My Alternative Spring Break!

During spring break, I decided to go on an adventure trip with a group of people that was organized by Alternative Spring Break, a student organization at UIC. It was a wonderful experience and the process to apply only took about a week.

First you need to apply for your choice of trips and then go to an interview. After a couple of days you will be notified on what trip you will be going on.

I was lucky to be placed on Cave Conservation trip to Kentucky. This trip consisted of seven days with rigorous work and exploration of different kinds of beautiful caves in Mammoth Cave City, Cave City and Horse Cave City.

In total there were eleven people on this trip. We drove for six hours to Cave City, starting at 5:30 in the morning on a Sunday. During our first day, we and our trip guide, Peggy, went on Mammoth Caves Historical Tour to learn about cave history. At the end of the day, we settled at a church that hosted us for the entire week and did our grocery shopping at the local Wal-Mart.      

Our second day consisted of cleaning up a sinkhole that farmers had long used as a dumping ground.  By the end of the day we lifted almost all two tons of garbage--and 500 pounds was recyclable! We found quite a few interesting things in the sinkhole: golf bag, toaster, electrical razor, coffee maker, old washing machine, antennae, cables, carpet, insurance card, typewriter, milk can, lawn chairs and lots of Coke cans! We also found chip bags that dated back to 1980s. Thankfully, we ended the day with a nice warm shower at a nearby YMCA. 

We were back at Mammoth Caves on the third day. Our guides Rick and Peggy led the way to a site where rock walls were knocked down to remodel the pathway into the caves for tourists. We moved rocks from one site to another site in garbage bags. We had to walk, duck and climb stairs up and down. We had lunch in the caves where we all decided to turn off our helmets lights to eat lunch in the dark. After lifting two and half tons of rock as a group we took a trip down a stream 300-400 feet below sea level. I could not believe that water produced all those beautiful formations in the cave. At the end of the night, some of the group members cooked delicious chicken quesadillas for the night.

On the fourth day we had the opportunity to zip line and rappel into a cave in the morning. We explored places in these caves that most visitors never get to go to. During exploration, we had to roll, duck walk, slide, and do all sorts of things to go through the caves--it was an amazing and tiresome exploration and we ended it with some always-delicious Taco Bell for dinner.   

Our fifth day of clean up brought us to a cemetery in the morning where we cleaned up dead vines and trees. There was a farm there that was home to cows and a tiny pond. It was a nice break from busy Chicago.

We also had the opportunity drive down to Nashville, TN. In the evening we walked down on Broadway Street and visited a museum (free for students) that had paintings by artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco de Goya, as well as Steve Mumford’s War Journals.

Our last day of volunteer work we stopped to do a radio interview in the morning. Then we were back at Mammoth Cave moving rocks again, but this time we made a human chain to move the rocks. With all the teamwork and effort we were able to move 3.5 tons of rocks in less than 5 hours. At the end we explored another side of caves. We saw bridal altar place, an experiment site and early explorers' signatures.  Peggy took us to Turtlelini's pizza for a treat, but when the owner learned about us he offered us a free buffet.

During the last day in Glasgow, KY, Pastor David offered us breakfast with other people that come to church. After breakfast we were on the road back to campus.   

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences with an awesome group members and opportunities. We not only learned about caves, sinkholes and family farms, but we also made tiny difference in the world. Thanks to the incredible hosts and guides for making this trip such fabulous experience!