Spelunking at Whirlpool Caves

On Monday, I got to take kids on a field trip at Whirlpool Cave with Green Teens, our environmental program sponsored by Keep Austin Beautiful.  When I first heard "caving," I pictured a large hole in the side of a hill.  

So I was a little surprised when we pulled up and saw this:

Helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, headlamps... my muscles started squeezing at the thought of what these supplies signified. 

Our caving guide explained to the kids the preservation efforts taken to keep the caves safe from the highway that was built over it, and how to put on a helmet properly.

Carlos and I are ready to go.  Although, once in the cave I realized I hadn't followed instructions right, as my helmet kept falling forward over my eyes every time I bumped the ceiling - which was often.

Emily (both Green Teen's leaders are named Emily) helps Anita with her knee pad.  I will forever associate these things with "army crawl" now.

The opening to the cave is a narrow metal door.  We went down in daylight and came out at night.

Kids lined up in one of the rooms of the cave.

The rooms were connected by narrow passages that had to be crawled through, literally, like a salamander, one of them is even called "the birth canal."  In order to take my back pack and camera with me I had to sling it front of me as I crawled.

That's 40,000 year old red clay on my nose.  The rest is just dirt, from eating it, essentially, as I maneuvered around.

The kids got to draw "war paint" on their faces with the damp clay.  Most went for whiskers. 

A set of feet disappear up one of the passageways. 

Both of the Emily's and I with a few of the kids before we crawled out.  We spent an hour or two underground, but had to leave before getting to the large Travis County Room because it was bordering 8 p.m. already.  The kids, who were scared to go down, didn't want to leave!  The adults, who were scared to down, were quite ready to go up.

I took a short video of the kids in the cave.

We took a normal group shot, then everyone turned around to show off their dirty bums.  I'm glad I wore sturdy shorts and a t-shirt!

I'll call this "spelunking" chic.  I went to HEB on my way home to get some food for dinner, and felt like a TOTAL badass walking in all dirty and with my super-boots caked and coated in cave mud.