As much as I enjoy, even crave sunshine, going underground now and again seems as essential an activity of life as any other. Roaming cave country in southeastern New Mexico and other less prodigiously cavernous regions, my eye seems involuntarily inclined to seek out dark spots embedded in landscapes hinting at enticing subterranean realms begging for exploration. Trekking across terrain only reptile, arachnid and arthropod can love to get a closer look is no chore. In fact, it heightens the thrill of finding undergrounds to enjoy. And the smaller the entry into a cave, the more attractive it is, driving my body to penetrate.
Once inside, a sense of frightening calm settles in, drawing me deeper and deeper into dark.
A favorite underground haunt of youth, the longest gypsum cave system in the USA, is nothing as spectacular as Caverns of Sonora, Carlsbad, Lechugilla, or the mind boggling Cave of Crystals, but it was accessible to low-tech cavers like me who love venturing solo into spaces where few others will dare go alone. Something about it instilled as much rush of edgy excitement as peace of core solitude. The only others present, a few odd little animals.
Bats. Beatles feeding on bat guano and the occasional bat carcass. Ghostly pale centipedes, spiders, crawfish, catfish and salamanders. A few mud swallows nesting in the twilight zone.
A giggle skitters up throat from deep within gut and strains to escape. If I allow that, the urge to run screaming hysterically back to the surface will become overwhelming. A deep breath, a long sigh, and all is peaceful again in the underground where panic is not welcome.
There are caves nearby, but they have all turned out to be small shelter caves. And to the northwest are many more larger ones.
Some were long lived in, long ago.
Morning mist hanging over these ancient dwelling places stir imagination of what life here must have been like. Just visiting is a grand experience. A long-term stay would be fun. Life in such places of beauty and solitude must have been superb until arrival of the European scourge.
The view from their rooftop was breathtaking.
And downslope from there...well, it speaks for itself.
Time to go cavelands exploring again.