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The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Backpacking with Brynn: I went caving! 

This past weekend, I drove four and a half hours down to Elkins, West Virginia to try my hand at exploring the unseen
Brynn Meisse
Brynn Meisse hikes through the cave in Elkins, West Virginia.

In the rolling hills of Appalachia, a world below the surface can be explored by those with some courage and proper gear.  

This past weekend, I drove four and a half hours down to Elkins, West Virginia to try my hand at exploring the unseen. 

I met up with my caving group at the local Subway to grab a quick meal and go over the expectations for this excursion. Some of the topics we discussed were to always have an eye on the person in front of you and behind you, always have a buddy if you plan to explore, and leave no trace. 

After a quick meal and discussion, we piled into the cars and drove 15 minutes down the road to the mouth of the cave. 

The cave was located just off a side road and it was hard to see if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Luckily the trip was led by two sisters who have been caving since they were 19 years old and have led several groups through this cave.  

Upon arriving at the site, we changed into our clothes and put on our gear. I was wearing two long shirts that were moisture-wicking, two pairs of pants, waterproof socks, gloves, a helmet with a handlamp, and a cave pack. 

The cave we went into was a public one, so we didn’t need permits to enter. However, since it is a public cave, the trails are worn down by visitors and various colors of graffiti can be seen painted onto the cave’s entrance. 

To enter the cave, we had to climb up a small landing and crawl down a narrow path.

As we were crawling on our hands and knees, the sounds of rushing water led us to a wide-open cavern that was tall enough to stand and walk around. 

On the far side of the cavern was a roaring river that had a small waterfall, but what caught my eye was the ceiling. When I flashed my light up at the ceiling, green and yellow sparkles twinkled in the light beam.  

The sparkles seemed to be beckoning us to follow further into the cave.  

So of course, I went further in. 

The trail of sparkles led us to tiny crawlspaces that had my claustrophobia acting up. These crawlspaces wrapped around in several directions, but all led to the same endpoint: a water trail route and the shower room. 

The group split into two groups, and I went with those heading to the shower room. The shower room had water falling from the ceiling that resembled a natural shower.

It was a cool sight to see, but I felt myself regretting not taking the water route. My goal for this caving trip was to get out of my comfort zone and make the most of the trip. 

After a quick debate in my head, I asked my guide leader if we could go take the water route and she instantly agreed.  

The water route was through an extremely narrow path that had rushing water threatening to push you back out of the entrance. The guide advised us to keep our feet on either side of the path because the middle had deep holes that would bring water up to our hips. 

I tried my best to follow instructions, but my foot slipped from the side wall and my right leg fell deep into the icy water hole.  

At that moment I regretted my decision to take the water route. I was cold and my shoes were filled with water, yet I carried on. The group of five moved further up the trail until we came to a crawling point.  

When my eyes landed on this section of the path, I felt my heart rate accelerating. A tiny path plus rushing water is a claustrophobic nightmare.  

Before I could go into a panic attack, I turned around and took my happy self right back down the path. I know my limits and that section was my limit.  

After I exited the water path, the group waited 20 minutes for the other group to finish their exploration and we started the journey back to our cars. 

The overall trip took us about five hours to complete. By the end of it, I was tired and ready to go to bed. 

This trip opened my eyes to a world that I never knew existed. I am completely grateful I got out of my comfort zone and decided to take this leap. 

I’m already counting down the days until my next caving trip in February! 

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