Caves, Creeks, and Poisen Oak

This weekend’s adventure showed me once again, that you never know what you are capable of until you try it.

After a very long drive, our group of 8 teenagers and 6 adults find ourselves pulled over on the side of a back road, a loan pit toilet marking the start of our hike. I know we are hiking down to the creek, and down looks very, very steep! I have two thoughts. One is that it is going to be very difficult to get down, and two, once I am down I am going to have to come back up! The alternative is to wait by the hot cars for the next 5 or 6 hours until everyone is done. So down I go.

Once on the trail it is not so bad. I go slow and remember to keep my weight over my feet. I have been told this many times, but it did not actually sink in until my Grand Canyon Trip. Keeping your weight over your feet is sometimes counter intuitive. But it makes hiking so much easier when you get it.

Besides being steep, the trail is lined with Poison Oak. Poison Oak is a relative of Poison Ivy and I am allergic to it. For awhile I try to avoid the Poison Oak, but then I realize that is just not possible and resign myself to weeks of itching.

At the bottom of the climb we come to a creek, and a cave. The cave has a wide opening. Water rains from the roof of the cave. Near the back is a smaller hole. Apparently, once you go through the hole, the water gets deep. Our plan is to swim through the hole and into the cavern beyond and out the other side.

This is the entrance to the cave.  Near the back water is raining from the roof of the cave.
This is the entrance to the cave. Near the back water is raining from the roof of the cave. Can you see the darker part in the back? That is the entrance to the main cavern.

I have brought one of those cheap blow up “lounges” to float through the cave on. I know the water will be cold, but I have no idea how cold. I decide to just jump on my floatie and start kicking. When my chest hits the water I gasp and I can’t breathe! The water is so cold, the cave is so dark, I panic for a moment and turn around. I want OUT!

But then I tell myself this is not who I want to be. I take a couple of deep breaths, get back into the water, and enter into the dark hole. Oh my gosh the water is cold! A the “rain” coming from the top of the cave isn’t helping anything. Once inside the cavern I decide it is all worth it. The water does not feel shockingly cold anymore and I am past the “rain”. It is not completely dark, and I can see all the amazing cave formations.

Notice the formations on the walls of the cave.  The water here is very deep.  I can't touch the bottom.
Notice the formations on the walls of the cave. The water here is very deep. I can't touch the bottom.

Our group hangs out inside the cave for awhile. The kids find a way to climb up on a ledge. The adults float in the water. Those of us with waterproof cameras take pictures. Then it is time to see what is on the other side.

Warm sunshine ahead! But watch out, those rocks are slippery!
Warm sunshine ahead! But watch out, those rocks are slippery!

This side of the cave has lots of nice rocks to sit on. So we spend awhile just relaxing and enjoying the water and the cave. Then our group leader mentions that he heard there was another cave, “just a 1/2 mile down the trail”. Of course we all need to go.

Looking back at the cave I just floated through.
Looking back at the cave I just floated through.

Something to know, trail miles are not the same as city miles. The trail may have “only” been 1/2 a mile, but it went up and down and over rocks and under fallen trees. As always, Poison Oak was everywhere. And because no one had been there before, we we not sure exactly what would be ahead. That made the hike seem longer.

The "trail".  The plants in the foreground are blackberries.
The "trail". The plants in the foreground are blackberries.

Finally we find the second cave. Wow! This one is great. Not as large as the first cave and you can see all the way through to the other side. It is much rockier, so getting through is a combination of walking, climbing, and swimming.

Getting through this cave will not be easy!
Getting through this cave will not be easy!

The other side is beautiful. The kids have found a large pool, and they are jumping off of a ledge into the water. The adults are happy to sit in the sun. Until one adult decides to join the kids and jump into the pool, then we all do. Sometimes it is better to be a kid!

Sadly, time goes by and it is time to go back. Some of us decide to hike up the creek, instead of taking the trail. We think it might be easier. While we are going back up the creek, I recall all the movies I have watched where people are walking up a stream or a creek. They seem to walk so easily. Movie creeks are not like real creeks. I think movie creeks are level and sandy on the bottom. Real creeks have holes and boulders and very slippery rocks. They also have mosquitoes. I fall down again and again. So does everyone else. I think it would have been easier to take the trail back!

This should be an easy walk, right? WRONG!
This should be an easy walk, right? WRONG!

Once back to the first cave, it is time to tackle the trail back to the car. Then our leader “remembers’ there is another trail. It is longer, but not so steep. Funny thing, all the adults take the longer trail, all the kids take the steeper one. We don’t worry about the kids going off on their own. They are all older teenagers with lots of hiking experience. 2 of them are Eagle Scouts. They are good at looking out after each other and staying out of trouble. Plus we know there is no way they will let us get to the cars first, so they won’t have much time to get into trouble!

We arrive home tired and dirty. I wash well with Poison Oak soap. In a few days I will know how bad the Poison Oak really was!

I have survived another adventure with teenagers!
I have survived another adventure with teenagers!

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