I was fine until I wasn’t. Even a day later I can’t tell you for sure what was my undoing. It could have been the darkness. Or it could have been the tight spaces. Or a combination of the tight spaces and the darkness. Whatever it was, it messed with my reason and made me a little crazy. I had to get out of the cave. I needed sunlight right then.
Let me back up and explain how I found myself in a cave on a beautiful spring morning.
I currently serve as a Young Women leader in church. My primary responsibility is to work with the 12-18 year old girls and invite them to come unto Christ. This is done through a variety of activities, a whole lot of love, and consistent prayer.
I have observed there are basically three types of leaders.
The first one is the vibrant, exciting kind. Basically the one that is so cool the girls just love and adore her. This is how I always envisioned myself. I mean, I’m cool, right? No. I’ve never been cool – not a day in my life. My niece Nic though, who serves in the Young Women group in her ward, exemplifies this type of leader.
The second type of leader is the very austere and strict sort of soul. The girls are more afraid of her than anything. While diligent in keeping the law she has never quite learned to keep the spirit of the law. And the girls recognize this. I don’t think I’m this kind of leader because I can’t imagine anyone being afraid of me. Ever. But you never know.
Which leaves me with the third type, the dork. This leader often means well but nothing ever quite works out for her. She lacks the smooth charm of the first but she isn’t as unbendable as the second. If the girls are kind and forgiving, they look past the outer exterior and realize she has a good heart. They might even have fun with her and learn to love her. If they can’t see past the dorkiness though, that’s all she’ll ever be to them. A dork.
After all this time, I have received more checks under the third column. I have to face the music: I’m not now nor will I ever be cool. As I’ve said before, I might as well accept being a dork because I definitely can’t hide it.
A couple of months ago, our Young Men president asked if our young women would be interested in hiking in a cave. I couldn’t speak for the girls, but I sure wanted to! The girls agreed. We set a date for May 11.
As the day approached, our girls dropped out of the activity. All but two. But I always say, if you are willing to do it for all, you should be willing to do it for one. In our ward, this rule applies on a regular basis. So, at 7:00 Saturday morning (which normally doesn’t exist for me), we set off with two young women, two young men, two leaders, and one helper to explore a cave in Sheep Creek Canyon, Utah.
The day became a series of embarrassing events for me as I demonstrated my greatest strength – my dorkiness.
The first blunder came when we needed to cross the river. It was more of a mountain stream but due to the spring runoff, the water moved pretty swift and as I found out, high. I really did not want to get wet at the beginning of our grand adventure. A place was found to cross. It consisted of walking on stones to the middle of the river then jumping to the other side into a thicket of still dead bushes. The young men went first and made a little clearing. The young men president straddled the river to help the girls. Both my girls made it. But then it was my turn.
I’ve often wondered when I watch movies and the heroine needs to jump across or down something to save her life if I could do it. Now I know, I could not. They had to find a log for me to cross on. That was my first indicator I should have waited for them at the car. But no, I persevered.
The next leg of the journey we had to ascend the hill to get to the cave opening. My younger self would have relished this. If we had done this trip when I was a young woman I would have bounded up the hill like nobody’s business. But somewhere between the age of 12 and 39 I became old and out of shape. I had to pause to rest a few times. After one misstep, I fell on my backside which caused a bruise. I should have turned back then but I persevered.
When I finally made it to the cave opening I seriously thought the worst was behind me. I was hot, sweaty, tired, and sore already. But then we had to climb in through a small gate to get inside the cave. Once we were inside though, we were able to stand up. This won’t be so bad, I thought. We set off to find the “big room” which we were promised was as big as the church’s gym.
But our lofty entrance way soon disappeared and we were climbing over rocks and ducking down narrow passage ways. A piece of yellow twine marked our path. And of course, the occasional piece of litter.
I wasn’t too far in when my panic attack started. My thoughts started racing. We are climbing all this way in and for what? Eventually we will have to turn around and come back out the same way. There is no easy way out. Suddenly, I needed sunlight in the worst possible way. But I’m a leader, I have to continue on. No. What if you get to the big room and become immobilized with anxiety? There is no way anyone can carry you out through these narrow passage ways. You need to be responsible. Just give up. And so I did.
Unfortunately, our Young Men president had to escort me out to ensure my safety. Then he had to go all the way back and rejoin the group. That was embarrassing.
Let me just say, the sun never felt so good. I breathed the air deeply. My jaunt in the cave only lasted about ten minutes but I had never known such liberty as when I stepped back out into the spring air. No more musty air. No more darkness. An overwhelming sense of relief rushed over me.
Note to self: if given a choice of being a superhero – do not choose Batgirl. Good to know. I wouldn’t want to make that mistake.
I turned off my light and threw it in my bag along with my sweatshirt. Luckily, I was smart enough to bring a water bottle with me and I took a big drink of water. I sat down on a rock and caught my breath and tried to cool off.
At first, I waited on the ledge. But I didn’t have a watch with me and the time seemed to go by so slowly. I looked down at our vehicles below. If I were down there, I could keep track of the time with the clock in the car.
The gate for the cave is kept locked to prevent vandals and to ensure safety. We had to get the key from the park ranger in Manila, Utah on our way. After we entered the cave, we locked the gate to prevent someone entering while we were inside. It would be awful if we left unaware someone else was in the cave and locked it again – trapping them inside. Since I came out, the gate was now unlocked. I felt a sense of duty to stand guard.
But nobody else was around. I could watch the opening from down below in my car. If I went down by myself, nobody in our group would have to wait for me when they returned. Plus, instead of embarrassing myself with the log again, I could just walk across the stream. Nobody would know. I brought an extra pair of shoes and socks. This could work.
After some internal debate weighing the pros and cons I decided to descend. Going down was a lot easier than going up and I found myself at the river in no time. I found a calm spot to cross and decided to go for it. I rolled up my pants to mid-calf and stepped into the cold run-off. The best thing to do, I decided was to go quickly. So I took another step. And then another and my left leg went down further than expected and the water came up to my knee. Oh man, I thought, I got my pants wet, too. No matter! Our Boy Scout leader stressed bringing a change of clothes and I dutifully complied.
I stepped with my right leg and lost my balance. I went down but caught myself before my head went under. Quickly I popped back up more embarrassed than ever. I looked all around me to make sure no witnesses were around. There were none. I quickly went to my car and changed my clothes. I threw my wet clothes into a garbage liner I had brought and stuffed it in my bag and zipped it up. I really didn’t want anyone to know about my final blunder of the day.
After everyone returned to the vehicles, we at lunch and left. Even though I didn’t make the final destination, I have aching muscles, a sore bottom, several cuts, and I had a headache for a good portion of the day when I got home.
Even after all that, I still had fun. Next time though, I’ll wait at the cars. It is safe to say, my spelunking days are behind me.
(sigh) I just wish I didn’t have to be that third category of a leader every time. Couldn’t I be cool, just once?