Getting Ready To Explore Caves with Children

Rain boots and headlamps at the ready

Two days to our first caving adventure! Caving. Spelunking. Potholing. Call it what you want, we’re going. Needless to say, we are over the moon and under the ground with anticipation.  I still have no idea where we’re going, just it’s in the Lake District with Blue Mountain Activities. I received a packing list by email last night. It included a paragraph of  “warm layers” and footwear. Also a few questions on our measurements. As soon as my girls got up this morning, we started planning.

First things first, measurements. Once dressed up and ready for school, I had my girls line up against a wall in the kitchen. At 7 and 9, how tall you are is a big deal. They stood up straight and we whipped out the measuring tape. Proud and frankly eager to know how much they’d grown since the summer, they offered no resistance and oohed and aahed at the 2 inches+ they’d grown. Definitely a good surprise in their book.

Then I asked them to slightly lift their arms and measured their chest and waist. Here’s what I think it’s for – caving overalls and/or harnesses in case we need to be belayed down some holes but I very much doubt that.

Next, I went through our closets and got out the packing list:

rainboots (my husband has a pair of Alaskan Xtratuff that I’m very jealous of, my girls wear Hunter and I have StormWells)

headlamps (they will probably provide something but it’s just in case – ours are Black Diamond for the adults and Ptec for the kids)

thermal underwear (realized my 9-year outgrew her last outfit, need to get new ones – Odlo and Petit Bateau)

fleece layers (The North Face, 66 Degrees North and FinKid)

waterproof jackets and pants (66 Degrees North and Arc’teryx)

It sure feels like prepping for a snow trip except it’s not.

As far as pictures and filming, I’m going to be able to use my birthday gift from my mom last year. It’s a fancy Ikelite case for my camera. Shock-proof, water-proof, built to last – it’s what every scuba diver needs but I’m not scuba diving this weekend. I just know that we might go through rugged spots, probably get wet and surely end up very muddy. It seems like the best option to protect my Canon S95. I know we might get wet because the packing list includes “a complete change of warm clothing to include a towel and change of trainers.”

As I said, I don’t know what we’re getting into but I’m excited. Ever since I read Jules Verne’s Journey To The Center of The Earth as a child, caves have been a distant dream. Distant because I’ve never stepped close to a cave that I could explore outside of big commercial tours. Big commercial tours are fine but they’re so structured and the caves are so well lit-up that there’s little room for surprise. You don’t even need special clothing or equipment for those, they’re well-managed temperature-controlled underground museums. When you can buy the postcard of the best mineral formation at the store outside the cave, where’s the element of adventure?

In my dreams, caves conjure up a romantic imagery of cathedral chambers, sparkly stalactites, underground rivers and creatures never seen above ground. Think albino scorpions, bats and blind cave fish. Think crystal-clear waters flowing underground under ceilings of crystals. For my girls, caves have an added fantastical dimension since they can be dwelling for cyclops in Greek myths, perfect hideouts for pirate gold treasures as in Treasure Island or Pirates of the Caribbean, or caves for trolls and goblins in The Hobbit. Caves are a big mystery that we’re barely getting into.

I know we won’t find any pirate treasure this weekend. However I know we’ll find adventure of the slippery and underground kind. And that’s worth many many treasures.

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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