Jackson Cave at Cedars of Lebanon

Hello all.

As part of my job I give tours of a quirky little feature of Cedars of Lebanon known as Jackson Cave. It’s great in person but I want to extend the pleasure to all of you, no matter where you live. So join me to go deep into the earth and explore the world beneath Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

As you initially approach Jackson Cave you’ll see something like this:


You draw a little nearer and see that the entrance is only about four feet tall, so that you’ll have to crouch to enter. You stop at the mouth of the cave and peer inside. This is what greets you:

Jackson Cave

Dark. Lots of dark. Best to bring a light along. You’ll also note the uneven footing which, coupled with the low ceiling and occasional mud, makes navigating the entrance a challenge. But you’ve come prepared with light and shoes with a grip, so you resign yourself to stooping and make your way hesitantly forward. After about fifty feet, much to your relief, the ceiling rises and you can stand again. But there’s a new challenge now: water.

The entire cave sometimes serves as a creek bed to drain excess water off the lake, which is situated at the back of the cave. But the water never completely evaporates and so inevitably you will wade through at least a little water. Today it’s knee-deep and to help with balance you grip the walls, which you discover are covered in mud. It becomes apparent that you’re going to need a shower when you come back out.

Other cool things you see:

  • Giant crawdads, as long as your hand is from the tip of your middle finger to the beginning of your wrist.
  • Rock carved into miniature ravines by the water that’s flowed through it over the eons.
  • Sparkly ceilings. Thousands of tiny drops of water coat the roof of the cave and make it glitter. There are also shiny minerals in the rock wall that add to the effect.
  • More mud than you thought existed in the entire world and you get to wade through most of it.
  • It’s been raining just a little so you also get to see little underground waterfalls.

After three-quarters of a mile enjoying these sights you reach the underground lake. Standing there, on the gravely shore, you get the sense that the water goes on and on through cavern after cavern and rock hall after rock hall, filling a thousand cracks and a million crevices. If you’re lucky you might see a cave fish swim by. They’re blind (a little like the ones Gollum eats in The Hobbit) and where their eyes should be there’s only a shallow, scaly indentation.

Now is a good time to turn off your light and get a sense of how dark it really is down here. No light from the sun ever reaches this deep so even if you had the eyesight of an owl it wouldn’t help you much; you are hemmed in by darkness on every side. Not only darkness but silence. No sound can penetrate the rock that surrounds you and so, if you take the opportunity to listen, you may hear true silence for the first time in your life.

You turn your light back on and now, unless you decide to swim (some people do), you’ll turn back. There is a legend that if you follow the cave far enough you’ll come out at the town square, a full six miles away. But that’s for the spelunkers and scientists to decide; you’ve come as far as you can and now it’s time to head back to the surface.

So back you go, through the mud and water and past the tiny waterfalls. It goes faster this time because you know what to expect and before you know it there’s a hazy glow up ahead and you realize that it’s daylight. As you near the mouth of the cave the ceiling descends and you’re obliged to crouch again. You’ve already forgotten how hard it is to keep your balance during this stretch and you’re a bit over-confident, taking risks you didn’t take on the way in.

Then, at long last, you emerge into the warm, dappled sunlight of the forest.

Jackson Cave(2)

You stretch in relief, glad to be able to stand up straight again, but notice that while in the cave you have become immeasurably filthy. Mud has somehow gotten on your face, on your legs, all over your hands, and it’s doubtful whether it will ever come out of your shoes. But somehow this only adds to the joy of the adventure and you laugh as you make your way to the Nature Center where there’s a hose and (hopefully) a clean change of clothes waiting for you.

So there you go: a virtual tour of Jackson Cave. If you want the real experience come see me at Cedars of Lebanon and I can get you set up.

That’s all for this week, you guys.

Until next time,



Jackson Cave(1)

The mouth of the cave from above.


A.T. Thru-hike Budget (Progress Update #13)

Hello again, all.

We’re now coming up on the time when I hope to finish my thru-hike next year. That’s a big deal and I t makes me excited. It also makes me want to jump into the specific financial logistics of this hike a little more, and that’s what I’ve got below.

Thru Hike Budget

Inital Equipment – $1,500

On-trail purchases – $500

Food – $2,000 

Lodgings, Travel, Fees, Emergency Trips Home, etc. – $1,000

Total: $4,923

Some notes on each of those categories:

Equipment:  I’ve spent $923 on equipment so far but I’ve built in room for roughly $570 more I n accordance with the lots of little purchases I still need to make.

On-trail Purchases: This for when my boots inevitably fall apart, when I need a new sleeping bag because mine is for some reason shredded, when I decide I hate my pack, etc.

Food: $2,000 for five and a half months roughly equates to $12 per day. I’m going to try to eat well, giving myself all the meat, protein, and fat I need, so if I go over-budget anywhere it’ll be here. It’s worth it though.

Travel and Fees: I’m probably going to keep a “no beds until Maine” policy which will deter me from spending nights in hotels as much or, if I do, splitting the price of the room with a buddy and sleeping on the floor. Hopfully in return for the comfy bed they’ll bear the greater part of the bill. I also need money for transortation to and from the trail and a little buffer in case I suddenly need to rush home.

Basically, I want to keep my expenses under $5,000 if I can. But I hope to also have some buffer room in case I go overbudget on any of these categories. Working full time right now I know I can pull together the cash for all of this. I’m just excited for the adventure to begin!

Until next time,



I didn’t post last week, for which I apoligize. I was feeling quite sick and figured it was best to wait until I had the energy to deliver something of quality. To make up for it here’s a beautiful picture of Jackson Cave I took the other day.


A Guest Post from my Father

Hello again,

Today I have something a little different for you: a word from my father. He’s written a short personal essay for you, about a poignant and symbolic day for our family. For context, my sisters were both very ill for many years while they were young and this had a devastating effect on our family, though we ultimately pulled through intact and a little stronger (or, as the Mad Hatter would say, stranger) for it. It’s also worth noting that at the time when this essay takes place we had a small hobby farm, complete with a cow, that Jennifer is my mother’s name, and that Pearl is my little sister. She was three when this story is set.

I’ll let my father tell the rest.


When I brought Kate the cow to our property I set up an electric fence for her. I learned then how little I know about electricity and, though I had enclosed Kate in a small area, I wasn’t confident in the fence’s power. Nightmares often woke me in the middle of the night. I would hear someone knocking on the front door and always leapt up and ran across the house, fearing someone was there to tell me that Kate had escaped. Of course no one was ever on my doorstep and Kate was always where she should have been, except once.

It was ten years ago tonight. She was dried off, so I wouldn’t need to get up early the next morning to milk her, and we took the opportunity to stay out late at a friend’s house for an early celebration of the Fourth of July. But I knew the fireworks might spook Kate so I was a little worried about her.

A friend and I were outside lighting sparklers when Jennifer came out of the house and told me Pearl had pooped her pants. This was odd because Pearl had been potty-trained early, for months by this time, and we had never had any problems like this with her. We didn’t know it at the time but this was the start of all her medical problems.

When we got home I checked in on Kate, still concerned about the fireworks. But she seemed fine.  She was an older cow and, like most things, she had seen it all several times before. Satisfied, I returned to the house and went to bed. Later, in the middle of the night, I again heard a knock at the door. It was not the two loud knocks, one after the other followed by silence that I heard in my dreams, this was different. I jumped up quickly, climbed across the bed as I always did (much to Jennifer’s annoyance), and ran to the door.

There were lights in the driveway, so this time I knew someone really was here. And indeed, when I opened the door a couple of ladies stood before me. They said they loved driving by and seeing Kate grazing but had noticed, on this occasion, that she seemed far too close to the road. I thanked them and went to check for myself. Sure enough Kate was in the tall grass by the road as happy as could be. I pulled her back, got her secured, and went back to bed.

But, July 3rd will always be remembered in our family as the day the nightmare came true.

Author’s Note: I originally wrote a version of this nine years ago. Pearl had an indeterminate diagnosis similar to Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis with a liver disease called PSC.  Nika, my second daughter, was born that November with MCAD. We had three straight years of monthly hospital stays after that night. Thankfully the last few years have been better. A combination of miraculous (in the true sense of the word) events and a really smart and determined wife have allowed us to manage our health issues very well.  We have made mistakes along the way but our kids are okay.  Ten years ago tonight the medical nightmare started. We appreciate all the people who have walked with us since this started.