The Time I Went Spelunking

I had been in caves at summer camp, but it had been a while.  When my friends suggested we go to West Virginia for a “wild” cave tour, I was on board!  How hard could it be? I’ve done it before…

Well, I hadn’t had to wear equipment before and I know now that I underestimated what I was getting into.  “Wild” cave means we were going where there were no railings, sidewalks, steps, or spotlights to light up the stalactites.

We headed out from the DC area and arrived in Hico, WV after dark.  It was very hard to find our cabin, because GPS navigators really don’t get you anywhere in West Virginia.  We had to pull over at a landmark and have the cabin owner give us turn by turn directions, which involved no streets signs, just landmarks…

But we finally made it to our wonderful party cabin.  There was a hot tub in the screened porch and a great big living room with a big stone fireplace.  It looked great!  So we started out with some drinking and some cards, ended up in the hot tub and all of us eventually passed out in anticipation of our caving adventure the next day.

We arrived at the Lost World Caverns entry house when it opened.  We were welcomed by several friendly dogs wondering around the yard and headed into the preparation room, where you get to put on all the lovely gear.  The knee pads were uncomfortable, but necessary.  The helmet was cool cause it has a light on it and the gloves were good too in anticipation of the rocks we’d be hugging.  After our guide Steve instructed us about things to look out for in the cave (bats, salamanders, etc) and gave us some safety tips, we headed in.

You start out walking down the commercial part of the cave, with steps and railings.  You walk through the lit up giant room of formations and what not, then when you get to the back, you jump the fence.  Climb down some rocks and then up some rocks to a hole in the wall that you can’t really see from the main path.  Once you get through this hole your in the wild part of the cave, no lights, no stairs.

In the wild part of the cave, there is a lot more dirt and mud than I expected.  Also, there are loose rocks stuck in the mud, so you can’t depend on them.  But according to our guide, Steve, there’s never been a serious injury and that was true for our group as well.  So Steve took us all the way to the back of the cave, which I think was like 2 miles.  He took us on steep muddy sloppy parts and small crawl spaces.  We faced all sorts of challenges that brought out different fears in the members of our group.  We had one claustrophobic person and one with a fear of heights (me).  Steve helped us out in tight spots and when our fears kicked in.  He couldn’t have been more helpful!  and patient!

We stopped for a break in The Long Crawl, which is a very very long crawl space, where you have to crawl with your belly on the dirt, or in some parts, you can roll sideways, which is much easier.  In the spot where we took a break, there were mud carvings and messages all over the walls from previous adventurers.  Some mud creations were very artistic and some silly.  I saw smiley faces and initials and thought about the people who came before me as I rested on my stomach in the 2 foot crawlspace.

On our next break, Steve gave us candy and water, which was much needed.  When we got to the very back of the cave, there was a stream, that we sat by and chilled for a minute.  Then when we turned around (exhausted) and began to crawl out, I came face to face with a red salamander!  I screamed, which echoed loudly, and everyone came quickly.  So we took some pictures with the little guy and moved on.

The trip back to the entrance of the cave went by more quickly, but was more painful.  We began to realize our age with our sore muscles and joints on the climb out. MJ, the claustrophobic one, was the first one out of the cave.  He was highly motivated to get out of there!  MJ was followed closely by Juan.  However, the girls were lagging behind due to exhaustion!

When we got back to the supply room, we took turns taking showers and got back into our clean clothes.  This was a slow process, because we were all moving sluggishly.  But we had so much fun in the cave!  And we recommend everyone try it at least once.  It’s physically challenging, but anyone can do it if I can!  🙂

For information: http://www.lostworldcaverns.com

Stuck in the Mud!

See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil… But Claire was evilly splashing us!  LOL



 
    Have you ever wanted to try the army crawl through the mud?  Neither did I, but when presented with the opportunity I tried it anyways.  I must have been crazy.

    Recently, a group of ladies and I took a road trip to ACE Adventure Resort in West Virginia.  This place is awesome because it has so many activities.  We’ve been there before to do white water rafting on the New River.  They also have a super fun activity lake with all these floating toys, like trampolines and water slides and a zip line that drags you into the water.  When you’re tired of climbing on all the inflatable slides and see-saws, sit back and relax on the little beach.   We decided to take a stab at the mud course…



    We woke up Saturday and ate a big breakfast in preparation for the mud obstacle course.  I put on a T Shirt from middle school, my mud colored hiking shorts and an old pair of reeboks.  


    At the beginning of the mud course, the ACE guide splits everyone into two teams.  My group stayed together and we got the mom from a family on the other team.  The other team had a bunch of small athletic kids… never the less we thought we could beat them… Yeah Right! 

Playing in the mud afterwords

   First thing we had to do in the race, was fill a tube with water that had a bunch of holes in it.  I volunteered to be the one that jumps down into the pond to scoop water in a bucket and hand it up to my team.  As I’m watching my team plug the holes with sticks and slowly pour the water in, I realized that the bucket looked like it could hold more water than the tube.  So I filled it all the way up and yelled at my team to dump the entire thing in all at once.  It worked!  


    Next stop we had to slide down a black tube into cold muddy water.  As soon as I hit the water, the temperature shocked me.  So cold! Keep going! OMG…  Then we did the army crawl under beams covered in mesh… My helmet fell over my eyes and I couldn’t pop my head up to see where I was going without hitting my head, so I just kept crawling, not knowing when it would end.  My knees were getting caught on pebbles and rocks in the mud, but I was too tired to lift them up and use my feet.  I still have scars from the rocks on this part…


    Next we did over and under on logs laying across the cold muddy water… Under was the worst cause your just trying to avoid getting that water near your mouth at the same time you’re trying to move as fast as you can.  At the end of the over/under section there is a narrow slippery log that we need to cross, one at a time.  Only after you cross, can you go into the water and give a hand to your other team mates to get across.  I totally needed help the first time on this.  But later when we went back to take pictures, I did the log all by myself!  Total confidence booster..


    I hated the next obstacle… You have to climb up a slippery 4 foot slide, just to slide back down a slide on the other side into the mud.  It was really hard to run up or pull yourself over… Just too slippery and nothing to hang on to.  So of course, as a team we pushed each other over… resulting in face first dives into the mud on the other side.  Fabulous!  

Annie walking up the wall.. Piece of cake!

    I didn’t even try the next obstacle.  You had to jump into a deep pit of muddy water and then climb up a wooden wall with a rope.  Upper arm strength is not me.  The one person in our group to rock the wall, was Annie who goes to climbing walls all the time.  It’s tough climbing out of the water up the wall though, cause your feet are wet and it gets slippery.  Another girl in our group slipped while climbing the wall, face planted on the wall and then let go of the rope and slide down into the water.  She was not happy after that!


    Next we jumped through another large pit of mud and then had to cross a creek on a log, with all of us holding hands.  That was harder than doing it on your own and you could only go as fast as your slowest person.  But we made it on the first try, so that was good.  At this point, the kids on the other team are already done with the course.

Me and the first slide into the mud

  After crossing the creek we had to jump into the pond and pull all of us on to a float.  Once we were all on it, we had to dive back into the pond and swim all the way back to the starting line.  It was a long swim, and it turned into a slow back stroke while we all chatted and enjoyed the view of the forest.  


   Once we were all done, we walked back through to take more pictures and play around for a little bit.  We all felt a little bit more comfortable getting dirty at this point and I had a little sense of accomplishment.  After taking plenty of photos, we raced back to our cabin to fight over the showers.  Most of us threw away our shoes completely.  I tried to save the white socks I used, but they still have a orangish hue to this day.  

Going backwards down the slide due to technical difficulties.

   Overall, ACE has a bunch of fun things to do.  I know we’ll keep going back and trying new things.  The white water rafting is amazing!  Make time for activity lake.  In general, I always have fun in West Virginia!


   

Ace Adventure Resort – Hiking Trail

I recently visited the New River Gorge area in West Virginia.  Some friends and I visited the ACE Adventure Resort, which is near Thurmond, WV.  This resort has everything!  You can go white water rafting on the Gauley or the New River, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, mud obstacle course, and climbing tower.  We’ve been here a couple times and we always have a blast.

When I visited this time, I was determined to go hiking.  When I had been in the past for white water rafting, all I did was party at the cabin when we weren’t rafting or playing the lake.  So I got a trail map from the staff at Ace and it looked like an easy trail to the New River that would connect to the national park trail that ran along side the river.

The beginning of the trail started out nicely.  One of the first things you do is cross this cute little brook flowing over the path.  The trail continues down hill along the side of the mountain.  As we continued to walk down hill we got closer and closer to a creek running parallel at the bottom of the hillside we were on.  There were lots of spider webs across the path, making me think this wasn’t a high traffic trail.  The trail was not blazed very well either, but it was obvious to keep going straight.

Getting close to the creek was a highlight.  The creek had one waterfall after another, making beautiful sounds and presenting great photo opportunities.  However, we had been walking for what felt like an hour and it didn’t seem clear that we were getting close to the New River.  I was also not excited about walking uphill the entire way back from where we just came.  So my friend and I decided to turn back before even reaching the New River.  I know!  Big disappointment, but my companion was not an enthusiast for hiking, so I figured I would torture her no longer.

Back up the mountain we were able to go back to playing in the activity lake, which can keep me occupied for hours! I probably went down that slide 10 times.  Notice in the picture there’s a girl hanging from the zip line in the center towards the right.  Warning for the zip line: when you hit the water it will drag your bottom off if you’re wearing a two piece!

Here’s their website for more information: http://www.aceraft.com/

By the way, the visitor center for the New River Gorge National Park is a beautiful facility and worth stopping at.  The rangers are also very helpful and easy to talk to.  You can tell they love their jobs!

For more information about the New River: http://www.nps.gov/neri