One of the long-standing trip traditions of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Recreational Sports Department is caving in Popp’s Cave. Time and time again, this trip is rated as one of our most enjoyable student trips.  When heading out on this trip, participants gain a full-fledged, beginner caving experience that provides excitement and plenty of adventurous fun!

First-time cavers getting ready to head underground!

Descending into the mouth of Popp's using a rope assist. Sarah proudly sports her pink sweater as she heads down into the mouth.

During this caving experience, students had the chance to learn about basic geological features of caves, bat ecology, caving techniques, and other practical skills. Popp’s is certainly a “beginner-friendly” cave, making this trip a fantastic opportunity for students to explore and experiment with caving recreation for the first time.  With few hazards and high-risk areas, Popp’s Cave is highly recommended for folks that are looking to learn about caving and basic techniques.  As with any caving experience, it is almost always necessary to go with someone that has been in the cave before, has a knowledge of caving, and is able to respond in emergency situations.

Alex having fun exploring the side-passages of Popp's Cave.

Many of the chambers within Popp’s are large enough to stand and crouch.  Some passageways require briefly maneuvering on your stomach and only one sustained tunnel crawl that is necessary.  Various rooms within the cave contain side-passages and alternative tunnels that require a bit more skill and agility, but only as an option for those who want a bit of additional adventure!

Some sections of the cave are rather slippery, as most mid-western caves have significant amounts of water and humidity. Three-points of contact (ex. two feet + one hand) are always advised for cave travel of any kind!

When in the innermost chamber of the cave, the Elvis Room, we facilitated activities and reflection for our group.  For around fifteen minutes, we took time to remain silent and think about our surroundings, all without any headlamps or traces of light.  Many folks said that this was their absolute favorite part of the trip because it allowed them to experience true darkness for the very first time.  Not only that, but it provided a time for reflection with very minimal distractions and noises.  This activity is one that impacts both leaders and participants in a powerful way, as it seems we are often engaged from every angle by distractions and stimuli in our everyday lives.  The deep cave environment doesn’t allow for these distractions, making for a very unique opportunity to do this reflection activity.

Group shot with participants and group leaders!

We emerged victorious!  After several hours of cave travel, activities, and fun exploring, our group came back above the surface to debrief and head back to the university.  As a first-time experience, many students expressed interest in pursuing more opportunities to go caving and head out on similar trips in the future!

Our caving group and my co-leader, Veronica (flannel & vest), posing in the entrance to Popp's Cave.

Some of their favorite moments of the trip! These notes were collected and shared during a debriefing activity that we did while cooking dinner and enjoying hot chocolate back at the vehicles.

Click here for day 2!

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