Caving is probably not something most of us think about too often, much less do on the regular. Recently, I was on a road trip with my buddy Matt from New York City to Indiana. Along the way, we saw signs for numerous caves. I’m a huge fan of roadside excursions and if you’ve ever traveled with me, you know I’m all about stopping to go kart racing, try a ropes course, swing on a zip line, hit golf balls at a driving range or mine for gold. You just name it. I want to experience it all! So you can imagine that when Matt and I had a few hours to spare to get our cave on (is that a thing?), it was a no-brainer. We went for it.
I was particularly excited about this unique adventure since I hadn’t been inside of a cave for at least 10 years. There were signs along the road for various caves and one we saw one that looked pretty cool (of course, we also read a few Yelp reviews) was Marengo Cave, located in Marengo, Indiana. It also happens to be a U.S. National Natural Landmark.
We pulled up to the entrance in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, and apart from a school class trip departing, the grounds were relatively quiet. A family tour had just begun, so we hurried down the staircase to join the guide and the group. Right from the start, the whole cave experience was beyond magical. You forget about how much of the earth lays beneath us, is still undiscovered, or in the ocean. And this cave made us feel so small as we walked through rock formations formed millions of years ago. There are tons of caves located in Indiana and Kentucky (Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is one of the largest cave systems in the world) and these are just the ones that have so far been discovered.
The history of the cave, as told by our tour guide, is that Marengo was discovered in 1883 by two children who were playing and went into a hole in the earth. New discoveries and sections of the cave have been expanding ever since. There are numerous tours at Marengo, ranging from close to the surface-level walking tours in wide open caverns to spelunking and squeezing on all fours through tiny spaces deep in the earth. It’s incredibly exhilarating, and there’s something for everyone depending on how you choose to explore it.
Our whole tour lasted a bit more than an hour. It was so exciting that Matt and I both started talking about what it might be like to get into the caving world. It’s very thrilling being in a cave, even if it’s for a small amount of time. It sounds so incredible to explore unknown parts of caves, as our guide said she does on the weekend with her husband. After the tour, we grilled her with questions about what it’s like to be a professional caver, and she was excited to share her discoveries and enthusiasm with us. It was totally infectious.
*See the picture above of the cave that I took with my own camera!
The main thing I took away from the cave is just the feeling of how small we are in this big universe. We were in one cave for a short amount of time, and it felt like a whole new world. There are thousands of caves all around the globe and so much more to be explored. It’s also a great reminder of just how old the earth is and how short our time is on this planet in comparison. This roadside adventure was 100 percent worth it, and I’d totally be up for caving again in the future. If you ever get the chance, I can’t stress enough just how totally awesome is the experience.