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Into the Dark: A Day at Breathing

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Last weekend, I set out on an adventure to Bath County to camp and cave with a local grotto known as the Richmond Area Speleological Society (RASS). I arrived late in the evening, but was able to set up camp before the rain showers began. In the morning, a group of five (including myself) set off to explore a cave that was known as Breathing, supposedly deriving its name from its lung-shaped tunnel systems. After signing in, we proceeded up a gentle two-mile hike through the woods to get to the cave entrance.

The opening of the cave was scenic as it was at the base of a hillside and surrounded by plant life. Upon entering the cave, we followed a large corridor that eventually split into two entry ways on either side. We chose to pursue the more extensive tunnel system of the two, which began with an extremely tight 20-25 ft. belly crawl that terminated into a spacious underground hallway. The cave itself is full of a variety of elements and challenges. There were large rooms, tough squeezes, crevasses to be crawled over, seemingly endless holes, and small pools of water. Our group did not explore the full length of the cave, as the leader did not feel comfortable wandering through the unknown sections of the mazes.

After returning to the entrance corridor we explored the other, less-complex section of cave. The main portion of this tunnel system had an extremely high ceiling that gave the appearance of some type of manufactured sheet rock. Whereas it initially seemed to be a straightforward and simple tunnel system, we soon discovered that another tight squeeze opened up an entirely new series of mazes, which we explored freely before beginning the trek back to the car.

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As we were making our way through a tiny crawl space, in which our bodies were nearly completely surrounded by rock, there were several large rumbles that shot through the ground. It sounded as though a train were passing above us through the woods. Motivated to move toward the entrance of the cave a little faster, we discovered the source of the commotion. A view of the exit displayed a rain storm that had broken out, which was accompanied by booming thunder. The group attempted to wait out the weather, but eventually decided to begin the hike back to the car. I summoned my creative juices and created a poncho out of one of my garbage bags…a bold fashion statement, but I worked it. Luckily, the runoff of the water over the cave entrance made the storm appear more serious than it really was and we hiked back to the main road in a light drizzle.

After a satisfying caving experience, we headed back to camp to enjoy food compare stories with the other caving groups.

If you’re interesting in learning to cave, you can get more information at the National Speleological Society’s website!

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