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Our small group obediently turned off our flashlights and plunged with our surroundings into absolute blackness. We were not far beneath the earth’s surface, but we were deep enough in Sanders Cave to encounter that sensation familiar to anyone who has experienced absolute darkness. In the years following that initial foray into spelunking, I visited other caves. On a 1955 trip west, our family visited Carlsbad Caverns. My mother read an October, 1956 National Geographic story about archaeological discoveries at Russell Cave, in my native Alabama’s northeast corner, so we traveled there the next year. And over half my younger son Andrew’s lifetime ago, we toured Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Arkansas Ozarks. Though I had been a Scout during my first cave experience, I discovered myself unprepared for each successive one.


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