Monday, March 4, 2013

Gone Caving...

In what seems like another lifetime, I used to do a bit of caving throughout southern Arizona.  The area is known for world class caves and if one is motivated and willing to invest the time, one can experience environments that are as unique as any on the planet.  The conservation ethic is quite strong among cavers as by their very nature these underground environments are extremely vulnerable to alteration and damage.  Descending below ground one literally steps into geologic time- and the Earth does not always act quickly.

I have not done much caving in the last few years due to several factors, among them my closest caving buddy has moved on to other adventures...further, I was never really connected with a local caving group, such as the Escabrosa Grotto.  Caving is best done in groups; not only for safety but there are always cavers with more and less experience than yourself and when in an underground environment you always have something to teach and something to learn.  Groups such as the Escabrosa Grotto do a marvelous job of supporting the USFS and other entities toward the ultimate goal of protecting these natural wonders.  I have been on 12-14 hour excursions into caves and assisted with everything from surveying, to restoration, to bat studies...but I digress.

Friday, after a particularly tough week, Ian and I hatched a plan to revisit a non-gated cave in the Santa Rita Mountains.  It is a cave particularly well suited for young cavers, or as a first experience for someone who is unsure of their comfort level in a cave.  While it does not have a tremendous amount of cave features (due to nature, overuse and the fact that it is not gated), it is still a worthy introduction to caving.  At right, you can click on the image for a close up view of the stalactites and other features seen in the image above.

Tight squeezes, crawling, mud and even a few insects were experienced during the two hours we spent exploring the cave.  Ian invited his friend Tyler who had never been in a cave like this and Tyler had a great attitude as he explored beyond his comfort zone.  I have three rules in the outdoors:  Be safe, have fun, and learn a little.  I think we succeeded on all three fronts as evidenced by the pictures of our happy little caving group.  All images were taken with my Canon T2i and a 40mm lens.  As always, click the images to enlarge them:

Beth in the hole!
Ian in the hole!

Tyler in the hole!
Lunch break

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