This month I had the pleasure of joining the Minnesota Caving Club for my first caving experience. I’ve been interested in going caving since watching the film The Descent, right before all the cave-ins and death. It not only looked like a fun, new challenge, but would also be a different kind of hiking adventure.
Being a complete newbie to Caving, I was not sure what I’d need. I shot an e-mail to the club president who told me all I need to do is to dress in clothes I don’t mind getting dirty. Just to be safe, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to gather some helmets, gloves, headlights, and boots for our caving endeavor.
The club met pretty far south in Minnesota early in the morning. Since we were a good distance away from their meeting location we got up before dusk. Not being familiar with the southern part of Minnesota, we got a bit lost once or twice in the vast farmland that stretched for miles. We met up with John “The Cave-man”, president of the club. John guided us down a 2-hour trip towards Rochester where we traveled to a privately owned cave.We learned that we were traveling to several caves that day, all of which were owned by John. The club itself consisted of a number of outgoing experienced cavers all very friendly to talk to. We also found that most of the equipment we did buy was completely useless for the cave, but the club had more than enough gear to spare. We spent little time above ground before going on our under ground tour down the cave.
Now, when I thought of caving, I had a different sort of idea of what I’ll be getting into. My only experience in caving was being guided through a Tourist Attraction of a cold environment that was extremely well lit. This caving experience was a whole another level than that tourist attraction. Shortly after getting into the cave we found ourselves in a cool damp area that was a complete blackout only lit by out head lights. The pathway was not the familiar flat terrain, but a rocky area where each step had to be taken with precision and caution.
During our tour, our guides, Anna and Trish, talked to us about certain caving techniques and information about how the cave’s structure formed.We got to some of the more unique area of the cave shortly into the tour. I was grateful to have skipped out on the fatty foods all this time, because we ended up spending a good chunk of time crawling on our stomachs through thin crevices to reach hidden rooms. Some of these crevices definitely had to involve some shimming, flexibility, and a good chunk of upper body strength. Especially when some of the holes we crawled through lifted our legs completely off the ground.
Since it was Spring a few of the cave pathways were not taken because of flooding. However, this only opened up the opportunity to explore other structures that required a different kind of traversing to get through. The second half of our caving adventure was on the higher ground. This was definitely the time to learn if you’re afraid of heights since much of the exploration involved shoving ourselves in between cave walls 20 feet above the ground and carefully stepping our feet to find the ladder mounted between the rocks.
The entire adventure did not feel extremely physical, but the four of us, all young and fit, were sweaty and out of breath by the time we finished. After we settled for lunch we took above ground to explore the creek and smaller caves around the area. Unfortunately for us, my girlfriend and I had to cut it short due to a family emergency. Although, both of us agree that the entire experience was definitely a memorable one, making it my top pick for the 1K Photo Challenge day of the month.