Saturday, March 04, 2006

Way down in the hole

On a road trip to see Gramma once, when I was about five or so, I saw a billboard that said 'Carlsbad Caverns, Next Exit (then go back 235 miles)". I didn't have any concept of what kind of distance that was, but I do now. And yesterday, I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting them.

And of course, me being who I am and all, the pedestrian tour of the 'Big Room' simply would not do. I wanted to spelunk, with the hats and the gloves and the pretending that I'm a little slinky lizard, slipping through the dark squeezes.

I was advised not to attempt the Hall of the White Giant spelunking tour because of its advanced challenges, so I signed up for the more unathletic-friendly Lower Cave. Still rather strenuous, but way closer to my comfort level.

Caves for me are very soothing. Knowing that the only things crawling around down there are a few blind crickets and some random patches of bacteria makes the darkness feel calm and protective. I wondered if that's the way Jim White felt when he spent nights down there after a long day of climbing, crawling and exploring. I'd love to be able to spend the night in a cave someday and enjoy the profound quiet of age old earth, expressing itself with water and mineral formations over the millenia, with no cares whatsoever about the land above.

I highly recommend visiting the Caverns on the off season, as the summertime sometimes sees several thousand visitors a day in the Big Room. Our tour guide told us they once had to divert the Lower Cave tour when a baby in the room above was screaming so loudly that the ear-splitting echo was insufferable. On the other hand, yesterday's tours were sparsely populated, making for a much more one-with-the-cave sort o' vibe.

Having a great time, wish you were all here.