From August 1, 2014
One summer, when I was maybe nine or ten, my family packed up our camping gear and headed out on a new expedition. Our destination was a mountain area popular with spelunkers because of its many tiny caves. None of us were spelunkers in the least, but my parents figured it would be a fun adventure, so off we went.
I don’t remember much about the trip now except the meadow where we stayed, the river where we nearly froze to death playing in the icy water and the day when I discovered just how much I detest small, dark spaces.
As a child I was not one much for hiking. You might go as far to say that I actually hated hiking. So, the day we went to the cave started out on a bad note, with me whining, my brother complaining about having to wear sunscreen and my parents wondering whose children they had ended up with on accident.They did their best to tune us out and we plodded along sullenly, whispering conspiratorially to one another.
After walking through the woods we arrived at the cave entrance-a hatch door made of a round, flat piece of heavy duty plastic over a giant pipe. Our backpacks contained the basics for caves: rope, flashlights, snacks and water bottles. This cave was acceptable for us to only descend into given our expertise (aka nothing) and gear. I, however, took one look down the narrow hole and at the ladder leading into the inky blackness of Earth, then flat out refused to go on. I had visions of becoming trapped down there, of never seeing the light of day again, of dying a cold, dark, wet death.
Today, as I walked through a different cave, one that was much wider, brighter and suited to my abilities, I was reminded of this camping trip. Those same fears followed me down the stairs to the entrance, though with less intensity than they did that day. The cave today, a lava tube formed long ago when the mountain above was still a volcano, is the longest in the world. It simply begged going into, so fears were pushed aside. Nonetheless, we couldn’t help but discuss our concerns about being underground. A said that he read once that fearing caves and going underground is remnant from human evolution and that we all have an ingrained fear of being buried alive. We aren’t sure if this is one hundred percent true, but the pounding of my heart and the howling of the three year old boy behind us as we walked away from daylight and into the craggy depths of this long cave made me believe that such a fear is ingrained.
Thankfully, logic can overcome fear and allow for new experiences.