This is the highlight reel of my experience being taken into a cave in Arizona. The story arc is somewhat detectable just through the audio, but it goes like this:
Finds mouth of cave>having goofy cave fun>finding a cave lake>getting lost/fearing death
OF NOTE: The dimensionality of the cave is highly observable from the snippets of audio. I tried to bring a guitar, but had to leave it pretty early on.
Caves: Accidental Homes/Graves for the Foolish
I struggled with this story because it is hard to tell, though I think it’s one worth telling. After I had a full afternoon of shooting guns under the unrepentant sun, my Arizonan spirit guide took me to the literal opposite of a sunlit desert: a cave.
More than just some regular garbage cave, “Peppersauce Cave” is noteworthy because:
- It has miles of underground paths
- It is completely unmarked, and can only be accessed by pulling off the road about 50 miles outside of Tucson on a not-particularly-noteworthy stretch of road
- It apparently has water somewhere where a person could go swimming, if that person had a death-wish
Phase One: Dummies Enter The Cave of No Delights
My guide was able to easily sell me on my “splunking” adventure. It sounded right up my alley. It turned out that it wasn’t EXACTLY up my alley, though, because caves that are not spacious and simple are objectively terrifying. Upon entering (we had to lie on our bellies and crawl in, quickly turning us into dirty cave-goblins) the cave immediately begins to descend and splinter into dozens of small winding passages that lead to other chambers with yet more splintering corridors twisting away from them.
Very quickly my caving expedition began to occupy a confusing middle ground of a venn-diagram between adventure and claustrophobia. But the quest for the mysterious cave lake was underway, and for a while it was all smiles and fun. My cast-armed guide and I even stopped for a drink and general goofing off.
Phase Two: Two Dummies Revel in Song
We carried on deeper and deeper, eventually stumbling upon a ladder that descended off a steep cliff-face, basically. How a ladder was dragged into the cave is beyond me.
And we did find it. We did behold the weird creepy glory of a subterranean lake. I stuck a toe in, and that was probably more than I should have done. Seeing a body of water underground is like seeing a clown at night. There’s something unwholesome about the whole thing. It felt like it was best left to folks like Voldemort or Sauron, and not regular humans.
Phase 3: Two Dummies Discover the Lake of Putrid Sorrows
So having had our fill of this bizarre thing, we decided to leave. But leaving was challenging because we quickly realized our young brash style had left us somewhat confused on our exit strategy. At first it was fun, trying to find the way out, but then I saw my phone was at about 45% and my guide had a broken arm in a cast, and I turned my attention to remaining calm.
Final Phase: Two Dummies Struggle to Find The Exit
With every percentage of battery that whittled away on my phone, I felt an inverse growth in my new identity as a cave-troll.
If I had allowed my mind to really entertain the notion that we were lost in a cave probably a mile from the entrance, I might’ve have actually had a panic attack.
Fortunately, I have a reasonably well-honed ability to not freak out, and we were able to find the light of day just as the sun was setting.
Mortal Danger in Caves: 4/5 Stars
I definitely recommend that everyone spend some time in a cave because they are frankly pretty fascinating places, and the experience of complete blackness and near-silence is pretty cool. I am also now an advocate for good cave safety. Bring a good headlamp! Bring two! Get lots of glowsticks. Tell a friend where you’re going!
Now, feel free to enjoy the otherworldly scenes of Peppersauce Cave!