Friday, January 20, 2012
Doesn't look much like a trail run, does it? This is an actual image (not me) from a cave that my son, Ryan, and I explored a few weekends ago.
About a year ago, we did a caving expedition with the cub scout troop my son is in. It was amazingly difficult and fun (for us anyway, about 25% of the dads dropped out after the first “belly crawl”) and Ryan has been asking me to take him back (just the 2 of us) for a year (he really loves this stuff and I do to, probably not quite as much as him as he is a 70 pound, strong and extremely flexible 10 year old and I am a fairly strong, 200 pound, not flexible at all 49 year old so most of the challenges, especially those crawling through small holes, he is better than me at!) I promised him we would do it for his 10Th birthday (last August) and it has taken till now (January) to make it happen. Side note here of God’s wonderful intervention – we were talking about bringing a friend of mine and his son and were planning on going with them next weekend. We both decided we could not wait that long and went yesterday, turns out it was so dangerous and challenging (my friend is a Radiologist and even less flexible that me, he would probably have dropped out or hated it and his son is athletic but tends to get really stressed out in challenging situations and pukes a lot – not a good mix in this cave). Also, we had the luxury of it being just the 2 of us and the guide (which actually made me a little apprehensive at first) and next weekend, turns out, is their busiest weekend of the year so we would have been in a large group – the stars were aligned, as they say (really, God was rewarding me honoring my role as a father – to support my son in things like this that will help to make him a man – and make me a better man)!
Anyway, back to our trip. We packed up and left Atlanta about 3pm to head for Tennessee (about a 2 hour drive) – I love driving anywhere with my son – it is awesome and very laid back – he has very little demands and we both sort of zone out into whatever we are doing – sometimes lots of conversation, sometimes none and all good. We arrived about 1 hour early so we had a very light dinner (you cannot eat or drink anything the whole time you are in the cave and you don’t want to have to go to the bathroom) and headed to the cave site. We met our guide, a very cool and laid back guy named “Matt” and headed into the cave. Immediately we could tell this would be different than the cub scout trip, first of all in the pacing – without having to wait for 30 kids and dads, we could really rock this trip, not so fast that we missed anything but just the right pace. Also, and he told us this, with 2 people in decent shape, he could take us off the “beaten path” into areas that none of the “normal people” go on.
Without going into a huge amount of detail, cause that is not what this chapter is about, this ended up being one of the most challenging, and definitely most scary, 2 hours of my life – and I LOVED IT (Ryan loved it even more than me, if that was possible). Notice I said 2 hours, we covered more area of the cave, much harder routes, in 2 hours and 15 minutes than we did in over 4 hours with the scouts! This is no Disney ride where you are scared but you know how safe it is and that you are strapped in. You are, literally, one step (and a very muddy, slippery step) away from falling into a crevasse and breaking a leg, at the very least! You are leaning over and putting your body weight on your hands, with your feet on a small ledge, above a 30 foot drop into sharp rocks! You are crawling through holes that touch you on all points of your body, I got stuck more than once and had to re-adjust to make it through. To say this is exhilarating would be an understatement. Now, before you go judging me as a reckless and uncaring dad, remember, my son is very, very capable – at some points he actually got ahead of the guide and we had to pull him back – and the guide was giving us instruction as needed. He really is an amazing kid, very resilient and up for any challenge that comes his way, as he likes to say “LETS DO THIS THING”! We had an ongoing joke that the guide would say, over and over, “ok, now comes the hard part” and we would laugh – didn’t he just say that 5 minutes ago? Also, every time we would get to a crossroad, he would give us a choice, and Ryan would ask “which way is harder” and that was the way we would go! What 10 year old does that? I actually was talking to the guide about the book “The Road Less Traveled” and we both said Ryan has that concept down, which is a great thing, at least in these type of situations! I am so proud of my boy!
Here is the “take away” from this weekend. nothing except where to put my hands, how to make it through a squeeze, how to turn my body around and slide down a ledge and keeping my eye on Ryan if he needed my help (not much) and making sure we were both safe. I didn’t think about work, about my marriage, about our business, about the current political situation, nothing but the moment. It was absolutely amazing, similar to what I felt during my first triathlon but with the added danger factor and doing something totally out of my athletic “box”.
Side note to self; try rock climbing and mountain climbing as new adventure soon!
After we were done, we both said that this was in the top 10 experiences of our lives! Seriously. Big deal for a 10 year old but a really big deal for a 49 year old who had done a fair amount in his life! We enjoyed the longest, best hot shower in recent memory and then tried to “sleep” in the cave. In retrospect, this is one of only 2 things I would change – wear a long sleeve t-shirt cause my arms got pretty trashed and either camp out if the weather is good, or get a hotel – sleeping on rock is just impossible for a 200lb man, even with a good mattress – you wake up every 20 minutes for the whole night! The upside is that it makes you appreciate your home and bed so much more!
By the way, caving (like we did it) burns about 500 calories per hour and we ate hardly anything so we were starving, and I mean hand-shaking starving, this morning – amazing!
I am so peaceful today and thankful we are alive and safe. I can take on anything this next week brings me. God cleared my noisy brain again, and I am thankful for it! The next time you are scared to do something physical, I hope you can remember this chapter and realize what is awaiting you on the other side of that challenge – peace.
God bless you all,