The following photo essay was experienced and contributed by John Biehler exclusively for Miss604.com
After arriving at the picturesque Horne Lake, which is just a little north of Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island, we were greeted by our exuberant guide, Jamie.
We signed our waivers and were outfitted with helmets and lights then headed to the cave entrances where Jamie began to brief us on what to expect and how to move about the caves. She covered the types of rocks we’d encounter, how best to keep our footing on the rocks inside and an overview of how the caves came into existence. Horne Lake is the only cave system in Canada with guided tours.
Once inside, it became apparent just how tight some of the spaces would be. As I’m not the smallest of guys (as were a few others in the group), we were a little concerned that some of the cracks and crevices we’d be climbing through would actually be wide enough for us.
Fortunately, Jamie knew we’d have no trouble and she was completely right. It was a little like playing tetris with your body and having to get into just the right position to get past a few points. But if I could make it, anyone can.
Once inside a fairly large room, Jamie had us all turn out our headlamps. There are some crystals in the rock formations that glow when subjected to light…apparently scientists aren’t quite sure why this phenomenon occurs given the kinds of sediment and rock in the cave but it’s a cool effect nonetheless.
Of course, as you’d expect, there are some bugs inside the caves. In this case, there were spiders and cave crickets but they all tended to shy away from the light and were pretty high up.
Throughout the tour, Jamie would point out one of the many fossils embedded in the rocks. I couldn’t help but think of the cave sequences in The Goonies and kept waiting to turn a corner and see a huge cavern with a pirate ship inside.
We toured two different cave systems and by the time we were finished with the first one, we were all referring to the ‘cave yoga’ exercises we were doing while moving through the caves. In particular, there was one spot where it wasn’t apparent to any of us (other than Jamie) as to how anyone would get through a section. There was a small hole above a little stream running through the cave that was on an incline. So we basically had to climb up the stream while doing a downward dog style yoga move to duck under the overhanging rock and avoid getting wet in the stream. Once again, Jamie knew how to coach us as to where to put our feet and hands and it was surprisingly easy. Getting back down however was trickier since we had to basically come back the same way except it was headfirst on a down slope. I did it simply by trusting Jamie that she knew what she was doing and had guided us expertly so far.
You can get more information about the caving programs at Horne Lake from their website. I’m hoping to come back in the summer and try out the Extreme Rappel Cave Tour especially now that I know what to expect. I’ll likely leave my DSLR at home so I can jump in without worrying about my gear and enjoy the adventure.
It truly is a unique experience and great for the whole family…I can only imagine how much fun kids would have in this place.
Upcoming posts to follow from the rest of the tour of Vancouver Island include surfing in Ucluelet and a zodiac tour of the Broken Islands.
John is an avid photographer, gadget geek and traveller. You can find him on Twitter and at johnbiehler.com where he discusses photography and all sorts of technology. All photos in this post were taken by John.
Disclosure: Activities, services and dining experiences during the trip were compliments of Tourism Vancouver Island or the operators and businesses mentioned.