When I was in college I majored in English and a close friend, Mark, studied Anthropology. We both loved out-of-the-way places. Mark had an eye for finding arrowheads and imagining life thousands of years ago while I had more current stories inhabiting in my head from the books I was reading.
When Mark got word of where a cave entrance was he didn’t need to twist my arm to go check it out. I was taking a Mark Twain Seminar and Tom Sawyer had just explored a cave.
We drove a maze of Southern Indiana dirt roads, then finally pulled over at a land mark I don’t now recall.
We stepped over a barbwire fence with a No Trespassing sign on it (a lot of our hikes started that way) and set off through the woods. I don’t remember if we were following a trail or looking for landmarks. Mark had the route in his head and I followed him.
After about twenty minutes we stopped at a hole in the ground about as big around as a manhole—the entrance to the aptly named cave, Trapdoor. To access the cave we had to lower ourselves down, then dangle from our forearms and drop. We knew the bottom would be there just a foot or two down, but still, there was hesitation on my part. But once Mark dropped and was just standing there unharmed, I swallowed my heartbeat and dropped too.
We could’ve brought high-powered flashlights with us but we didn’t. Me, in my Tom Sawyer mindset, and Mark, in his prehistoric fascination, both lit candles and proceeded to navigate through the darkest place I’d ever been.
We walked slowly out of necessity—the cave walls eating our meager light. We spoke in quiet voices—transported back in time.
By the time we’d covered the quarter mile obstacle course of slanting, loose, dark rock peppered with boulders to the end of the cave and then back to the entrance, all we could see as we peered up was a slice of starry sky.