Tracking the Seed: Personal Growth Workshop
2018: February 23-25 (Co-Ed Retreat)
Keely Owens, Teresita Fawcett, and Jon Thomas
The Lodge at Sleepy Creek
Berkeley Springs, WV
Weekend Workshop: 6pm Fri - 12pm Sun
Inner Exploration and Wild Caving
$300 ($250 if enrolled by earlybird date 1/19/18)
The Cave Trip.
You are invited to enter a real, wild cave with us on Saturday afternoon. We will provide you with any gear you do not own and the instruction necessary to navigate the cave safely, and you will be with cavers who are well-acquainted with the layout of the cave and the nuances of the underground environment. Our group will spend 1-3 hours underground, depending on our needs and abilities. Please read the description and disclaimer about this cave trip below, and also check out some caving myths and facts at the bottom of this page.
The Cave. The cave, located about 15 minutes from The Lodge, is small, but it includes a wide variety of passages, ranging from large, decorated chambers to clay crawlways and rocky nooks. Your experience underground can be tailored to your physical and psychological comfort level, within reason. Psychologically, you should be prepared to encounter darkness, the fact that you are underground, and a new and potentially disorienting sensory environment. Physically, at minimum you need to be able to stand up and sit down unaided, traverse slippery, non-level terrain, and to tolerate being in a wild environment (no couches or chairs, constant cool and wet atmosphere) for 1-3 hours. Entering the cave simply requires sitting on your butt and sliding forward; if you are called to come underground and want to stop there, that is perfectly acceptable. AND, you should be aware that the majority of the group will be going on the full loop through the cave, which includes scrambling over uneven surfaces, getting muddy, minor climbing (with no significant heights), and two tight connection areas (they aren't exactly crawls, but do require squeezing between rocks and some awkward maneuvering). You will have a great deal of help and camaraderie in navigating the more challenging areas of the cave if you choose to do so, and you will always have the option not to attempt an obstacle if you do not feel safe. There is plenty of opportunity for physical challenge when underground, but the primary goal of this excursion is to connect you with the earth, not to push your physical limits. Please consider both the physical and the symbolic reality of the cave when deciding whether to sign up for this workshop, and feel free to contact Keely with any questions.
Important Disclaimer About the Cave Trip:
THIS IS NOT A CAVE-FOR-PAY OR CAVE GUIDING ORGANIZATION, AND YOU ARE NOT PAYING FOR A GUIDED RECREATIONAL CAVE TOUR. IF YOU'RE JUST INTERESTED IN EXPLORING CAVES, YOU CAN DO THAT FOR FREE.
Tracking the Seed is a carefully choreographed, weekend-long retreat designed to help adults pursue personal growth: this is what you are paying for. We offer you the chance to go underground on Saturday afternoon in order to deepen and enrich your personal transformation, and we have the knowledge and resources to educate, equip, and accompany you through the cave so that you may navigate the underground environment as safely and responsibly as possible. Ultimately, however, you enter the cave at your own risk, agreeing to hold neither us nor the landowners liable for your conduct while underground.
This is an important disclaimer that we need to make for both spiritual and liability purposes, and it is important that you understand its meaning.
In the responsible caving community, cave-for-pay organizations have a bad name. Caves are some of the few remaining truly wild places left on earth. Charging money to enter a cave goes against the unspoken attitude that most cavers share: nobody really owns these sacred places. People who want to visit caves should be free to do so. On the flip side, people who want to enter caves should do so at their own risk, and should do so responsibly and respectfully. In this litigious society, paying for a cave trip opens the door for a whole rack of law suits. People who own cave entrances are in the difficult position of being held responsible for the little chunk of wilderness whose entrance just happens to sit on their property. So cavers have formed an intricate community designed to protect the entrances of caves from those who might abuse them, and also to offer opportunities to explore caves, completely free of charge, to those who hear that call to adventure. So if you are simply interested in caving for recreation or exploration, please check out your local chapter of the National Speleological Society, and get yourself hooked up with a rec trip for free.
Caving: Myths and Facts.
Caves are places of great beauty and mystery, and they also hold some degree of physical and psychological challenge. Yet by far the most physically dangerous thing you will do if you sign up for this workshop is getting in the car to drive to Berkeley Springs. Perhaps due to the role they play in the collective unconscious, caves are the subject of many misconceptions. This workshop offers the opportunity to combine inner work with a foray into the underground world: both experiences are innately transformative. It is important to go into the caving experience with an accurate sense of the challenges involved.
To Cave Safely, You Must Be Aware Of:
1) Proper gear. We will carefully work with you prior to the workshop to ensure you come underground properly equipped.
2) Temperature. Caves are the same temperature year-round: in February, the 55-degree cave environment will feel comfortingly warm. But caves are also close to 100% humidity, which can chill a person quickly when sitting still. We will ensure that you enter the cave dressed appropriately, and pay careful attention to body temperature while underground.
3) Getting lost. Caves are environments of absolute darkness, and the underground landscape can be disorienting. We will keep track of each other while underground, and carefully instruct you on what to do if you get disoriented.
4) Footing. The ground is uneven and slippery in many places. We will teach you how to move mindfully through the cave, keeping multiple points of contact to manage your balance.
You Do Not Need to Be Afraid Of:
1) Animals. We probably won't see any. If we do, they are not likely to bother you.
2) Getting stuck. This cave, while small, contains several huge rooms and large tunnels, as well as tighter areas. You will not be forced to go anywhere you do not feel comfortable.
3) Needing to be in extremely good physical shape. Prior to the weekend, we are going to ask you a lot of questions about any physical limitations that you might have. It is critical that you answer these questions thoroughly and accurately, so that we can best provide for your safety both aboveground and below. That said, you do not need to be a marathon runner to successfully navigate the cave, and you do not need to explore every part of the cave in order to have a meaningful experience underground. While the cave challenges you to move in different ways than you are accustomed, even the most difficult route through does not require physical skills beyond that of an intermediate short hike and a yoga class.
“Love opens the doors into everything, as far as I can see, including and perhaps most of all, the door into one's own secret, and often terrible and frightening, real self.”
Stillhouse Cave and Sinks of Gandy Cave: A powerful grounding/cleansing combination for bringing people out of their heads and into their bodies.
Drive from DC: About 3.5 hours
Difficulty Level: Stillhouse: Small but Moderately Challenging; Sinks: Easy, wet. Both wet caves.
Higginbothams Caves (No. 1 and No. 4): A moderate single passage stream cave with multiple entrances (No. 1), situated right next to a beautiful, single-room, easy-access chamber decorated with rimstone. Good combo for a foray into in-cave processing.
Drive from DC: About 4.5 hours
Difficulty Level: No. 1: Moderately easy, wet. No. 4: Very easy, single room (like entering that front room of Donaldson).