This past week found us caving in Kentucky in a very small portion of the world's longest known cave system. (It's really pretty incredible.) When we soak in some majesty such as this and we get all sorts of "Scientists have determined that..." facts in the process, I'm always bumswaggled. How, pray tell, can scientists figure this stuff out? They're pretty smart peeps, I guess.
(Shout out to scientists everywhere. Collectively, you're pretty cool.)
Prior to the trip, we got a few "You're taking children through the caves? Are they going to be okay?" comments. Well, pshaw. Of course we were taking children through the caves. I remember going when I was a wee lass, and they're pretty much set up for families. It's not like we were chucking them a hard hat, lantern, and pick ax and telling them to go find a new cave tunnel. There are tens of tour options, and wouldn't you know it but our kids can hack a little bit of walking on well trodden paths. IN FACT, the Eldest really liked Fat Man's Misery. (And the Younger was carried a lot because she's in that mood of late, and who are we to argue vehemently when our last tot wants to snuggle hug?) Even better, caving is somewhat weather proof as you're (obviously) underground and cool year-round.
Which is great, 'cause it rained. Pretty much all week.
You know that when you're on a trip, you're going to have some unexpected twists happen. Our first one occurred pretty quickly when we realized that we didn't pack the Elder's sweatshirt. Somewhere between packing a couple of days in advance and then unpacking the sweatshirt for some insignificant reason, it was never returned to the suitcase. As a parent, you just want to shrink to the back of the tour group when you all have to slosh through a downpour before spending two hours in a dark, 54-degree cave and your kid only has a long-sleeved t-shirt on. And the rangers kept harping on "No one get hypothermia! It takes us a long time to get you out of the cave and to the nearest hospital!" So the boy ended up giving up his long-sleeved t-shirt for the Elder, which meant that he was not only nice and wet from the hike to the entrance of the cave, but then he only had a t-shirt for the entire tour. But he's a sport.
Still, we toured, we hiked, and we cabined. Twist #2 happened when it soon became obvious that our cabin was also housing a horde of mice (or at least one very persistent one). While I'm not one to over-analyze a mouse's psyche, I do think that Mr. Mouse missed the mark when he moved an entire Ziplock of trail mix from where he found it to buried in the boy's suitcase. That right there was an exercise in insignificant diligence. And if he had chosen to bury his cache in my clothes instead, I would be busy shopping right this very moment to replace all of the clothes that I would have had to burn.
(That being said, we were pretty thrilled with our cabin, overall. If you're looking to visit the caves and want a family-friendly option, check them out. Though the lady who gave us the key was on point when she kept reiterating "You're going to be camping...This is pretty much camping...Now, you understand that you're basically camping...")
(I'll take cabin camping over tent camping when the heavens open up for days on end, any time.)
The first night of our stay, we watched a whole herd of white-tailed deer just a few steps away from our cabin's back door. We crouched by a curious turtle after our second cave tour. And then on our way out of the park, we ogled some wild turkeys who were doing their turkey business at the side of the road. Admittedly, I enjoyed those snatches of wild life more so than the scads of cave crickets lurking a few inches above my head in a short, narrow tunnel. Those things gave me the heebie jeebies with their ghostly white, spindly legs and antennae, and the well intentioned teenaged girl holding things up in front of me a) to take a picture of water dripping and b) to show my children that there was water dripping did not fully grasp my anxiety at that moment.
Despite some hitchy moments on the trip and far too much road construction and detours, the trip is in the books, and we have new experiences to draw on as we remember things like "Pack matches if you expect to use a camp stove" and "A mall is not a fun place to wander around if you're a child."
The next goal, now, is to remind myself that I'm not on vacation anymore and therefore can't justify 4,000 calories a day. Which is kind of a bummer.