Ever seen a dark abyss within the mountains or in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore a cave in Middle-Earth? Have you wanted to wander in darkness? If you said yes to any one of these, give caving a try.
Caving is alike to hiking, but with a sense of intrigue. It takes a few of the things that we are afraid of: complete darkness, confined spaces, and the unknown, and then forces you to face those fears. You won’t know what to expect, so it is best to be prepared.
The two most important things to have while caving are a headlamp and a helmet. You may also bring a camera and an extra flashlight, just be sure to carry extra batteries (just in case.) Also, wear durable clothing that is long sleeved and bring a jacket, because it is likely to be cold in the cave (even when it’s hot outside.) Your phone will likely have no reception, so it is best to tell somebody exactly where you will be, so if you something happens, a friend can call for help. Also, it is best to go with someone who is familiar with the cave(s) you will be exploring, but if not, try to leave simple markers of where you came from and where you went to; you do not want to get lost. Caving is not for the faint of heart, but it is relatively easy if you are prepared. Furthermore, it is great fun.
There were some lava tubes nearby where I live and so I went with a group from my university. There were two guides and, aside from a guide and myself, all were girls of varying levels of fitness. One girl stated, while crawling through a narrow spot in the cave: “I have never been more motivated to go on a diet.” That girl did just fine, but she was tired by the end of the expedition, as was I. I was climbing through the same crevices with a tripod, a camera, and a wireless flash in hand and a camera bag strapped on my back and my equipment stayed perfectly fine; it just got a little dirty.
One side note: I noticed that a lot of people had defaced the caves with glow sticks and spray paint. As a plea of preservation for the future, be respectful of the caves. Don’t litter or paint in these caves, for it is extremely difficult to clean and it prevents the natural growth of the caves.
Caving can be done at any speed, fast (although I would not recommend running) or slow, and it is great for a group of friends or a family with kids (but be sure your children are behaved enough to stick with the group.) This is a fun easy adventure to go on, and is perfect for facing your fears. Just be sure to wear your helmet, because you will probably hit your head. Also, it is great for long exposure photography and light painting. So go out and find a cave near you.