By Green River Preserve

As we hiked to the Cave, it became apparent that each one of our campers was totally prepared to explore anything. If it were to be a cave that required a long drop down a narrow shaft, they would have taken the challenge. I can imagine what they must’ve been thinking during the beginning of the Mentor Hike. I’m sure it’ll be pitch black down there, I’m so glad I brought my headlamp. I wonder how deep it is. There’s gotta be water down there after all the rain. I heard about crickets, but nobody said anything about spiders. How many rooms are there? Along the way we gave it our best attempt to see some wildlife in the woods, but no luck. Upon our arrival to the Cave, we all adorned climbing helmets and played a fun name-game to get acquainted. Then we climbed in.

It is a truly inspiring event, when you see a group of kids walk into the unknown, for the very first time. I’m almost 30 and I remember my first time in the Cave (this summer), I couldn’t stop thinking of all the creepy crawly creatures that must be lurking within all the cracks and crevices. It was frightening to be underground, in an area that I could only imagine falling in on me. Then it all becomes clear that every doubt I have about it most likely came from some overdramatic Hollywood movie. This is reality, where places exist that may seem dark and scary, but are truly inspiring and wondrous to behold. Our campers are completely open to making leaps into unknown territory, even our first timers! All of our campers on this morning’s Mentor Hike went into the Cave and explored. With cave crickets all around and pitch-black tunnels leading into the bowels of the earth, they crawled into the “dry room” and the “wet room,” finding out how brave they can be if only they try to be. We learned of the history of the land, tales of escape and sanctuary in such places that were, for some, a place to survive in hard times. Of all that we learned, I think the most important aspect is that we all had fun in the process of exploring and discovering something that may have once seemed a dark and dreary can also be beautiful and extraordinary.

Story and Photos by Brandon S. Marshall