I had been in caves at summer camp, but it had been a while. When my friends suggested we go to West Virginia for a “wild” cave tour, I was on board! How hard could it be? I’ve done it before…
Well, I hadn’t had to wear equipment before and I know now that I underestimated what I was getting into. ”Wild” cave means we were going where there were no railings, sidewalks, steps, or spotlights to light up the stalactites.
We headed out from the DC area and arrived in Hico, WV after dark. It was very hard to find our cabin, because GPS navigators really don’t get you anywhere in West Virginia. We had to pull over at a landmark and have the cabin owner give us turn by turn directions, which involved no streets signs, just landmarks…
But we finally made it to our wonderful party cabin. There was a hot tub in the screened porch and a great big living room with a big stone fireplace. It looked great! So we started out with some drinking and some cards, ended up in the hot tub and all of us eventually passed out in anticipation of our caving adventure the next day.
We arrived at the Lost World Caverns entry house when it opened. We were welcomed by several friendly dogs wondering around the yard and headed into the preparation room, where you get to put on all the lovely gear. The knee pads were uncomfortable, but necessary. The helmet was cool cause it has a light on it and the gloves were good too in anticipation of the rocks we’d be hugging. After our guide Steve instructed us about things to look out for in the cave (bats, salamanders, etc) and gave us some safety tips, we headed in.
You start out walking down the commercial part of the cave, with steps and railings. You walk through the lit up giant room of formations and what not, then when you get to the back, you jump the fence. Climb down some rocks and then up some rocks to a hole in the wall that you can’t really see from the main path. Once you get through this hole your in the wild part of the cave, no lights, no stairs.
In the wild part of the cave, there is a lot more dirt and mud than I expected. Also, there are loose rocks stuck in the mud, so you can’t depend on them. But according to our guide, Steve, there’s never been a serious injury and that was true for our group as well. So Steve took us all the way to the back of the cave, which I think was like 2 miles. He took us on steep muddy sloppy parts and small crawl spaces. We faced all sorts of challenges that brought out different fears in the members of our group. We had one claustrophobic person and one with a fear of heights (me). Steve helped us out in tight spots and when our fears kicked in. He couldn’t have been more helpful! and patient!
We stopped for a break in The Long Crawl, which is a very very long crawl space, where you have to crawl with your belly on the dirt, or in some parts, you can roll sideways, which is much easier. In the spot where we took a break, there were mud carvings and messages all over the walls from previous adventurers. Some mud creations were very artistic and some silly. I saw smiley faces and initials and thought about the people who came before me as I rested on my stomach in the 2 foot crawlspace.
On our next break, Steve gave us candy and water, which was much needed. When we got to the very back of the cave, there was a stream, that we sat by and chilled for a minute. Then when we turned around (exhausted) and began to crawl out, I came face to face with a red salamander! I screamed, which echoed loudly, and everyone came quickly. So we took some pictures with the little guy and moved on.
The trip back to the entrance of the cave went by more quickly, but was more painful. We began to realize our age with our sore muscles and joints on the climb out. MJ, the claustrophobic one, was the first one out of the cave. He was highly motivated to get out of there! MJ was followed closely by Juan. However, the girls were lagging behind due to exhaustion!
When we got back to the supply room, we took turns taking showers and got back into our clean clothes. This was a slow process, because we were all moving sluggishly. But we had so much fun in the cave! And we recommend everyone try it at least once. It’s physically challenging, but anyone can do it if I can!
For information: http://www.lostworldcaverns.com