This month, I traveled to Pennsylvania on the weekend for a visit. I took this opportunity to experience nature away from the city. I was advised go to Penn’s Cave for the best views of the natural wildlife reservation. The history of this landmark originates from the Seneca Indians, where they found the cave for shelter. Later in 1885, settlers built Penn’s Cavern and Cave house for more people to inhabit and enjoy the view. Now, it has become an attraction for visitors to experience nature firsthand.
My friends and I began our journey on a boat ride in Penn’s Cave. The natural darkness of the cave surrounded us, with only the head flashlight of the boat to illuminate our way. The sounds of the dripping water was intensified with the waves echoing within the walls of the cave. I felt like Indiana Jones, exploring a cave with a torch in hand. I felt goosebumps on my skin and the uncomfortable shifting of the people on the boat. It rocked back and forth on the calm waters filled with mysterious muddy fish. The air was damp and cold. It smelled like a sea dock, fishy and sandy.
“Don’t worry if the cave water drips on you,” the tour guide said. “It’s called a cave’s kiss and it’s good luck.” I wasn’t too ecstatic to have a cave kiss me. As we ventured deeper in the narrow pathway, lights built on the ridges of rocky folds turned on. Everyone gasped at the iridescent glow from the different layers.
As we made our way out of the cave, the outside light flooded in. Look at the sky! I squinted my eyes to get adjusted to the bright blue setting. We were greeted by mounts of land and trees. There was an earthy soil and pungent stench of animal waste in the air and it triggered many complaints on the boat. “Ew, it smells bad here!” a little boy said, holding his nose. This made me think of Thoreau’s Walden, when the children visitors would enjoy the wilderness, but maybe not to the modern younger audience. “This is boring,” another girl pitched in to her parents. I tried hard to ignore the negative comments and focus on the sounds of the geese and rippling of the water. I can now relate to Thoreau in his Sounds and Solitude chapter where he prefers the sounds of nature compared to the gossip in town. He explains that even when he is surrounded by people and industrial noises, he feels alone. In this sense, a person can be lonely if they cannot connect with their surroundings. To be honest, I would choose the sounds of nature versus the city. It is more relaxing and allows a good mediation for the mind.
My favorite part of this trip is the animals that I encountered. All of the animals were fenced in and the reservation was made to imitate the most natural environment so they can be comfortable and survive. I wonder if they really were happy in a limited space compared to the animals that Thoreau describes in Winter Animals. They are protected from predators and do not have to hunt for food, but they have much less freedom. What do you guys think?
The mountain lynx was probably everyone’s spirit animal, sleeping at 2pm in the middle of the day. Overall, this experience has been fun and rewarding. I didn’t have service in the area, but I am glad that I was able to enjoy the nature walk to the fullest potential without distractions, not counting the kids. It is great to not think about responsibilies or tasks we have to do, even if it is for a moment. Thoreau offers good advice to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of nature to reach a peaceful state of mind. I would definitely do a nature walk again!
Thoreau, Henry D. Walden. London: J.M. Dent, 1908. Print.