Caving is absurdly fun. Well, it does involve crawling around in the mud and hard surfaces, squeezing through tight passages, scrambling up unstable piles of rocks, and getting lost. But honestly, it’s like being in a giant underground playground. I had originally posted a paddling trip on the Wisconsin River, but for some strange reason nobody was interested. I mentioned caving and suddenly people were super excited, so caving it was. Most people are completely unaware of the fact that Bloomington is surrounded by wild caves. Finding them and getting permission to go in can be tricky. But the folks at the Richard Blenz Nature Conservancy have always been happy to let our club do a trip into Buckner Cave.
Kerry and I left town Thursday night. On Friday we did some hiking at Hickory Ridge in Hoosier National Forest, then went to Brown County State Park. While on a hike there, the second carload arrived and joined us for some evening walks. From there we headed to the cave property, where we had been given permission to camp. We cooked dinner and took a sneak peak at the cave entrance that night. Later the third car arrived. We fell asleep to the sounds (but not sights) of many fourth of July firework grand finales, but none of us were too sad to miss it.
Saturday morning the final car arrived and our ten-person caving crew was assembled. We packed up our caving gear, and headed in. Previous club ventures into Buckner have been slow and stumbly. It takes a couple trips before the piles of rocks and endless dark passages start to look familiar. This time we had it down. For the first time, we were able to complete the main loop. We pulled ourselves through entrance crawl and then into several large rooms including the Volcano room, the Air Force room, and Monument passage. We were in the cave for four hours and covered over three miles of distance, which was far more efficient than any previous trips.
When we got out, as usual, we were caked in mud. That warranted a trip to Monroe Reservoir at Paynetown State Recreation Area where we swam and cleaned off. From there, we headed to Turkuaz Cafe, where we dined on amazing Turkish cuisine and drank wine while lounging on the floor with lavish pillows like true sultans. Then we took a walk through IU campus before heading out of town back to the campsite. We spent the rest of the night at our massive bon fire, finishing off the wine.
Sunday morning Kerry and I headed out early to get some hiking in before returning home. The rest of the group visited the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, where coincidentally they were celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday with a giant bon fire. The group walked around the property a bit before heading home as well. It was an awesome weekend chock full of random and fun experiences.