By Peter Olsen, 19
In June, I went into a lava cave with a group of my friends and family. The cave is located just north of Flagstaff, Arizona, about two hours from where we live.
The cave was formed when an underground magma flow carved a tube about three fourths of a mile long. The entrance opened up when a section of the tunnel collapsed, so the first 100 feet involve climbing over piles of rocks. The rest of the cave is pretty flat, but also low in some spots. Like other caves, it maintains a year-round cool temperature. It is 32 degrees near the entrance, and warming slightly to 40 degrees at the far end. Most of the cave is dry, but there are a few places where water drips down from the ceiling. Near the entrance, ice can be found during the winter.
We started our descent around 11 AM. Leanne, Jon, and I quickly got ahead of the rest of the group. At the fork, we took the left tunnel. While managing to not bump our heads, we made our way to the end of the cave, where we shut off our lights and sat in the pitch black for a while. Some more of our group showed up 17 minutes later, and made it impossible to continue our conversation in the dark, as they refused to keep their lights off. They also told us that some of the group had turned around and gone back.
Finally, 27 minutes after we arrived at the end, my parents showed up. Shortly after, we started back to the entrance. Leanne and I pulled out ahead again. At the fork this time, we took the other tunnel. This turned out to be a mistake. The ceiling was only a couple of feet high. Since I am over six feet tall, I bumped my head for the first time. We made it back to the entrance and commented on how hot it was outside, as compared to inside the cave.
Exploring a cave is a unique experience, unlike anything above ground. It is pitch black, darker than any normal circumstances. But in real life you don’t have to worry about being eaten by a grue.*
*A grue is a fictional predator from Zork, a classic interactive fiction game. It lurks in the dark places of the earth and its favorite diet is adventurers.