Category Archives: Outdoor activites

Backpacking at Pleasant Creek

What? Another backpacking trip? If you don’t remember, my last one was around Fish Lake (read that HERE). I told all about our experiences, fire making, our shelter, and our hike. But what I didn’t say was that that was a test, a sort of what-did-we-forget, let’s-do-this-different-next-time test. Because we had plans to make another visit to the wonderful world of lugging things up a trail.
           Alice and Ellen are some of my dearest friends. We met six years ago, and were incredibly close, but we didn’t see each other much after I left across the country. When we came back to Utah about a year after the start of this great adventure, visiting this wonderful family was one of the first things we did. We’ve been seeing each other a lot while we’re in the same state for once, but it’s the intention to get on the road again at the end of September. This called for a last epic meetup.

Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.
Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.


         The plan was simple: we would be hiking along Pleasant Creek, taking two days to do it. Mrs. Jolly, Alice, and Ellen met us at our RV Park at 11:00 to pack and rearrange, and then we ate lunch and headed out.
         We didn’t have to wait to reach the trail to find an adventure. Not even ten minutes after we’d left, we were headed home again. Us girls had been swinging over the creek on the town rope swing (reason #1 that Torrey is awesome), and Ellen’s hand had slipped. Well, okay, it was a little more dramatic than that. The truth is, she didn’t quite have a hold on the homemade handle hanging from tree above. And then she slipped off the bridge, holding on with only one hand, sliding slowly to the bottom of the smooth stick. And…. sploosh! Alice successfully retrieved the waterlogged hat floating down the stream, and luckily Ellen was only wet to the waist. But still, you know, totally soaked. Torrey is really only two miles across, and so it wasn’t exactly a long drive to reach Wonderland RV Park, where she changed clothes and we started again on our adventure.

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The moment before the fall… You can’t see the creek at all, but it’s there, I promise.


This time we arrived at our trailhead without incident. There was a group of people on horseback about to start out and I, personally, wanted to “borrow” a horse to carry our packs for us. But, of course, this would have been very difficult, and so we backpacked the traditional way.
         We had lots of fun on our hike. Alice, Ellen, and Mrs. Jolly entertained us with songs (they all have amazing voices), while we found our way along the river path. Sometimes, when we got too hot, we would shed our packs to take a break in the cool water. Truly entertaining were the stories the three of us came up with. There was the tale of Cacti, an evil prickly pear who attacked people when they made fun of his purple spikes, the adventures of two Olympian rocks, and many more. They kept our spirits up while we hiked, giving us almost as much energy as the thick strips of beef jerky that accompanied them.

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       Soon we were almost to the end of our trail. Two days we’d walked, sung, told stories, and laughed, and now the adventure was coming to a close. In fact, we were even now on a dirt road where we were often passed by Jeeps. Trying to keep our motivation up in the suffocating heat, Alice, Ellen, and I told a story in which everything had to be refreshing. The general plot was simple: a boy wanted to be able to be a fish and not be a fish at will. Each of us, when it was our turn to add a bit, described in detail the cool flavor of mint ice cream, a tall glass of frosty lemonade, or the chilling effects of ocean water. We called each other forward when we started to lag behind, and we gulped down long draughts of water. But all the same, we were soon asking “how much longer?” Mom said that we would see a gravel road. That would be our sign that we were practically there. All five of us were looking out now, and after a while us girls were exclaiming hopes.
         “I think I saw some dust fly up there!”
“There’s a road sign, look!”
         “I swear I hear cars!”
         And then finally I glanced up and saw, in a dip between the hills, the flash of a bright red vehicle, moving at highway speeds. I quickly related this to the girls. As we were far more motivated, the pace picked up, and it wasn’t long before a gray gravel road was indeed in sight. It was our most important mile-stone, and we were all quite ready to reach it.
         “Ten…” Alice started counting down, even though we were at least twenty seconds away.
“Nine…” This time Ellen and I had joined her, and we all sped up a little.
         “Eight…” We were far louder now.
“Seven…” We quickened again.
“Six…” I started to run.
         “Five…” So did the others.
“Four…” We were dashing as fast as we could go.
“Three…” My backpack was clanging.
“Two…” We didn’t think we could go any faster, but we did.                      “One…” Our destination was right in front of us.
“Zero!” We gasped the last number, standing at the very edge of the road. We were looking out at a great expanse exactly like the one on the other side of the gravel. Completely deserted, void, and, worst of all, without our vehicle.
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         We walked on. And on. It really wasn’t far, but I kept expecting to see the yellow Jeep around every corner. And then Mom told us to go to a tree, a huge tree on the side of the road that cast shade for yards around it. We were to wait there, she said. Then she took off her backpack and ran down the road, going to get the car.
         We rested in the shade, and before long a cool breeze began to blow. We dumped our packs off our shoulders and sat on them, resting after quite a day. Soon Mom arrived in the Jeep, waving and honking her horn. Alice got it on video. We took a few success pictures, and then drove home exhausted, to get ice cream.
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         It was cool and good in my mouth, and I licked away the strawberry while the others talked. It was a wonderful adventure, everyone agreed. A wonderful adventure…

 

Header Picture: Left to right, Mom, Ellen, me, Alice, Mrs. Jolly. Photo credit: someone in a horse riding group who we met at the trailhead.

Backpacking Around Fish Lake

I sit down at my computer, trying to put 101 mosquito bites out of my mind for now. I have a post to write, I remind myself, and no time to delay: I’d better get it down on paper while my memories, and those bites, are fresh. But how did I come to have so many bug bites and memories to write down?

It all started with an idea, like most adventures. It was simple enough: Mom and I were going to backpack around Fish Lake, Utah. It was, allegedly, an eleven mile hike, and we planned to take two days for it. We would hike up to the summit, set up camp and spend the night, and then we would head down the mountain again and around to the car.

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We reached the lake at about 1:00, and started up with a pre-hike paddle. Kind of ridiculous, really, but we  kayaked for an hour. It was a good warm up. Then we tied the kayaks back on top of the Jeep and put on our backpacks. It was time to get going.

At first, my backpack felt a bit strange. I wasn’t used to carrying something this heavy, and it cut into my legs and shoulders a bit, but I ignored the discomfort and it soon passed. After a short while we had gotten around the edge of the lake and we were on the other side, but we hadn’t yet started the assent. We needed to stop, however, because we were already getting eaten by mosquitoes. We put on leggings and long-sleeve shirts to protect ourselves, and then got back on the trail.

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The hike was fairly steep once we started up the mountain, but we were fresh and energetic, and we got up easily with the help of trail mix. I was, at the time, practicing for a Radio Drama, in which I was doing sound effects, and so I passed the time by practicing. Mostly, it was frog noises. Angry frog, encouraged frog, hungry frog, offended frog… the list went on, and I had to come up with a sound for each. As Mom and I walked up the trail, I discovered and perfected each noise, with her help.

A couple of hours before sunset we had arrived at the peak, and it was time to start looking for a campsite. Ideally, it would be a fair-sized clearing amidst the quakie (also called aspen) trees, close to the trail and with plenty of wood at hand for a fire. After a while of “That one’s good,” and “But maybe there’s a better one just ahead,” we found a site that was indisputably perfect. It was even near a nice overlook from which we could see over the whole lake. We took off our packs and I started clearing up the site, gathering kindling and bigger bits of fire wood, while Mom made our tarp tent in the trees. When camp was all ready we made a fire. Mom had brought a lighter, but we made the kindling up in a sort of “nest,” as is the primitive way. While tending the fire we started on our dinner, eating pineapple out of cans. Once we had finished, the cans were our pots to cook soup, which was eaten with beef jerky. Mom had brought a book on constellations, which I read while we ate. After dinner, we crawled into our sleeping bags, on our ground pads, under our tarp tent, and fell quickly asleep.

The next day we woke early and had a breakfast of tea and sandwiches, before clearing up camp. We were back on the trail by nine o’clock, and I was terribly sore. The places where my pack rubbed on my legs and shoulders were bruised, and it took quite a while to get used to. Our first hour or so of walking was uneventful and quiet, until Mom found a raspberry bush. We picked berries for a minute, and then got going again, but it wasn’t long before a second patch came up. It was absolutely huge, and after a minute we had the sense to take off our packs. With mine on, every time I leaned over to get a particularly juicy berry I nearly toppled over. After several minutes of raspberry picking, however, Mom remarked that it was like the Land of the Lotus Eaters. You couldn’t leave, you simply couldn’t, but the paradise was guarded by monsters… er, mosquitoes. Same thing. Finally, we hoisted our packs on our backs and got going again.

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Picking raspberries.

We headed on until two o’clock, by which time Mom and I both felt we ought to have reached the end of our journey. We had walked at least five miles since the morning, and that was what we had estimated was left. Had we really covered such a small distance yesterday? There was a bridge just ahead that lead over the creek at the end of Fish Lake and connected the lake to a bay about a mile north. We would stop for lunch in a trail-head parking lot near the river.
We ate sandwiches and, since our water was running low, made a fire and boiled some river water for tea. I made three trips across a trail to the creek to get water, but all in vain. For when I finally sat down  with my lunch, I spilled my tea all over my leggings. I drank the remaining half a cup and changed into shorts, but my legs were much more susceptible to mosquito bites after that.

The last several miles were draining. It was threatening to rain, and Mom was on the lookout for a patch of quakies to set up a temporary camp in. She was even up for hitchhiking  the rest of the way, but I wouldn’t hear of it.  We had come at least eleven miles, I wasn’t going to give in at the end! After a while, lightning flashed. In Southern Utah, lightning is no laughing matter. Everyone in Wayne County has a story about someone they know being struck, or almost struck. So we headed for the quakies (which, though trees, are great protection, because they’re so much shorter than the others around them), and made a hasty shelter. Pushing under our backpacks, we sat under the tarp until the storm passed over. It never got really bad, but it poured pretty hard, and better safe than sorry!

 

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After the storm we started up again. It didn’t take long to reach a marina store, where we got sodas to give us a bit of fresh energy, and then we lost the trail several times and followed the water instead. Eventually we made it back to our path, and found we were so close to the car, but yet so, so far away! Mom began a song about “The trail that never ends,” and we were kept occupied by trying to make up new verses without messing up the rhythm. For example:
And when your back does cease to bend
It is the trail that never ends!
And when your knees will never mend
It is the trail that never ends! 

It went on for quite a while, while we searched high and low for the Jeep. Finally, Mom looked back and saw that we had passed it! Needless to say, we hurried back, dropped our packs in the trunk, and drove home, exhausted. We ate at a burger place that night with Dad, and whenever Mom or I tried to walk we stumbled and tripped over our own stiff legs.

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The finish!

 

BY THE WAY: I updated the About Page.

 

Five Reasons why Small Craft are Better

A small craft is any sail boat 21 feet long or less. Some of the commonly acknowledged advantages of small craft are their ability to go under low bridges and squeeze into tight places, but are there more reasons to get a small craft, rather than a larger one? Here are five reasons why small craft are better:

  1. Ease of use
    The smaller your boat, the easier it is to use. Out on a singlehanding trip?  Not to worry! Your mini vessel has you covered! Are you being pulled towards a lee shore? It’s far easier to claw off when you have a light boat, as it can still carry quite good sail.
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  2.  Trailer Sailor
    Some of us can’t keep our boats docked at our favorite body of water. Consequently, they’re on a trailer in the driveway. Those of us who still go out on our vessels in these conditions call our little ships “trailer sailors.”  These small craft are transported and placed into the water with relative ease, compared to the
    40-footers dropped in by crane.
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  3. Rowing
    You know the feeling. It’s getting dark, you’re getting cold, and the wind is dead. The dock is in sight, sure, but it’s going to take forever to reach it. That’s when a small craft, complete with a sturdy set of oars, is just what you need. She’ll get you home in no time!
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  4. Repairs
    In a larger boat, hull repairs can be a pain. But along with its lower risk of grounding, a smaller boat is far easier to repair. On a trailer, all of the boat can be easily reached. And there’s no fooling around with a 10-foot-tall fin keel, either, so you won’t have to deal with awkward positions while leaning out the side of your ship.
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  5. Teaching
    Small craft are great for teaching your kids to sail! For the reasons above, they can be great trailering boats, vessels that don’t try their patience, and great “practice” boats. In a boat designated for practice, you allow minor scrapes and groundings. You won’t have to worry when letting your child try his hand, because you can keep in mind the ease of repairs, and that grounding won’t hurt anything too bad.

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Friends in Oceanside

We have some great friends named Grace and Zoe. We’ve been close forever, but one little problem: We hadn’t seen each other in three years! The very day we were leaving San Diego (Feb. 15th.), they arrived! The Pattons were visiting their grandparents in Oceanside, an (obviously) ocean side town just a little north of Encinitas. So of course we went to visit!

Aside from just hanging around talking, laughing, and remembering things we used to do together when we were little, we went to the beach for a long time. At first we didn’t change into swim suits. Pacific Ocean water is freezing, and we weren’t planning on getting soaked. After a while, however, it became evident that trying to stay dry wasn’t quite possible. At first we just waded a bit, and kept the water below our knees. But then I accidentally splashed Gordon. Oops! That resulted in a huge water war, which Zoe and I got out of as soon as we could.

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Left to right: Zoe, Gordon, Me (Lillian), and Grace

It was just Grace and Gordon for a while, until my own brother started chasing me. I ran, with many varying futile attempts at staying dry-ish. This ended, of course, in Gordon dragging me halfway across the beach, getting sand all over my already wet clothes, and dumping me in the ocean. After all this we decided we might as well put on our swim suits. That way we would have clean clothes for later.

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Boogie boarding is old hat for Zoe, who taught us the tricks. None of us could get hit with particularly big waves without screaming out a little. It was so cold! We caught as many waves as we could, and then, all shivering, Grace suggested we go up to the sand and warm up. I never really realized how warm sand could be when you’re cold. We dug a gigantic hole, and Gordon, quite willingly, actually, sat in it. Totally burying him took a while, but we were satisfied with our work, after making the amazing starfish-man. Then they all buried me. It was really warm, but made me a bit claustrophobic.

The amazing Starfish-Man
The amazing Starfish-Man

We went out to the ocean again after this, and had tons of fun boogie boarding until we were completely numb. Frigid, we made our way stiffly to the hot tub and slipped into those relaxing waters. When we got back we had a fantastic dinner of spaghetti, with ice cream to follow, and played a game of telephone for old time’s sake (we always used to during dinner when we were little).

Our day with the Pattons was fantastic, and it was hard to leave, but we know we’ll be seeing each other soon. That’s the great thing about moving around!

The Cabrillo Tidepools

We recently went to the Cabrillo National Monument in Southern California. It’s home to some of California’s most famous tide pools, and it’s not too rare to find an octopus, marooned in a larger divot by the retreating tide. Unfortunately, no octopi that day! But we saw a shrimp, some turban snails, and countless varieties of limpets, barnacles, and chitons.

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The rocks were covered in what, at first glance, looked like little piles of broken shell. Not even wondering about these perfectly normal phenomena, I took no care to keep my bare feet off of them. I soon learned, however, what they truly were when my toes made contact with an unpleasant squelch! Shells shouldn’t feel like that!

These small piles made to grab me, their unsuspecting prey, with their sticky blue fingers, and I pulled away, finally realizing: They were a cleverly disguised form of anemone, a form which sticks onto stray bits of shell as a costume. I carefully avoided stepping on any more of the little traps, as the strong adhesive on each tentacle makes for a very unpleasant surprise.

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I still hadn’t stuck my finger in one, however, and I must admit I wanted to, just a little. I tested it by inserting a small stick right into the cavity of one of these strange beasts, to see what it did. Nothing except curl up around the twig. Alright, I’d try it. I found a large one, under water so it was both more active, and stayed open, revealing its gooey blue inside. Slowly, I applied a finger, and squealed. What a feeling! Quickly ripping away my finger, before the anemone had time to swallow it whole, I laughed. What an animal that was. They’re very strange.


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Cabrillo has a lighthouse, too, that we visited. It’s a tall, narrow house, like any other old-fashioned lighthouse, with only two bedrooms, a sitting room, and a kitchen. It was a very beautiful old house, with a winding staircase that is equip with both satisfying acoustics, and superior picture opportunities (you may rest assured I used both to the fullest extent). Read Gordon’s post to find out all about that! 

A Condo in Encinitas

Grammy and Grandpa got a condo in Encinitas  as a Christmas present to us. They brought our aunt and uncle, and cousins Cam and Christian (whom we call BooBoo).

Encinitas is a little beach town about 20 miles north of San Diego. There are cliffs leading down to the beaches there, and after going down a steep staircase you arrive at about 12 yards of open sand. When we were there, there were piles of rocks on the beach, but by the time we had gone, nearly all of them had been pulled back out to sea.

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On the second-to-last day there, we had a big storm, which ripped up trees and pulled one person’s back porch off. But no biggie. We went to the (outdoor) pool. In Utah, trees don’t go flying because of a little storm. Utah trees need something good, like direct lightning, to kill them. So we played football in the pool for a while, and then sat in the hot tub.

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It wasn’t all storm, though. The majority of our time was sunny and warm. On these days, we went down to the beach, swam in the pool, or went on an outing. One day we went to San Diego Safari Park, a sort of zoo, with a more wild sort of feel. That was really cool.

 

We went to a trampoline park, which had a ninja course. It was pretty hard, and we had a lot of fun. Gordon also met his favorite skateboard legend, Stevie Cab.

Gordon, Cam, and I played hide-and-seek a lot, which was really fun in the condo because it had a bunch of hidden, totally unexplored places. We all slept in the basement, and every night we would watch a movie down there on our own TV.

After such a fun weekend, it was hard to say goodbye, but we knew we’d be seeing each other again. We had a great time In Encinitas, California.

Sailing San Diego

I love sailing. You probably know that. I also love San Diego. Seriously my favorite town ever. So that makes Mission Bay almost too much. It’s fantastic. There’s always a perfect north-northeast wind to take you straight out to the ocean, if that’s what you’re into. If you’d rather stay in the bay, there’s plenty of room for exploring within your comfort zone. Me? I love adventures. But Dad and I haven’t been out of the bay yet. We never have quite enough time, but we hope to soon.

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Sparrow sailing in Mission Bay

If you’ve never been sailing, there are two ways you might feel about it. The most common people are landlubbers. According to them sailing is: lengthy stretches of boredom with moments of sheer terror. To them the terror is rare but immense. But then there are sailors. Real, true, sea-going types. And their reaction to sailing is pretty predictable: it’s a healthy mixture of rest, work, and excitement. So which are you? Actually, you can take my quiz here.

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We’ve been out twice so far, and it’s been great. We’re practicing man-overboard drills, which is really fun. I also love when we get enough wind for it to be a little scary, because really I need to get used to it. It’s funny, but at about 6 knots, or 7 mph, it’s feels like too much. I wrote a lot about the history of sailing a while back, and you can read that here, if you’re interested. I’m excited to be zipping about the bay more, and I’ll make sure some pics get up on Instagram! See ya later!

Death Cactus In Arizona!

If you visit Usury Mountain State Park, Arizona, you’ll find lots of nature, but not the kind of nature that just wants to sit in a tree and sing, or use photosynthesis all day. No, this kind of nature is out to kill you.

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All of the green parts are evil spike balls.

I’m talking about cholla, a plant so vicious and evil that it makes any stereotypical comic book villain look like Mr. Rodgers and makes a saguaro cactus look huggable. This plant looks like the child of a tree and a sea urchin. It does a great job of getting stuck in your appendages, but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that cholla can fly. When the wind blows, the urchin-like spike balls break off the tree and soar through the air toward the nearest victim. When stuck inside human flesh, it is extremely hard to pull out, and leaves glochids (tiny pieces of cactus spike) in your skin. Obviously cholla isn’t a fun guy.

There are also saguaros, not out to kill you, but also not like teddy bears. These things are about 15 to 20 feet tall and are a hundred years old when they grow their first arm. They’re a lot like that old dude who sits on the bench outside the mom n’ pop hardware store and whittles in those 50’s movies.IMG_5537

While those are the two most prominent plants of the desert, there are also various types of murderous bushes that scratch your legs and get stuck in your socks. These plants can be mostly ignored and passed aside as “puckerbrush,” just more annoying little plants and bushes. They do have names though, like: cat-claw acacia, honey mesquite, and, palo verde. These plants all have one thing in common; they’re really annoying!IMG_5534

The point however, that I’m trying to make, is that the desert is out to kill you, so make sure to wear closed-toed shoes and probably some full-body judo sparring armor.

What is a Cave

What is a cave?

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A precipice in Carlsbad Cavern.

A cave is a deep, dark hole in the ground, a hole with a lid, so that only a special few can get in or out. A cave is a dare, calling to you, saying, come explore me if you can muster up the courage to do so. Most proper caves, you see, go miles under the ground and get dark, very dark, so, one hundred percent pitch black that you would forget you have eyes if you went down without a light.

A proper cave also has precarious precipices, that, if not careful you could stumble off and plummet out of existence. Most caves traditionally have bats living within the topmost chamber, so that when you’re on your toes on the edge of a particularly precarious precipice you can worry about getting pushed off the plummeting peak to your imminent destruction.

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The “Natural Entrance” in Carlsbad Cavern.

There are, however more non-traditional caves, caves that have been turned into convenience stores, night clubs, and even lavish mansions. These cave are sellouts. They go from a dark hole with a lid, itching to be explored, to a place where you can buy crappy snacks and energy drinks. There are more un-traditional caves that have not sold out to mountain dew kickstart and redbull. The ice cave near the Mutnovsky volcano in russia is, well, made of ice. The cave looks kinda like being in giant meringue, the light shines off the glistening snow and looks like a christmas display, but underground. Another majestic, yet non-conforming cavern is the Batu cave in Malaysia, the home of an indian temple, built inside of the cave in the 1880s. Festivals are still celebrated in the cave. The kyaut Sae cave in Myanmar has a buddhist temple inside it, but we know little about the place as almost no one goes there.

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No caption needed.

There is one thing, however, that a cave can never do; a cave can never lose it’s mystique, it’s magic. I will always have an awestruck spell on my face when I enter one of these deep, dark, magical places. A cave, no matter what people are selling out of it, no matter who lives in it, will always be more than a mere novelty. A cave is something that sends prickly chills down your spine and forces you to adventure, to romanticize, to make your exploit bigger and more dangerous than it really is. And that, is exactly what a cave cannot do.