Before today, though, I didn't have caves on that list...
Craig, on the other hand, happens to love most of that stuff up there, especially the things that are adventurous and outdoorsy. He planned this Spring Break trip for us around a business trip to Arizona and decided to include a trip to Carlsbad Caverns on the way instead of driving the vast expanse through west Texas like we did last year. There is almost nothing enjoyable or delightful about west Texas, in my opinion, and if I never have to drive through there again in my whole life I would be just fine with that. So a different route sounded mildly appealing. Craig also reminded me that I had been to Carlsbad Caverns before with four little kids including a newborn Baby McKay when we moved from Atlanta to Utah in 2003. I only have a vague recollection of that, but I've seen the pictures and I thought, if I did it with four little kids after just having a baby, surely I could do it again with three independent teenagers who can now walk by themselves, right?
Well, in 2003 the elevators worked.
No wonder nothing about this felt familiar until we got to the bottom center of the cave where the restrooms and the cafeteria and the elevators were!
In 2003 we didn't walk 850 feet down to Middle Earth via three miles of steep, slippery switchbacks in the dark.
In 2003 we didn't take a 90 minute guided tour deep into the caverns with a very knowledgeable, very passionate tour guide who told harrowing stories of cave explorers and gave us firsthand experiences with "complete and total darkness."
In 2003 we weren't captive down there in the center of the earth contemplating whether it would be better to start the two hour walk back up to civilization or just resign ourselves to cave life. in 2003 when babies got tired and fussy, and when we were finished looking at stalag-things and ready to see the sky again, we just took the elevator back up to the ground level visitors' center.
I actually started this day having no recollection of any previously bad cave experiences and therefore pretty excited about this adventure. Craig told me what to expect (sort of...) I had appropriate shoes and clothing. I was looking forward to accumulating a ridiculous amount of steps on my FitBit and doing something besides sitting in a car all day. I'm certainly not afraid of a little strenuous exercise; Savannah and Alex just dragged me up that Y mountain in Provo last spring, for heavens sake!
But after three hours of being entirely surrounded by dimly lit rocks, and realizing that the hike out would be longer and harder than the hike in, I definitely started to freak out a tiny bit. Craig is a smart man, though, and knows that sometimes food and water do a lot more to calm my panic stricken heart than any amount of reasoning. We ate lunch and then he started Emma and me on the hike back while he and the other two kids went back to explore one last part of the cave.
Here are the good things about this day:
- I did a hard, scary, amazing, challenging thing today. And I survived.
- The cave experience has now been seared into my memory and I will know better next time than to think I need to experience it again. I don't. I can happily cross cave exploration off my list of things I need to do in my life.
- I have walked enough steps for two or three days, my legs feel like jello, and I can barely keep my eyes open, and that will hopefully lead to more than four hours of sleep tonight...which will be a great thing.
- I have seen stunningly beautiful things today.
Most days, if given the opportunity, I would never choose the journey. I would always just get to the destination. But Craig is a journey guy and also usually the planner/driver, and because of that, I have seen more and done more, traveled more roads, been to more national parks, taken more sunset pictures, seen more amazingly beautiful wonders of nature, done more hard things, and tried more scary things than I ever would have on my own, and for that I am truly grateful.