For the first few years it’s easy to remember every cave visit. As time goes by some fade while other trips stand out. What makes a trip memorable? This seems to vary from caver to caver.
Beautiful caves that have special features stand out. Probably everyone who sits and contemplates the water splashing over the Rain Tree formation and into the pool at its base will remember that. Passages full of helictites, giant white stalagmites are hard to forget. Even non-formations like the smoothly fluted water passage in light blue-gray limestone is worth remembering.
Long trips are remembered with a different feel. Marathons of crawling, breakdown negotiation and hours underground. Several rests and meal breaks. Who forgets a cave trip when the exit time was 4:00 in the morning? These trips come with bragging rights, so stories are repeated and can become legends.
Special obstacles are similar. Most everyone remembers their first trip through the Birth Canal (not a metaphor, this is a named passage in a Buffalo River cave). Or going down the Manhole. Or crawling slowly along the Fuzzy Bunny Death Ledge. Or the chill of the wet exit.
Sometimes it is not the cave itself that inspires the memory. It’s the fellow cavers and incidents. Trips to a generic cave with close friends and lots of laughs are favorites. Or following experts and soaking in their knowledge.
Then the incidents both funny and not so funny. Everyone likely has a memory of a fellow caver getting temporarily stuck. Or falling into mud face first or the ever popular retrieving a boot sucked off in the mud. Singed hair events were common back in the carbide days. Messing with new cavers is fun as well. Sending them down dead ends, letting them get lost, etc.
More serious can be trips where a stress point was reached. Fatigue, claustrophobia attacks, panic on rope are hard to forget. Or injuries which unfortunately do happen.
Best of all though are the discovery trips. Digging into a new passage that goes. First time down a new pit. Climbing up to a new lead or pushing through a breakdown choke.
Regardless of why a trip is remembered, the best part is sharing the memories. Stories are told on the drive over, during rests in the cave, or around the campfire for all to enjoy.