I used to be an avid caver. In southern Indiana, there are some of the largest limestone deposits in the world. And where there is limestone, there are caves. There are probably at least 500 different caves in southern Indiana. I've been in about 15 of them I think.
I prefer wild caves. Tourist caves are the kind with lights and handrails and tour guides. Wild caves are the kind that flood while you're in them.
There is one cave in particular that I am very fond of. It's called Buckner's Cave. I've been there at least 50 times. My first time was as part of a church camp when I was in middle school.
Buckner's has a fairly large opening in the side of a hill. You walk in, scramble down some rocks, and you're in a pretty big cavern, maybe 30 feet high. You walk a couple hundred feet and it dead ends. This is where the fun begins.
To the left is a small hole in the ground about the size of a manhole cover. The only way in is head first, and you find yourself in a little tunnel about 4 feet wide and 2 feet high. So you can't crawl, because you can't get your knees under you. So you army crawl for about 100 feet. Then it opens up to about 3 feet high, so you can get on your knees, but the rocks on the ground are killer on the patellas. Then after a while its back to the army crawl again. Some people find its easier to roll like a log than to army crawl, but rolling is much slower and makes me dizzy.
So this goes on for about 500 feet or so, and you come to a "T". This is called the T-Room (like Tea Room). From here you can choose left or right. Either way you go, if you know the way, you will end up back in the T-Room, as the cave is one large loop. To the right is the Signature Room, so named because the entire room is covered with spray paint signatures (actually there used to be an old signaure from the 1800s there, which I remember seeing when I was in middle school, but it is long gone now). Beyond that is the creek, which does flood when it rains, the Volcano Room, Cushing's Rock, and on around through the loop.
If you go left at the T-Room, you follow a large cavern around until the floor begins to split, then you walk one side of the crevice or the other, and you end up in the "Big Room". This is not the largest room in the cave, but it is big. From here you have to climb up some rock faces, through a room called the Air Force Room, and into the Mountain Room on the back side of the loop. The Mountain Room is so named because you enter the room at the top of a huge mountain of breakdown, which you then have to climb down to get to the room's floor.
From the Mountain Room, you walk through huge caverns, again up to 30 or 40 feet high (give or take). And it kind of dead ends at a hole in the ground that you have to jump into. The hole leads down into the creek that leads back to the Volcano room, but you can't climb in, you have to jump down about 8 feet. It's pretty fun to jump down into a creek from 8 feet up with a flashlight in your hand.
The cool thing about caving in a wild cave is that there is no place in the world that is darker. And there is no place in the world that is quieter. Turn the lights off, stop breathing, and you are left with your thoughts and your heartbeat in a black void of nothingness. You can't see your hand in front of your face. There is nothing like it that I have experienced anywhere else. Its like the womb.
I hear there are caves in Oregon and Washington. I have been in one lava tube in eastern Oregon. But it didn't compare. Not wild enough. I miss the limestone caves, with creeks running through them, with numerous passages and twists and turns, the possibility of exploring, of climbing through a tiny hole that no one has been through and finding a huge cavern on the other side. I have only been in one lava tube, but lava tubes don't seem that exciting. Kind of like one big tunnel.
I've never been to ape caves up by St. Helens. Anyone up for a trip?
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
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