Into the Dark

The weekend before last, Carl and I took our friend Greg to visit one of our favorite Indiana caves, Donahue. Although perhaps not as well-known as Buckners and Sullivan, this is still a classic and has been on Indy cavers’ radars for decades, and with good reason. It can be a fairly simple cave, if one so desires: for this reason, it was one of the first that I was introduced to when I started caving in 2016. It can also be challenging, though, with some wet crawls, including a bathtub known as The Eardipper, due to the combination of low ceiling and high water.

To me, the cave is amazing from a geohydrological aspect: the sheer volume of water that carved out the tall, tortuous canyons in the cave’s main passage must have been immense and powerful. Natural bridges can be found throughout, where the stone resisted the water’s relentless push. Once the water levels dropped, formation development began, and while Donahue doesn’t necessarily have the volume of speleothems as some other caves, the ones that have formed tend toward massive flowstone formations, and are as beautiful as any stalactite.

Access to the cave is gained through a culvert that stretches and turns around a corner before the metal gives way to rock. Apparently the intention had been to extend the culvert to cross completely under the highway for improved drainage, but plans were scrapped once they broke into the cave; the culvert was grated over and left intact but building ceased. Not far from the entry, we reach a large flowstone dotted with rimstone dams that blocked the way; we maneuvered over it, careful not to damage the formation. We climbed up into the upper passage and Carl pointed out the connection into Doghill, an adjacent cave, though we declined to navigate through; a somewhat sketchy canyon marked the beginning of Berg’s Squeeze, so we turned back and returned to the stream passage.

We spent the majority of our time exploring the area known as Over/Under Stream, due to all the natural bridges, most low enough to require either clambering over or crawling under them. Being the stream passage, of course, meant that we were in water for the majority of our time, which was generally not problematic but came into play when we were crawling. That said, although we came out wet into the chilly evening air, it was still a fantastic trip, and just like with Wayne’s Cave and many others, each time I have returned to the cave I have found myself in amazing new places.

I have been asked before why I got into caving, and the story has been told before, but it is one that I love to tell regardless. Alison and I had just returned from Isle Royale, which had been my most ambitious adventure to date; we had spent five days backpacking on the remote island, the mainland far out of sight and no resupply options on the trail. It was wonderful and empowering, and terrible and exhausting, all rolled in together; but when I returned back home and to the corporate day job, I felt that wave of depression that hits me every time: the adventure is over. All of those unique, amazing places and things were then closed off to me until I would get a chance to take another vacation.

But in one of those first few days back, while talking about the beauty out there in the wild, a customer suggested to me that I should try caving, and of course the rest is history. I took her suggestion, and suddenly found that it didn’t necessarily take days and distance to see something remote and beautiful. Obviously, having some extra time and traveling farther doesn’t hurt matters at all; but to be able to have an adventure, to see something new that many others never will, well. I couldn’t imagine where my life would be now if I hadn’t listened to her idea, and gone to that meeting.

Time tried to sneak away from me again with this post. As I’ve mentioned before, this time of year is a particularly tough one: the retail job is ramping up to crazy mode, and school is headed the same way. But I do want to reiterate that while I may end up a day or two late (or in this case, a week or so) I do intend keep having adventures throughout the winter and to keep sharing them with you. At the same time, I would love for you to share with me- what are your favorite ways to spend the winter months? And what would you like to see more of on here?

Until next time, keep wandering.

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