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101: Don't Freak Out

Text message transcript initiated by Julien AKA Cap'n Jules
J: Do you  want to go caving tomorrow.  I figure you'll probably be busy.
R: Yes
J: Yeah, I'd figured you'd have work to do
R: No, yes as in pack you bag, we're going caving.

This trip was both Julien and my first trip caving, but we figured we had enough common sense between the two of us not to get killed.  Julien had arranged to call someone before we entered the cave, as well as afterwards.  Unfortunately, we forgot to call before we entered because we were so excited. We did have the foresight to laminate our maps though, which really saved our butts since caves walls all begin to look the same after a while (just ask Huck Finn).

Our first push focused mainly on the hook portion of the Clarksville cave, which is by far the longest continuous squeeze.  We reached a secondary exit after 2.5 hours of crawling on our bellies, hands and knees, and coving about 200 horizontal feet from the hook's entrance slide squeeze.  The vast majority of this section is at most 1' between floor and ceiling, and featured classic features like the chest compressor, and the snake, the latter of which is on the docket for next time.

When we arrivved at the secondary exit, it was littered with about 20 spiders which thankfully turned out not to be Brown Recluses (which are can be deadly), and which averaged between quarter and half-dollar sized.  In order to get out I had to kill or relocate three of the spiders in order to climb on the rocks they had claimed.  We were forced to exit in order to make our midnight bingo time and make that phone call, so there was no avoiding the spiders by tuning back for another 3.5 hours of crawling to the main entrance. I climbed out first and Julien threw our cave packs up before climbing out himself. "All the spiders are dead," I fibbed to get him out. He became skeptical of my claim when one of the spiders fell onto the front of his shirt when exiting. The motions he made at the top to rid himself of our arachnid friends will henceforth be known as The Spider Dance.

Having made it out, we called our friend to tell him everything was cool; he had completely forgotten we were caving. Next, we decided to imediately return through the main entrance and go through the corkscrew feature into the aptly named bathtub. The water in the bathtub is very cold despite the fact that the cave air is warm becasue Clarksville is actually a small underground stream. Julien and I had an encounter with an invisible dead bat, and the hour of 4am on our trip back. We have since been teaching caving for COE.

Gear: BD spot headlamp, large caving pack (still a tiny pack), pee bottle (you can't pee in caves), laminated map, helmet, knee pads (old volleyball ones work great), disposable clothes, water bottle, first-aid kit in the car, Donuts, two extra light sources each.  [if your light goes out in a cave, you better be damn sure you have a back up]. The Northeast Caving Conservatory does not recommend caving with less than three people or caving after dark.

102: Now We're Experts

Naturally, we thought we had just discovered this amazingly underrated activity. I went back to the Clarksville cave two weeks later with Sean, Diane, Ryan, Jessie, and Christina. Julien went back with Sean and others for a third trip. Christina had to get back to Ithaca, so we did half the cave with everyone, then Diane and I stayed to do the second half. We bought Tastee Treat soft serve on 79 on the way back and watched the sunset through the windshield. Everything I wore was ruined.