“Who wants to lead a caving trip” by Catrina Timeus

“Who wants to lead a caving trip?” Anna said at my first Hike Leader meeting. I quickly volunteered, because as long as I could remember I have wanted to go into a cave, I saw specials on the Discovery channel and thought that would be so amazing. So Anna put me in touch with Nancy and her daughter Scout. Nancy picked a good beginner cave for us, and we set a date and away we went!

Tumbling Rock Cave
The first thing I learned that caving is much more physically demanding that I thought, and can be very scary at times when you are the not so sure footed person like myself who will stumble over a twig or slip on a wet leaf, so when I hike I use poles to keep me on my feet.
Before we entered the Cave

So we go into the cave and our first thing is to step over this crevice.

With my short legs I was unsure about making it over, but with a hand and a leap I made it over. It really wasn’t that wide not much more than a 1 ½ feet, but like I said not so sure footed (NSSF) here saw it as this huge cavern.

We would walk a little ways, then we would have to climb up these huge formations, then we would then slide down the other side. My favorite part was sliding down. With every down slide or climb I would look back and think how am I going to get back up that. But everyone said don’t worry.

Then we got to the breakdown, an area when the water stopped flowing rocks came down in the cave. This was un-even, having to climb around looking for places to step and the entire time making sure you don’t slip. I made it over this, but struggled with my breath, and nerves.

Once we completed this, Nancy our fearless leader let us know there was going to be at least two more of those, and let the group know that if any of us wanted to turn around at any time we could. Two ladies decided they wanted to turn around. I hesitantly turned around, because even though I was exhausted, I was having a blast!

So Nancy was about to take us back while Brent and Scout led the other two ladies forward when the Cave Maintenance person Jay showed up and offered to take us back. I am so happy he did, even though this is an in and out cave it had a few different paths you could take, and he took us through them. To my relief these didn’t involve climbing up some of those areas I was worried about. We also took a moment to turn out our lights to experience complete darkness. It’s amazing how dark it is, that is one place you don’t want to have your lights go out.

When we finally got to the 1 ½ foot crevice that we went over in the beginning, well I swear it grew by 2 feet! But again with a helping hand, I made it over, and then we climbed out into the light of day. We spent about three hours in the cave, I wasn’t keeping track, but the rest of the ladies came out about 2 ½ to 3 hours later. I’m hooked.

Raccoon Mountain Echo Room
I’m so hooked I joined the Georgia Adventurers Group two weeks later on the Raccoon Mountain Echo Room tour. I am going to have to say, this one was much more involved. We had more crawling, belly crawls, sliding, rolling.

The first major climb I thought I was done because it required using a rope and pulling myself up and I just did not have the upper body strength. Thankfully Josie was behind me (she also went to Tumbling Rock).

She gave me the push up I needed, while the guide help pull me up. I was told that was the hardest part, so after a brief break to catch my breath, forward we went.

This cave had A LOT more up and down climbing then tumbling rock, but most of it is a loop, so a lot of the hard maneuvers didn’t need to be repeated just new ones. Even though I had a hard time with the rope climb, personally I think the hardest and scariest part was when we had to go over a canyon. Where our feet (and butts when it was narrow enough) were on one side of the cavern and our hands were on the other side and we had to side step while looking down the canyon.

I had a wonderful gentleman David in front of me who helped me by pulling, and Josie was behind me giving me a push when I needed. And everyone else in the group provided great emotional support when I was struggling giving me some great words of encouragement when I was nervous and worried.

At the end I was so exhausted that I had to take breaks more frequently, and the last 10 feet which was crawling I had to take 2 or three breaks, not because it was difficult, I did it going in, but I was so exhausted I was just struggling to move. But I made it out having had an amazing adventure, and as I was emerging I was already thinking about the next cave……

This post was contributed by Catrina Timeus who is a hike leader for the Trail Dames of Georgia.

Caving with the Dames


This is a guest post by our own Joan aka Hemlock– originally posted on her bloghttp://ramblinghemlock.blogspot.com/

This weekend I went on a caving trip with the Trail Dames.  We were fortunate to have several experienced guides and the Dames, as usual, were incredibly helpful and supportive.  Even though we went to a so-called “horizontal, easy” cave in northwest Georgia, it offered plenty of challenges for us nervous first-timers.

Caving was a fantastic experience, both for the physical challenge and because being within the earth proved utterly peaceful.  After getting the hang of it (thank goodness for the kneepads and helmet!), I enjoyed squeezing though the tight spots on my belly while pushing my pack in front of me, and rolling down the passageway, which turned out to be easier than crawling.  My arms, shoulders, core, and legs all received a satisfying workout.   I went through holes that I couldn’t believe I’d fit through and went down inclines that scared me, and felt such a sense of accomplishment after I realized I could do it!  Also, the cave was such a different, simplified environment– constant weather, fewer sounds, darkness.  Instead of being scary and claustrophobic, I found this environment enhanced and focused all my senses:  I could really smell the cave, listen to the sound of the drops from the ceiling, and see the glint of rocks.  I felt utterly alive and fully present.

A few times on the return trip, there was no one ahead of me and I tested my route-finding skills.  It took my brain a while to adjust to reading the cave.  Where was the easiest route?  Should I crouch, crawl, or roll?  Which way had I gone before?  Trying to remember the route, I visualized not just a two dimensional trail, but the series of interconnecting tubes that branched in three dimensions.  Using rocks and mud as landmarks was challenging for me because I am normally use plants and trees for navigation because for me they are so easy to remember.  I began to develop a better eye for subtle differences in rocks and formations, like how in winter, tree shapes and shades of brown become totally fascinating.   Mud in some places was dryer like clay for pottery and resisted pressure, while in other places it melted beneath your feet and stuck and slurped.  Caving was thus totally mentally engaging in addition to providing a full-body workout.

During rest breaks, our trip leader instructed us to lay down on the rocks and let our body heat radiate into the ground.  This had such a calming effect.  Much more so than just sitting down or standing during breaks.  The physical connection to the ground is so peaceful, and it reminds me to practice my yoga relaxation and breathing techniques.  I would love to take this practice back with me to the trail.  I normally stand during resting moments, but I think I will experiment with reclining against a tree or even laying down and being aware of my connection to the earth.

-Joan aka Hemlock