As the program director for the Adventure program, I often have to ask myself the question “is this actually something adventurous?” Whether it’s considering where we camp, the activities we do, the way we build our Adventure community, I feel an obligation to have this program live up to its name. Something that can be challenging physically and emotionally, but also allows for beautiful moments of personal achievement and pride. In my mind, the cave is the perfect Adventure activity.
CYO Camp has been visiting “our” cave since the 1990s, a location that I frequently describe as “drive to the middle of nowhere, and then turn right.” It’s a wonderfully secluded part of the southern Indiana landscape and a place that I would imagine very few people even know about. And we get the opportunity to take campers there every single week during the summer.
I would argue that there is no other place, at least in Indiana, as otherworldly as the cave. At no other point in my life have I found myself crawling, rolling, and walking through dusty tunnels lit only by our collective headlamps. At no other outdoor experience have I been able to experience total darkness, and near-silence so overwhelming that I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat.
The cave is one of the places where I experience God most intimately. I witness God in the incredible underground landscape that we get to explore, in our campers supporting each other in the most uncomfortable points, in the way the beams of our headlamps bounce off the shiny quartz ceilings and the newly forming stalactites. And there’s one other spot where I acutely feel God’s presence. As our eyes adjust to the darkness as we descend into the cave, they focus more on shape and movement more than color, so in the cave colorful things like shirts become muted into what are mostly hues of brown and gray. But then, as we leave the cave, our eyes are so used to the darkness that they then have to readjust to the light. We walk out with our eyes down, wanting to protect ourselves from the blinding day. And then, you see the tiniest shade of green, and you get to look up. Above you, you are met by the greenest forest you’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s the same forest you left mere hours ago, but now the shades are more vivid and bright. The dirt that now coats almost the entirety of our bodies isn’t just grayish-brown, it’s a warm red-orange-brown, the proof of what we’ve just undertaken.
I can’t think of a better way to begin our Adventure week, honestly. The cave is the perfect experience to push limits, build community, try something new, and see God in a new way.
Lauren Owen, Program & Development Assistant