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Caving This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I heard “next” called from the dark hole in front of me. My heart started pounding; this entrance was not what I had expected at all. But I swallowed my fear and turned on the flashlight attached to my helmet. I silently said good-bye to the daylight as I embarked on my journey into the dark, eerie hole. Once inside, I shone my light around and saw that it was a fairly steep descent to where the person before me was sitting, telling me where to step on the slick, black rocks. I climbed down slowly, always keeping three points of contact, until I got to the nook where I could sit and call out “next” to the world above.
Once everyone was inside the cave, we explored the passages and holes around us, continuing to pass interesting rock formations along the way. We crawled on our bellies under a 40-ton rock. Then I saw it, only ankle-deep, but still causing an adrenaline rush: 40 degree water. I took my first step in and screamed (along with everyone else) at the numbing cold.
After a seemingly endless trudge through hypothermic water, I couldn’t even feel my feet covered with an old pair of blue Puma sneakers and no socks. I couldn’t believe we would have to go waist-deep in that frigid water on the return. But I pushed away this thought and walked on with the group.
We stopped at a place called the Pictograph Crawl which is a very long, narrow tunnel. The end is supposedly an exit, but no one has ever reached the end. I crawled in but soon turned back because of the narrowness, but a few others continued on. Then Eric, our guide, told us to turn off our flashlights so he could crawl into a small hidden area a few feet away, and scare the others coming back. It was classic - the guys screamed painfully high, and everyone laughed.
As we progressed through the cave we stopped to look at a sleeping bat; luckily the only one we saw. Eric told us a story about two boys who on Thanksgiving came into the cave to explore, but when their flashlight burned out, were stuck. Because they were too scared to look for a way out, they remained in the cave for three days. When they finally got out, they thought they had missed Christmas because time had felt so long. We were all glad we had flashlights and backups.
By now we had gone through two more shallow water passages and our feet were numb and thawing, which hurt, so I was almost happy when I saw more ankle-deep water ahead. As we walked through it, I saw an opening that was large and dark, but filled partially with water. I jokingly said, “Hey, let’s go that way,” because it looked so deep and cold. Eric surprised me by saying, “We will. That’s how we get out.” I realized that this was the waist-deep water that I was not looking forward to.
We walked to the end of the cave and stopped at a place called the Lake Room, with a small lake 30 to 50 feet deep. I was happy we weren’t swimming through that. We rested after our quarter-mile hike through the cold, dark, wet cave. But then we had to go again because we had to return to camp by a certain time or they would get worried and come looking for us.
We walked back the way we came. Slowly each step got deeper: ankle, calf, mid-thigh, and then waist. We all tried, unsuccessfully, to keep in our yelps of cold. This walk seemed even more endless than the others, but finally the water grew shallower and we were out, and started getting warmer. All we had to do now was walk to the hole and one by one climb out. I could definitely handle that. And then, hello, warm sun and dry pants.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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