Part Two – Even Though I Walked Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death … And A Cave

Jan 26, 2011 by

(This is the third blog about our recent cave crawl and cave motel experience. For the pre-trip blog, click here. Part One is here.)

It is now after midnight, we are deep within the cave after completing a four-hour crawl/exploration. It’s decision time.

Option One – bed down. Option Two – another two-hour exploration. I think it is safe to say that all the Boy Scouts were raring to go. The dads? Not so much.

Thankfully, one of the scout leaders asked the guide to explain just what all the two-hour extra tour entailed. Words like “aggressive,” “strenuous,” “long crawls” and “tight” were mentioned.

Oh, and the “180 Loop” was said in passing.

Sorry, the what?

I of course asked for a little bit more explanation of said “180 Loop.” Apparently this was a crawl of, you guessed it, about 180 feet. Said crawl was in a space “approximately” three feet wide and one-foot high. I put “approximately” in quotes because the guide and I didn’t always agree on measurements.

Oh yeah, kids are all for that one. And then I explain that’s 50 yards. And get some blank stares. And then I say “half a football field.” Hey it was really late and everyone was tired, math is hard, especially after midnight.

And the enthusiasm wanes slightly.  Maybe we should take another vote.  

This time only about four scouts raise their hands. And it’s at this point the scout leaders make an executive decision. One that, had there not been a bunch of kids around and my actions probably would have embarrassed eldest Son of Thunder to death, would have had me kissing the leader’s feet.

We are done for the night.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I mentioned in my previous post about trying to figure out just exactly where we were to sleep. It’s hard to describe, but there wasn’t any real flat areas. And if you were lucky to find a somewhat flat area big enough for your sleeping pad, sure enough there’d be a lung-piercing rock sticking up right in the middle of it.

Anyway, Eldest Son and I found something passable. I was wedged between the cave wall and the proverbial lung-piercing rocks on the other side. He was slightly above me on a slope, which led to him sliding down on top of me a couple of times that night.

Some were on rock ledges above us, some on tight foot paths below. Just find something, anything, anywhere, to bed down.

And while we’re all trying to find somewhere to sleep, the guide informs of us of the location and proper usage of the facilities. Now this is of great importance to several of us, as we’ve been crawling around for four hours and at some point, well, you just got to go.

Now I’m thinking port-0-potty. I have no idea why I was thinking something so luxurious and ornate. It was late, I was tired. Anyway, said facility is located up and over a mound, which is covered in wet clay and those lung-piercing rocks.

We are instructed to open a lever, do our business and close the lever. This lever is of great importance, because if you leave it open too long, well, you and everyone else will pass out.

Another executive decision is handed down, namely that to ensure said facility is usable by the next person, all people having business with said facility will sit down, regardless of whether their business is of the No 1. or No. 2 variety.

So I start the trek over the mound to the facility, which is not exactly an easy journey as I slip/fall/slide back down a couple of times. There are a few scouts in front of me in line.

The first pulls back a blue tarp and we behold the facility, which is basically a white box – one of those portable types. A very small white box. And the scout pulls out the lever as previously instructed and well, death warmed over is a rose garden compared to what we experienced.

And the scout, along with his compatriots, looked at me with a look and just basically said, “there is no way I can sit on that.” And I looked at him and the other scouts who were all thinking the same thing, and despite the previous executive order, said, “no you’re not.”

I am ashamed.

I violated the oath. I overruled an executive order. But sometimes, for the greater good of humanity, to ensure equity for the masses, to provide for the common good, to …

Yeah, whatever. It was pure selfish self-interest and self-preservation. No way I was going to sit on that. No way I was going to tell someone else to either.

Unless you’ve actually stayed in a cave, you have no idea how true the clichéd “can’t see your hand in front of your face” expression is, or your nose, or whatever.

It was amazingly dark after all the lights were out. But we were bedded down for the night. Visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads and all that.

Yeah, until about 4 a.m. when I wake up and just might have to visit the aforementioned facility. And then I realize it is completely dark, I will have to get booted up, find a light, crawl over the mud mound and lung-piercing rocks and …

Forget it. Time to man up and just hold it.

Sometimes, it’s not wise to think too much. This is especially true when it’s 4 a.m., you are wedged in between a cave wall and lung-piercing rocks, it’s completely black, and you know you are deep inside a cave with absolutely no way of getting out for a few hours at least. Oh, and you have to pee, really, really badly.

There is only one thing to do – start quoting Psalm 23. And for some reason, the King James version seems the most appropriate.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

And then 6 a.m. hits and the guide yells out it’s time to load up. I don’t think I have ever packed up from camping as fast as I did that time. And boy, was I helping anyone else who needed a little help. Time to go, you know?

Gear is packed, we head out. And you know what? It’s a lot easier heading back, despite carrying the cursed duffel bags.

In my previous post, I said one of the greatest fears is the fear of the unknown. Yet now we were headed back over familiar crawls. As we slithered, I looked fondly at one particular lung-piercing rock that well, nearly pierced my lung the night before on the way in.

I know you. Hello little lung-piercing rock friend.

For the record, I did not kiss the ground upon emerging from the cave. I did not shout out “free at last” or anything like that. I did not want to embarrass Eldest Son in front of his friends.

Time for reflection.

Was it a horrible experience? Absolutely not. Am I ready to do it again this weekend? Absolutely not.

All told, there were about 30 of us, two-thirds being scouts with the remainder brave dads. It was a time to experience something new, despite the fear of the unknown.

I admired the scouts. There was never any complaining, even when carrying/pushing/kicking/throwing the cursed duffel bags through tiny tunnels.

There were a couple of times when someone came close to hitting their wall, emotionally or physically. But the others offered encouragement, or a friendly push, or helped carry the cursed duffel bags.

It was, and went, for lack of a better word, fluid. Just a bunch of kids and dads doing their own thing, yet always there to help someone else.

And that’s what it’s all about.

For me, I can now say I’ve “been there, done that.” Don’t ever have to do it again.

Until next year.








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