time of year. Plus my shoes acted as a sort of wetsuit to help keep my feet warm too.
The cave was fairly tight. I can see how it got the name Swirl Canyon, though. Much of the area we walked through was narrow, maybe a couple of feet wide for the most part, and went up 10 or 15 feet, often spreading out somewhat well above our heads. Not all of it was that way, of course, not even necessarily a majority, but a largish percentage, yeah. There weren't really too many little side passages that we could really access so getting lost wasn't too much of a concern. Well, that and most members of the group had been in there before.
Some ways into the cave, we came to a room with a large pool, maybe 15 feet across and an unknown depth. There was a smallish waterfall running down one wall into the pool. The cave continued beyond the pool but it was a few feet higher on that side and to get there we had to belly crawl along a ledge that went around the pool and was maybe 15 inches high. To make matters worse it was muddy and slippery and sloped slightly towards said pool. Got around that without incident and we continued on. Just past the pool, there was a branch in the path. The larger path went off to the right and going ahead straight it got somewhat smaller. We went right. A lot of crawling and climbing later we finally decided to turn back, even though we could still continue. Those with more experience weren't certain we were on the right path. We were going to take the other path at the waterfall but on our way back we ran into members of the other group. Turns out they had already been down the other path and it dead ended after a couple hundred feet. So it HAD to be the way we were going.
About face again and back the way we came. Amazingly, we didn't manage to follow the same path we took previously but still got there, though there was a little consternation when we didn't recognize landmarks we had passed the first time. Eventually we got back there and a few hundred feet past where we had turned back we started to encounter some really nice formations. Until this point, they had been VERY limited, an occasional stalactite/stalagmite or more commonly a soda straw. When we finally made it to the last room, the formations were incredible. Unfortunately I couldn't get all the way in to the area because of the limited amount of room and all the people ahead of me. But what I could see was just...wow! It made all the crawling over rocks and through the mud worth it. I really wish I had a camera to get some pictures, but at least one person did so I will try to post up a few if I can. I've decided that if I'm going to continue in this sport I'm going to have to purchase myself an inexpensive, decent quality digital camera to take with me to document these trips. One other site in the cave that was truly gorgeous is what I have dubbed the observatory room. It is a small room where the ceiling is covered with minerals, gypsum maybe. The minerals are very sparkly and if you're not shining your light directly on them, the spill from the beam causes them to glitter wildly. It looks like the ceiling is covered with tiny little stars. I don't even know if you could capture an image like that with a camera properly.
I did have one scary moment. On the way back around the waterfall on our way back, I almost fell. I had about reached the far side when I slid towards the ledge. I managed to reach out and catch myself on an outcropping before I went over but strained my shoulder in the process. And then I made it worse by trying to push myself back to regain my position. I didn't fall, but I sure paid for it. In hindsight, I probably would have been better to just slide my legs on down ahead of me and dropped into the pool. It was not very deep at that point, I just didn't want to go back out of the cave into the cold night air with my pants all wet. Or any more than I was already at least. Plus, well, I didn't think about it. When you're sliding uncontrolled towards a precipice, even one that's not even 10 ft high, deliberately dropping off is sort of the last thing to go through your mind. So, yeah, that's part of why I'm so sore. I can barely lift my right arm without a jolt of pain. :-(