Spelunking - Jul 20th 2009 @ 10:53AM
by Matt Stone


Spelunking is the exploration of caves.  I can remember in the 9th grade my Earth science teacher, Mrs. Cavanness, taking our class on a field trip to Blanchard Springs Caverns near Mountain View, Arkansas .  In the 11th grade our family went through Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City in Missouri .  My wife and I visited Mystic Caverns near Harrison, Arkansas not too long after we were married.

The scenery in these caves is magnificent.  I feel that I lack the vocabulary to describe the natural beauty in these underground cathedrals, but I’ll try.  Cascading underground waterfalls appear from nowhere and fall into an ice cold, crystal clear underground river that flows to a destination unknown to me.  Stalactites hang from the tops of the caverns like giant ice sickles hanging from the sky.  Stalagmites rise from the bottom of the cave like trees standing in a forest.  Pillars, with their hour glass shape, are almost like the mighty columns in a coliseum from ancient .  Rock outcrops, solid and unmovable by human hands, yet are translucent to light.  The formations are limitless and determined by the dripping of water.  Piles of bat guano, some larger than a house, are evidence that earth provides shelter for all its wildlife.   

All of these caverns have been developed so that all people can enjoy the beauty of nature but are developed in such a way to protect the habitat when we visit.  Defined walking trails, hand rails, seating so that you can sit reticent and absorb the beauty of it all, and lighting to accent the aesthetics of the caverns.  I’ve had the privilege to experience these places in my life.  I believe that when we look at the land at times we think we have it all figured out, and unbeknownst to us, right below our feet, is a whole other world - a world that can be enjoyed, but also protected from habitat destruction at the same time.

My first real spelunking adventure, one where the cave was still in its natural state, raw and undeveloped, was a Man Cave in Fayetteville, Arkansas .  This cave was not really open to the public, but anyone brave enough to enter would not be turned away.  My son, Mason, wanted my wife, Jenny, and I to visit and watch the Razorback Red and White football game this spring. “You can even stay with me and my roommate in our apartment,” he says.  “No problem, son. We’ll be glad to come.” Big mistake!

When we walked into that Man Cave , it was truly breathtaking. In fact I thought that my wife was going to faint. I have the vocabulary to describe what we experienced, but I’ll tone it down some.  Now, I kind of took it all in stride since I had been a former cave dweller myself.  Some people just can’t see the beauty or humor in some things, and Jenny could not see the humor of the Hormel chili stalactites and stalagmites in the microwave.  The grease of 1000 cheeseburgers on the George Forman grill didn’t impress her either. I mean the only part of the grill that wasn’t greasy were the two prongs plugged into the electrical outlet. Son, you the man.

It only went downhill from there.  I just sat down on the couch and leaned against his cleanest pile of dirty clothes and watched the events unfold.  After Jenny had gained her composure, she needed to go to the restroom – a total lack of judgment. Didn’t I mention guano earlier? That’s all I’ll say about the restroom.  The only part that got to me was walking across the linoleum kitchen floor and it felt like walking on fly paper.  All the while the pungent smell of testosterone permeated the atmosphere.  What happened next is still a blur. My wife turned into a white tornado; I mean it was total habitat destruction.  Finally, at about 3:00 a.m., I had to put a halt to the F-5. I mean I couldn’t sleep.

The next morning we woke without much fanfare and went on to enjoy the game.  As I pondered the preceding events, it occurred to me what Mason has been learning in school - strategic planning.  He knew that it wouldn’t be cool to ask his mom to drive five hours to clean his Man Cave , but an invitation to a football game would do the trick.  This was a clear tactical move on his part in order to achieve his long range plan - the emergence of the little tornado.

Son, enjoy your spelunking days. Your own tornado is somewhere waiting for you on the horizon, and she won’t be as lenient as your mom.                                       




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