The Joys of Spelunking: Descending in the Fascinating Underworld of Mother Earth
Caving with my 12 Year Old Son: The Joys of Spelunking
This weekend I took my son spelunking at the Maquoteka Caves in Iowa. Although I now feel like the grandmother of two that I am, I did manage to keep up with him and we had a great time.
Caving is definitely not a walk in the park. It takes an incredible amount of strength and endurance and it can be extremely dangerous. Armed with the correct equipment, taking your time and being careful, caving can be a totally enjoyable experience.
In the company of bats, slipping and sliding on the slimy mud, carefully crawling over holes in the ground you would never know existed...all the while hanging on to my glasses, flashlight and camera.
This lens is about our one day vacation that left us both feeling closer, happier, and less stressed out. We both agreed we should do it again, and again.
also known as caving, is the recreational sport of exploring caves.
Spelunking is a Muddy Sport
If you are afraid of getting dirty, Spelunking is NOT for you. You have to be willing to crawl on your belly sometimes to get through the caves, and in smaller caves you won't be able to stand up. So if you have back problems, it probably isn't the best sport for you. Although I do, and managed to get through it by taking my time and resting frequently.
For some reason, all the caves I have ever been in have been muddy. Not just a little muddy, but downright slippery, muddy. You need to have sturdy shoes, a good flashlight (the kind on your forehead is the best), sometimes rope is needed, and although we didn't use hard hats, I can see why some people do. I managed to crack my head against a few rocks, but hey, it's all in a day's adventure.
Inside Looking Up and Out
Great Books about Spelunking
Caving in Action
Outside Looking In
Spelunking is Risky Business
I recently found out that spelunking is considered by some to be an extreme sport. In a sense I can understand why. It is completely dark, you don't know what you may run into, like bats or stalagmites, it can be very cold (although I was sweating my ass off so i welcomes the cold atmosphere), and if you are not in shape you can tire out quickly and easily.
Some of the main risks of caving include hypothermia, falling, flooding, and physical exhaustion. The main thing in staying safe is knowing your abilities, being prepared with the correct clothing and accessories, and checking in advance for underground flooding. The main cave we went into yesterday has a stream going through it which you have to walk through.
Equipment and Gear
When you go caving, you should be prepared to wear the right gear. I guarantee you will get banged up and bruised a bit, even if you are an experienced speelunker. It is the nature of the beast. But, here are some of the recommended items needed for safe spelunking:
1. A hard hat with a light source attached to it (Trust me. lugging a handheld flashlight, wearing a backpack, and trying to shoot photos was a crazy endeavor. But we only had one head light so I let my son use it.)
2. A secondary light source in case of light failure. So, the hand held flashlights are handy for this purpose.
3. Boots. Hiking style boots in drier caves and rubber boots with waterproof socks in wetter caves. Would have been nicer had we thought about this ahead of time, but I did pack some dry socks for my son before we left and stuck them in his backpack. He was very grateful at the end of the adventure.
4. Knee pads. OMG, I will definitely wear knee pads next time. I don't know why I didn't this time. Guess I wasn't thinking. As a result, I have some really nice bruises.
5. Elbow pads would have been nice too. We had a lot of crawling to do.
6. Long pants or some sort of waterproof oversuit. Next time I'll try the oversuit but a sturdy pair of jeans worked just fine for me.
7. First aid kit. You never know.
8. Boy, am I glad I wore gloves. I felt pretty smug about this.
9. Rope. Useful for rescues and just keeping together or repelling down cave walls. Brought it, but forgot it in the car. Good thing we didn't need it.
My son and I also packed a few things for survival. I try to teach my son to be prepared in case of an emergency, so that if survival were an issue he would know what to do. He was pretty darn prepared. He packed vienna sausages, beef jerky, apples, oranges, water, and a few other goodies. We also packed towels, hand wipes, insect repellent wipes, dry shirts, and a few other things. It was nice to find a spot inside the caves where we could stop and have a drink of water and grab a bite of beef jerky. In one cave, my son found a nice place to lay down and pretend to take a nap.
I don't know how he did it but his back pack felt like it weighed fifty pounds. We had to take off our backpacks frequently in order to maneuver our way through the caves and hand them off to each other.