Breathing Deep Underground

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I have never been in a cave before… well there is technically a cave in one of Indiana’s state parks that I’ve gone into. But it’s basically a little hole in the ground that you crawl into look around and crawl back out off.

So… I’ve never been in what most folks would think of when discussing caves.

On the road to Big Bend I thought I might change that; When I saw Caverns of Sonora on the old school road atlas of mine.

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I’d no desire to go crawling through tight spaces with tons of rock above my head. Not because of any type of claustrophobia, but because transplant patients aren’t suppose to crawl around in the muck.

Its the same reason I can’t do a tough mudder, sadly. Even though Id really like to try one… Darm microscopic organisms.

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But according to the interwebs; I saw that the main tour doesn’t have you squeezing through the bowels of subterranean Texas. Plus there was RV parking if I was inclined to spend the night.

Its just a little ways off of interstate 10. Perhaps a ten minute drive from the exit. So off at I-40’s exit 399 I went.

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I saw some reviews saying it was hard to find… Buuuuut I really don’t understand this, because there is literally just one turn to get there and it had a big sign that basically said “turn here.”

I mean… I guess it doesn’t literally say turn here. But it has “Caverns of Sonora” in large yellow letters with a big honk’n arrow pointing to the left on it.

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The main building where you go into get tickets, is a neat little gift shop full of different rocks and fossils and other little collectables. One case even has tools that were used to explore the cave when it was first discovered.

Let me tell yuh… I would not have been going down there in the dark with just the stuff these folks had.

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Give me the cleared walking trail, electrical lighting system, and knowledgeable tour guide any day.

The lady behind the counter was really sweet and as I was the only customer at the moment we got to talking. Which eventually lead to me sharing about my bilateral lung transplant and why I was traveling across Texas.

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Her eyes got as big as saucers and she wanted to make absolutely sure I wanted to go down there…

Which of course I wanted to go down there. Though I can be tenaciously foolish at times…

Which leads me to this part were I must say… I do NOT recommend this for anyone beyond the beginning stages of pulmonary fibrosis or who is having a rough go of it post transplant.

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You have to know your own limits and abilities. But, I know even when I was on only a few liters per minute… I could not have done this tour.

As she informed me; there are several steps leading down to the entrance and then at the end there are about five stories worth of stairs leading back up to the exit. 360 steps to be exact.

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In addition to that the humidity level is 98%… yes nine eight percent. With an greatly increased carbon-dioxide level. Up here on the surface the average CO2 level is about 407 parts per million or about 0.04%

Down in the cave the CO2 level is 4600 parts per million or about 0.46% of the air your breathing in. Which is ten times as high as up above.

While in no way dangerous to a healthy pair of lungs… If you are already struggling for oxygen then it is by far and large not the ideal place to be.

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Walking at a casual pass, stopping to hear the guide describe stuff, pausing to snap pictures, and the lights out room… you will be down there about two hours.

Struggling along at a oxygen deprived rate of speed would have you down there much much longer and there is really no place to stop and rest along the way.

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There is two rooms that have benches, where they take breaks But anywhere else along the way you will be out of luck. Plus there really isn’t enough space to accommodate a rollator, walker, or wheel chair.

And to be honest I doubt they would even let you go down into the cave with oxygen in a bag or pack. Let alone a pull behind cart for your O2.

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Visitors aren’t allowed to take anything into the caves except for a camera/phone.

Okay obviously you can take your shoes and clothes. But no backpacks, bags, purses, jackets, coats, etc. Though to be honest you really don’t need anything else.

Its kinda like walking through a not to overly hot sauna. Walking through in just a bathing suit would be perfectly comfy.

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Well, other than… you know having to see some folks in said bathing suits. But, the temp stays steady in the 70s, so thats nice.

However if you feel you are healthy enough to take the tour. As I assured the guide I was. Then I would totally suggest you take the time to see the Caverns of Sonora.

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It is really pretty down there. The photos I took and those that I’ve seen online since, do not do it justice.

Not having been to any other caves, I can not make a comparison to other tours. But if I ever go see another, I hope its as pretty as this one.

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If left free to wander at my own pass I could have spent twice as long down there snapping pictures.

I have to admit, while I wasn’t afraid of being underground… there was definitely a moment of reflection. Where I paused and thought about how close I came to being permanently under the soil.

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The underworld was a neat place to visit, but I don’t think I’m ready to take up residency just yet.

I can not put into words how very thankful I am to my donor, my doctors, my nurses, pharmacists, therapists, technicians, etc… that make it possible for me to travel and see these things.

Thanks beyond measure to all of you. You are amazing.

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One thought on “Breathing Deep Underground

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  1. I admire you for even attempting that. Pictures are beautiful.
    And so happy you have basically gotten back to normal thanks to the wonderful Lung Team and others.

    Like

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