This past weekend the Outdoor Adventures crew took a group of 8 to Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown, TX. I went on this trip as a tech, meaning that I am training to be a trip leader by shadowing another trip leader. This was also my first trip as a tech, so it was a very new experience for me on the whole. I would say that the trip went amazingly, especially for a first trip. We had a full day planned when we left SMU at 7 in the morning, and the most important part of the day was going into the caverns at Inner Space. Before I get into the journey into the cave itself, I just want to say a word about the actual trip there in the van. I didn’t really think that the drive there was all that important aside from getting us from campus to our destination. I couldn’t have been more wrong. That first trip in the van really sets the tone to how the entire trip is going to go. We had a great bonding experience in the van when we needed to choose some music. Even though we weren’t all necessarily in the same year or even all in the undergraduate program, we all managed to get the awkwardness out pretty quickly and begin seeing each other as friends. This foundation is what makes or breaks these trips, and because we had formed such a good foundation we were all able to have more fun down in the cave by making jokes and just messing around with each other like we were long time good friends. So the journey into the depths of the caves was really unique. Coming into the trip I really had no idea what to expect because I had never done anything like this before. So when we got there, we all really got geared up with arm pads and knee pads and flashlights and hard hats, really the whole nine yards. I wore all of the gear required, but I went into the cave with high expectations for myself not thinking I would really need all of this protective gear that I was just supposed to wear. Boy was I wrong. Not even 5 minutes into the descent and I slammed my head into the rock ceiling because I was preoccupied watching my feet and making sure I wasn’t going to fall over. I wasn’t hurt because of the helmet that they gave us, but had I gone down under my own guide, I would have certainly not emerged as well off. Let me set the scene down in the cave. Pitch darkness only illuminated by our headlamps, dead quiet except for the noises that we made, and humidity in the high 90th percentile. Needless to say it was like nothing I had ever experienced, and it was really quite tranquil, especially when we all turned off our headlamps for a few minutes to experience our surroundings. So to get around the cave we were guided through many tight squeezes, awkward crawls, and lots of bouldering on the walls of the cave. The obstacles ranged from army crawling through low hanging shelves of rock to headfirst climbing down a rock shaft that couldn’t have been more than a foot and a half to two feet wide. While simply navigating the cave was an awesome physically challenging experience, we were also presented with a few challenges that we did not have to participate in if it made us feel uncomfortable. Theses challenges were to give us all a sense of what it is like to go caving like the guides go caving. Theses challenges normally involved squeezing ourselves out of a small tunnel by contorting our bodies into weird shapes we didn’t even know were possible. They were definitely a motivation to everyone when we were able to do things that visually did not look like they should ever be doable by city goes like us. By far my favorite experience down in the cave was jumping into the mud pit. Near the end of the trip, the guides took us to the rain drain, which basically has all of the water draining into it, obviously making everything quite muddy. They offered that we could get in the mud pit, but naturally no one wanted to be the first one in. So I felt like it was an obligation to the group to at least have one person go in, so I took a running start and jumped head first into the mud sliding on my stomach, and then I did one of the best mud angels I have ever seen if I may say so myself. This got everyone much more motivated to get in and participate. It’s not too frequently that we can simply get into a pit of mud because why not, and it really was a great stress reliever simply to have nothing to worry about and act like a kid again. I truly think this was the best atmosphere to tech in, because although the leader, Josh, and I were technically the leaders of the group, we had the guides to rely on for everything that we could and could not do. I learned so much and experienced something I had never gotten to do before, and had such a great time meeting new people and just have fun with them.
Nick Antonelli- Trip Leader in Training