For the past couple years, SMU Outdoor Adventures and Inner Space Caverns have worked together to produce an experience that few have the ability to partake in. Called the Wild Cave Tour, Inner Space leads groups off the beaten path in order to explore some of the more hard to reach areas of the cave. Inner Space is the largest cavern system in the state, meaning there are many different areas to explore and discover. This is truly one trip that produces different sights and memories with every trip, as I was lucky to see along with my Assistant leader, Manuel Familiar and six amazing participants.
Our trip began at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, October 22 in front of the Dedman center at SMU. The sun was still working its way up into the morning sky when Manuel and I were joined by our excited six participants. We all loaded up into the van and began our way towards Georgetown, TX, a city about 20 minutes north of Austin. After exploring a bit of Georgetown’s Main Street and stopping for a quick breakfast, we arrived at Inner Space Caverns, and by 10:30 AM, we had all our safety equipment on and were ready to descend deep into the earth with our guides Don and Brandy.
The beginning of our tour began with a quick picture to show just how clean we were before our scramble through the deep. Once we moved off the normal tour path, we first arrived at the Press Room, where the discovery of the cave was announced to the media. From there, we headed towards the back of the Dragon’s Mouth and onto the Squid Room. Most of the rooms in the cave have names based on the geological formations found within, and the Squid Room provided many, many interesting formations for us to see. While in the Squid Room, we noticed all the moisture in the air and our tour guide, Don, told us about how the cave’s humidity level is a constant 98%! The moisture in the air was actually steam coming off from our clothes!
From the Squid Room we moved onto the first real crawl that led us to Bob’s Bone Pit, a pile of rocks that contained ancient fossils from when the cave was actually a deep-sea canyon. Down there you saw fossils of ancient fish and other pre-historic animals forever entombed in the rock. It was crazy to think of just how old this cave was. When we asked our other tour guide, Brandy, about how long it took for this cave to form, she could only guess millions of years!
From there, we progressed to the Maze Room, but not before we went down a “slide.” While some of the participants decided to go down feet-first, many of us decided to go down head-first and really enjoy the slide, squeezing and slipping our way down. Once everyone was down, we moved into the Maze Area, where the guides allowed us to pick a tunnel and venture off for some time on our own. Don’t worry! All three tunnels led directly back to the main room, so getting lost was impossible!
While some of us took a quick break, one adventurous participant tried to go through a tunnel not yet entirely ventured. We all watched as she slowly climbed up into the roof area above us and listened as she tried to make her way to the end of the tunnel. Eventually, we heard her say she was heading back as she could feel the cavern walls getting slimmer and slimmer! The leaders were amazed at how courageous she was in even trying!
Our next stop was the Canyon Crawl, where we walked above a small canyon area in the cave. While keeping three points of contact, we walked across the canyon to see that the owners of the cave were actually beginning to commercialize this area of the cave for those less-adventurous cavers. In fact, we were told that we may be one of the last tour groups here before it was closed from the Wild Cave Tour for good! What an experience to be one of the last to see it in its most prime and untouched form!
We then decided to take a quick break before our last difficult crawl and played around in the Mud Room. Here, the mud was so thick and sticky that many participants began losing their shoes! Some of us started making mud angels on the ground or made mud sculptures for future cavers to see when they come down. I left my name on one of the walls, just in case I get to explore the cave one more time!
Finally, we moved to the last difficult crawl before exiting the cave. We went through the Dragon’s Mouth and moved towards Rain Drop. After squeezing and crawling our way through the rock, we finally made it up into the main area of the cave. We headed towards the picture area and were amazed to see just how dirty we had gotten! Mud. Was. Everywhere! As we again walked into the sunlight, we got to smell fresh air again and enjoyed the sun on our bodies as we relaxed and reflected on our expedition beneath the ground. While it was nice to be outside once more, I know I can speak for the entire group that there is nothing quite like exploring the chambers of rock and dirt found beneath the Earth and that we cannot wait for another chance to do it again!
Jeremy Rechtien, Trip Leader.