Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

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Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby jelliepopeney » May 18, 2012 11:23 pm

Hi everyone!

I feel like the nerdy new kid at school - apologies in advance here. Recently moved to Orange County from Minnesota when I transferred universities (I was born and raised in Iowa). I'm getting married this summer and my fiance and I are going to be honeymooning in the Black Hills, South Dakota.

I have been in only two caves in my entire life (sad, I know). I did walking tours in Wind Cave and Jewel Cave when I was 12 on a family vacation to the Black Hills, and I fell in love. I actually begged my dad after the tour of Jewel Cave to let me go on the wild cave tour, and was "devastated" (as much as a 12-year-old can be) when I found out you had to be 16. I am 21 now, and haven't been in a cave since.

I am planning on returning to both caves on my honeymoon, and would really like to do a wild tour. Is it possible for a newbie to be able to handle a wild cave tour in both caves? We are both physically fit, but our honeymoon will only be 4 to 5 days, and I want to make sure we'd be rested enough to go on a second one. If only attempting one wild tour, and doing the other cave as a walking tour, which wild tour would you recommend as the better of the two? I enjoyed Jewel Cave more when I was younger because it was a harder tour and I thought it was more interesting than Wind Cave.

I also have been wanting to get into the sport of caving for years now. Join a grotto, the NSS, learn, but my parents have been very against it (a situation with bats has made my mother vow to never enter a cave again...haha, and my dad thinks its too dangerous), and I'm not sure my fiance is actually on board with the idea. It's not something I want to get into without someone to take the journey with me. I'm also hesitant to join a grotto, because I'm not sure how the response is to people who are completely new to caving. Any suggestions on overcoming that fear, and for getting my fiance on board? He loves doing adventurous things, and I think if he gave caving a try, he'd really like it. :)

Thanks in advance!

Ellie
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby Squirrel Girl » May 19, 2012 4:56 am

Welcome to CaveChat!

Yay to you for being bitten by the cave bug. I grew up in Baja Minnesota and got the cave bug by driving past Spring Valley Cave and Harmony Cave on family vacations to Mpls where my relatives lived. My dad wouldn't stop but years later, my mom let me stop at Mammoth Cave on the way to relatives who moved to Nashville. I took the wild cave tour that that was it!

Yes, don't worry about being fit enough to do both tours. You're young and if you have decent fitness, you'll be fine. Jewel Cave is "prettier" than Wind Cave. But Wind has it's own allure.

Absolutely contact a grotto (SoCal?). Most of the time, grottos welcome newbies. Sometimes there are personality conflicts. Occasionally there are issues for whatever reasons. Really, it's just like real life in terms of meeting up with people under any other context. I mean the alternative is to wait to contact a grotto, try and find out how to cave safely and competently (how?) then contact the grotto? That doesn't make too much sense to me.

Best wishes!
Barbara Anne am Ende

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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby GroundquestMSA » May 19, 2012 1:07 pm

jelliepopeney wrote:my dad thinks its too dangerous


Squirrel Girl wrote:I mean the alternative is to wait to contact a grotto, try and find out how to cave safely and competently (how?) then contact the grotto? That doesn't make too much sense to me.


Caving isn't that dangerous. Unless you are on rope it's basically glorified hiking. While the typical Cavechatter will direct you to a grotto, which may well be a great option, don't think that you can't learn how to cave safely without a grotto. It's not complicated, and if you have some common sense, do a little reading, and start small, you won't have any problems.
Joining the NSS is a very fine way to learn more about caving and build a huge number of contacts, most of whom are very willing to help you.

(Speaking of help from other cavers, thanks again SG for the Compass and Tape. Your massive check should arrive soon. I have already been encouraged by an article on the survey of tiny caves. I am hopeful that, with hard work, my maps may someday reach 1985's standards of quality.)
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby jelliepopeney » May 19, 2012 2:12 pm

Thank you both for the encouragement! I wouldn't ever try caving (aside from ranger guided wild tours and whatnot...which doesn't exactly count) without joining a grotto, no worries there. :) Just a little intimidated about joining one.
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby submassabielle » May 19, 2012 2:33 pm

Hello, I went on the Jewel Cave wild caving tour in January. I am also new to caving. I was a little sore the next day, but nothing worse than the day after doing some other exercise that you are not used to...no stiffness or anything that would make me worry about doing another trip. I absolutely loved the Jewel trip and would highly recommend it. I have not been on the Wind tour yet, but hope to get there this summer. A few other considerations: if you are going to do both tours and you don't have a completely separate set of clothes (including boots) for each cave, make sure you do the Wind Cave trip FIRST, as Jewel Cave cave has a black mineral deposit called manganese that will coat your clothing and spreads like graphite...consequently they will not let you bring that clothing into Wind Cave. Also remember that you will need to be able squeeze through an 8 1/2 space to go on the Jewel tour and remember to make a reservation in advance. Finally, you might enjoy the book "The Jewel Cave Adventure" by Herb (requiescat in pace) and Jan Conn. It is a great read that details the exploration of Jewel up through the 70's or so, and mentions a few things which you will see on the tour as well as the discovery of the developed parts of the cave. Again, I haven't been to Wind yet, but I highly recommend Jewel.
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby David Grimes » May 19, 2012 2:47 pm

I agree with Groundquest, you really do not need to join a grotto to go caving and learn how to be a responsible, safe caver. Find some friends who are interested and make sure you are always properly prepared. The big thing is to start off right with the correct equipment (helmets, enough light sources, first aid, etc) then start out easy and work your way up. Joining a grotto has many advantages on its own like having someone to take you to the caves in your area and a big plus is loaner gear until you can buy your own.

You really cannot go wrong either way, just make sure you follow all the proper safety precautions and caving is a pretty safe hobby. Just remember to start off within your abilities and know your limits so you do not get yourself into a bad situation. I would recommend at least contacting a grotto though since your completely new it would be a lot of help getting you started the right way.
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby Squirrel Girl » May 19, 2012 3:43 pm

No, you don't have to join a grotto to learn to cave safely. But in general, I think it's a good idea. And for some people you could get into bad habits that you would bring to a grotto and make things worse. Not extremely likely, but it's possible. Still, most grottos will be welcoming to newbies.

Good plans about the extra clothes. Though you could got to a carwash, then laundromat to get by with one.

I did the wild tour with the Palmers back at the Hot Springs convention, lo so many years ago. I got stuck in the squeeze box and I (along with everyone else) was laughing so hard that I was lifting up the top by giggling. Art said, "Don't worry, you'll fit fine in the cave." And I did. I didn't recall any spot being all that memorably tight.

I got my giant check, thanks. Stuck it in my wallet today and hope to deposit it soon.

Have fun!
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby Jewel addiction » May 21, 2012 1:14 am

How many days are you going to be spending in the Hills?

I have been on the wild cave tour in Jewel a few times, it was actually my first real cave trip, and it sparked my love for the sport. The ~4 hour tour takes you southeast down the path that the exploration still follows to go to end of the cave; it is definitely worth doing. I have not gone on the Wind Cave tour, but I have heard it is a little less challenging and shorter than the Jewel trip, but if you have the time it is probably a lot of fun. Wind is nothing like Jewel, and well worth seeing. Another cave to think about while you are in the Hills, is Rushmore cave. It is a privately owned cave, but also has a "wild cave tour" that will take you through some serious crawl-ways. If you make it into Rapid City there is a cave called Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. This cave is not very long and does not have a wild cave tour, but it does have some truly impressive spar. The only spar that I have seen larger than Sitting Bull's is actually in Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico.

I hope my local recommendations help you some with your vacation planning, feel free to PM me if you have any more specific questions.
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Re: Midwestern Newbie in Southern California

Postby jelliepopeney » May 21, 2012 11:58 am

Thanks, Jewel!

We'll be in the hills for about four or five days. We're definitely doing a tour in Rushmore Cave (never got to see it on vacation when I was younger), but we'll probably stick to just the walking tour, as the wild tour is $45 a person - a bit much compared to the Wind and Jewel tours. We're poor college students. :p I've also looked into Sitting Bull but couldn't find much information about it, so thanks for your recommendation! If we have time in our itinerary (once I figure that out...haha), we'll try to add it in.
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