Test Your Fitness Limits
Welcome to the Dark Side
Before I Twizzler my body through a mile's worth of Raccoon Mountain's naturally formed rock, I wonder if it hurts to be buried alive.
"Hope you're not afraid of getting dirty," says my guide, Patty, chuckling, as we stand at the cave's entrance. "Hold on tightly to this rope. The drop is about 15 feet." Swell.
Caving provokes your mental stamina as much as your physical agility: You operate on all planes of motion in poor lighting. Fight-or-flight impulses are futile; you're enclosed in a jagged tomb that's eerily quiet, New England chilly, and black as anthracite. The only way out is to conform your body to the rocks around you, patiently feeling your way forward and trusting your instincts. If you have to crawl, you crawl. Shimmying on my belly in a space 12 inches high is a lesson in acquiescence. When I relax, it gets easier.
"Sidestep the ledge. Slide on your back. Quick, down on your knees. Watch your head!" Patty instructs. Once I relinquish my adult worries (What time is it? I'll never be able to scrub these grimy stains out of my shorts!), I'm like a child again, crouching behind boulders, splashing in mud. I raise a fuss when we finally find daylight, wishing I could stay and play another game of hide-and-seek.
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