Jan. 30, 2013 — In addition, visitors were required to wear coveralls or another outer layer they could remove and bag for washing, and to swab down solid gear such as helmets with disinfectant wipes. Visitors were only allowed one cave trip for the weekend.
There were dozens of activities to choose from — ziplining, mountain biking, tree-climbing, canoeing, rappelling, horseback riding and winter survival among them — but reopening the caves is bringing visitors back to the park, Ainsley said. “About 60 or 65 percent of preregistrations are for the wild cave tours,” he said.
Most of the scouts in Troop 175 out of Louisville said caving was the big draw of the weekend.
“We don’t get to do it much so when we have the opportunity we jump at the chance,” said 15-year-old Collin McGlone.
Shayna Follett of West Union, W.Va., and Emily Caldwell of Franklin Furnace, Ohio, trekked through snow and ice to the park to meet up for the Cascade trip. Follett drove four hours through a snowstorm for her first visit to Carter Caves and her first foray underground. “I’ve been wanting to go caving for a long time now,” she said.
“We got to crawl and get muddy. It’s a good thing we’re not claustrophobic,” Caldwell said.
The old college friends were planning on sampling the rest of the weekend’s activities too.
“It’s a hard deal to pass up, all that stuff for less than a hundred bucks,” Follett said.
Volunteers for the weekend, some of whom have been attending since the early Crawlathon days, are glad to see caving come back to the event.
Karen and Gary Walker of Racine, Ohio, were tour guides for the Cascade trip. They love caving so much they were married in one.
When newbies come to the caves, experienced cavers see it as a chance to educate a new generation of enthusiasts. The Walkers don’t settle for showing visitors the route through the rocks. Instead, they keep the information flowing: cave safety, rock formations, wildlife, geology and so on.
“We want people to be aware that you can enjoy this, but to do it right,” Gary Walker said.
Mike James is staff writer for the Daily Independent in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.