We squirmed and squiggled, slithered and wriggled.
The first day we emerged from California Cavern slathered in mud. Our orange overalls, which looked like they’d been borrowed from the state prison, along with our helmets and exposed body parts, were colored a mud-oblique brown.
For five hours, our group of three shimmied through passages like reptiles, sometimes emerging in spacious, elaborate limestone rooms decorated with walls of crystals, stalactites, soda straws, glistening flowstones, cave draperies and cave bacon. There was even a subterranean lake that we crossed in a raft.
The next day we spent three hours submerged at nearby Moaning Cavern Park, named not for the sounds we uttered grunting through impossibly teeny you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me! passages, but for the “moaning” sounds made when, under certain conditions, water drops from the cave’s main chamber.
Instead of traipsing down the spiral staircase’s 144 steps, Joan Holliday, with considerable cajoling and assurances from our watchdog guide Paul Groh, and I entered that expansive chamber by roping up, stepping into a small opening and rappelling 165 feet. I purposely twirled and rotated in circles as I lingered during the descent, taking time to gawk and goggle at the massive limestone room below the entrance slot.