Howe’s Caverns is only an hour away from our apartment. I have been meaning to go and take a tour. I used to love the Howe’s Caverns when I was kid. An elevator took us over a hundred feet in to the earth into massive caves that felt endless and filled with colorful lights and underground rivers and awkward rock formations. I know that now that I am older, too much older, the caves are going to be less impressive. But that’s fine. I like to see my memories, my ghosts in their more natural shriveled up state.
Recently we drove up there, but the place was closed. My wife was more disappointed than I was.
“Its okay,” I told her. “This place is only an hour from where we live. We can just come back here next week.”
She got back in the jeep and I could tell we were in a for a long and exhausting pout-a-thon. I decided to drive through the back roads. That always cheers me up. Summer was over. Golden Rod was still everywhere. The leaves of trees were just starting to change. Just the tips of them turned yellow.
While driving I saw a place called Secret Caverns. It looked like a carnival ride. There were paintings of cavemen in sunglasses on the side. The Entrance was designed to look like the mouth of a bat. I walked in and asked around. The guy behind the counter said it was a another cave. That it was more casual than Howe’s Caverns. Heather’s eyes lit up. She loved casual things. We bought tickets and a couple diet cokes.
The tour started with a story about a farmer who found the cave and how he had sent two twelve year old boys down there to explore. The boys got lost down there. But, after a couple days, they eventually made their way out. This seemed like a morbid way to start the tour but I was still intrigued.
Then, instead of taking an elevator, the guide led us down a steep stair case. The steps were tall and thin and wet and felt slippery. I looked back at my wife. We were both getting nervous. A group of beefy dudes had joined us on the tour and even they looked a little uneasy. Our tour guide was calm though. He made a bunch of bad jokes about losing people on tours. People slipping and dying. Stuff like that.
Eventually we made our way to the bottom and we made our way through a narrow cave system. “Casual” did not seem like the correct word to describe this cave tour. I had to be very alert. And I consistently had to duck and almost had to crawl at one point. This was a work out. Even though it was fifty degrees in the cave, I was sweating. Our tour guide kept the bad jokes coming. He referred to the place as his man cave(anal?). And the movie the Descent, a horror movie about people who get stuck in a cave and get eaten by cave dwellers.
The guide bitched about Howe’s cavern frequents.
“Touch the rocks all you want. We aren’t uptight like those people at Howes caverns.”
We would then feel obligated to touch pet the walls.
“Mmmmm, that’s nice,” I’d say.
I acted impressed but I was too nervous and sweaty to really absorb any of it.
The cave ended at a waterfall. It was over a hundred feet tall and it smelled like the creek where I had put my moms ashes. The same creek where my grandfather drowned. Where I learned how to swim.
As soon as we saw this waterfall everyone calmed down. We stood around and took pictures and joked about taking showers.
“Could I actual do that?” I asked the tour guide.
“Take a shower?” he asked.
He gave me a weird look and shook his head.
I just wanted to dip my head in. I did want to get naked and wash my whole body, but I decided to leave the issue alone. I was finally enjoying the tour. I kept taking big whiffs of the air. Heather and I embraced.
“Stop sniffing the waterfall,” she said.
“Can you smell it?” I asked her. “It smells so good.”
“I can smell your balls,” she said.
“Shut up,” I told her and we laughed.
We headed back. Everyone was in a goofier mood. We all laughed at the tour guides bad jokes.
At one point he turned the lights off. We stood around and enjoyed the pure darkness. It was overwhelming and made me feel uneasy but, at the same time, I didn’t want it to end.