The heat and humidity of the July afternoon had been left behind and the temperature continued to drop as we crawled onward, deeper and deeper into the ever narrowing crevice. The rock surrounding us was now smooth and damp with a slightly yellowish sheen. This dampness had meant the end of the huge black spiders each guarding an even bigger egg sack that we had seen at the entrance. We looked forward allowing our headlamps to pierce the darkness in front of us and wondered just where this tunnel in the cave would lead.
I often wonder how people have found many of the places that we go to. We often find ourselves in the middle of nowhere either bush whacking or following a faint herdpath to our destination. Was the location passed down through the generations by locals or was it simply stumbled upon by someone? Then, what caused someone finally to give up the location?
We had found a couple of caves that we wanted to check out deep in the heart of the Adirondacks. After driving a few miles on a rutted dirt road, we came to an abandoned train track which signaled the start of our hike. The hike out was on the railroad tracks which were boarded by a rocky river on one side and dense forest and sheer cliffs on the other. We were all alone and wondered what the people who once rode on the trains that used this track must have thought. Did they fear the rugged wild wilderness around them or were they thrilled to be out of the city, heading to a camp deep in the mountains? Now the trains are gone and weeds and landslides are quickly reclaiming the rotting tracks.
We soon arrived at a small footpath, cutting up the hillside next to us, that would have gone unnoticed if we did not know exactly what we were looking for. The path led us to a ravine deep within the forest. The place was primeval looking, wild and dense. It had a timelessness about it. You could easily picture Native Americans or early settlers stumbling upon the area, following the same stream that we were now following. The path turned up the ravine, and soon we were at the mouth of the first cave.
The crevice we followed in the first cave narrowed more and more but continued to go deeper into the earth. At one point I noticed another tunnel leading off to my left, but that seemed to end. We crawled on until my husband, who was bringing up the rear, yelled that the opening was now too narrow for him to fit through. He stopped and the rest of us went a little farther with still no end in sight until we decided it was time to turn around. This cave’s secrets remained undiscovered! We backed up until we were in the wide opening of the mouth of the cave and stood there, halfway between the coolness of the cave and the heat of the outside world, and wondered how many people had taken shelter here throughout the years. It was the perfect place to hide or take cover.
The stream flowed down the ravine creating lots of small waterfalls and pools. We continued to follow it, heading up the mountain, until we came to the second cave. This cave was beneath an enormous rock. It’s entrance was guarded by a pond which, even in the dry months of summer, was still quite deep. Shoes came off and headlamps were turned on as we waded across the crystal clear pond to the other side, deeper into the cave. We soon reached a room that was large enough for us all to stand on the sandy floor. Looking up, well above us, we could see shafts of light piercing through the darkness of the rocky ceiling. Another great place to take shelter, hide from someone or something, or hide a treasure as my son suggested hopefully!
Back out in the humid afternoon, we heard thunder in the distance. It made you realize just how truly alone you were. We slipped and slid down the steep path, deep into the ravine, and turned around for one last glance at the caves. They were gone! Swallowed up by the thick green vegetation, stream, and rocky terrain. The caves’ location once again a guarded secret, waiting for someone else to stumble upon them.