Three of the coolest men, Chuck, George, and Mark took us caving at Island Forge Cave in the morning and afternoon, in two different groups. The night before George had given us a lecture on how he spent 6 months as a family medicine doctor in Antarctica, and his enthusiasm was just so heartening. He was so excited about showing us the films people had made for a film festival that he didn’t want to stop playing them, even after his lecture was supposed to have ended. He really sold working in Antarctica as an amazing experience.
The next morning we woke up to beautiful thick snowflakes falling, which was inspiringly picturesque on one hand, but we were all wondering whether it would be an issue for caving.
“The beautiful thing about caving is that no matter what the temperature is like outside, it’s always 53 degrees inside caves,” George told us.
I followed the three cavers in my car, on roads that had definitely not been plowed, and only slipped once, but was definitely worried, and totally respected that another car decided to turn around rather than risk the 55 minute drive on winding, rolling back roads.
The caves were awesome, though, despite the couple bats I was terrified of flying out at me with all of us shining our headlamps on, and the weird furry fungus we crawled next to. A lot of the times we were rock climbing along narrow crevices, hands and feet splayed against the walls on either side. Andre, from Denmark, was super nice about waiting up for me and turning around to light my path every 20 feet or so along the trickier parts, and again, the attitude of staying safe and fostering strong communication and learning was wonderfully heartening. At one point we sat around and had a moment of silence in the caves, sitting in a circle, listening to the water dripping in the background, and hearing each other’s breaths, but not much else. Chuck passed around lifesavers for us all to bite on at the same time, smiling big, in order to see whatever’s in the lifesavers glowing in the dark when bitten down on. And then he responsibly passed around a bag for everyone to drop their wrappers in.
When we came back to camp in much better driving conditions, people prepped for the superbowl, bringing mattresses down in front of the big screen, and Jacob, our amazing chef who studied nutrition, provided amazing pizza, buffalo wings, and even buffalo cauliflower for the vegetarians! There were chips and salsa, and a keg of local beer, and a group of 30 people, including our instructors, cheering for the Eagles or Patriots, in this amazing log cabin in the woods. Our friends here from other country’s were here experiencing probably the best classic kind of superbowl party I’ve ever been to, complete with beer pong games.