Central Pa. caver details what it’s like to explore underground

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – For some, the thought of venturing into a cave and squeezing through tight spaces would be a nightmare, but for some Central Pennsylvania residents, it’s a dream.

“You see all kinds of things you can’t see anywhere else,” said caver Ryan Mason. “It’s kind of like going on another planet.”

Mason, who lives in Harrisburg, is a member of the York Grotto, the local chapter of the National Speleological Society. They are made up of hundreds of cavers from York, Lancaster, Harrisburg and beyond.

Mason initially became interested in caving on his first-grade field trip to Indian Echo Caverns. He fell in love with it, but as he grew up, he forgot about it until a coworker prompted him to take a trip back to Indian Echo.

“[I] fell in love with it all over again,” Mason said.

Mason started doing some wild tours of caves, but he wanted more. That’s when another coworker introduced him to the York Grotto.

Mason calls joining the Grotto the “best decision he ever made.”

“The people you cave with, when you cave with them often enough, become family,” Mason said.

Since beginning his caving journey, Mason has been able to experience many different adventures and push his limits. He loves squeezing through body-tight passages and is working on conquering more height-related endeavors underground.

One of his favorite caves is in West Virginia. Mason said it’s mazey and there is a body-tight passage that goes on for 40 feet.

“There’s a passage in there called the ‘Airblower’ and it’s a 40-foot body-tight passage,” Mason said. “And I love that stuff, so that was fun for me.”

<em>Ryan Mason in the Airblower</em>
Ryan Mason in the Airblower

Crawling through small spaces doesn’t scare Mason. In general, much about caving doesn’t bother Mason.

There was, however, one time in West Virginia on his first vertical trip that jostled him a bit. He went down a 45-foot drop, which he enjoyed, but he said coming back up soaking wet wasn’t fun. The scary part was when Mason got home, he found out there was a recall on his harness.

Mason has traveled as far as Alabama to cave but said there are members of the York Grotto who have been abroad to cave.

There are some great caves in Pennsylvania though according to Mason. Besides Indian Echo, where Mason also works as a tour guide, there are other locations such as Carnegie Cave in Shippensburg and Wind Cave in Pequea.

One of Mason’s favorites is in Pennsylvania. The cave features rare formations, such as crystals.

“When you pop into the new section there’s beautiful crystals all over the walls,” Mason said.

  • Moon Room
    Moon Room

The York Grotto has helped Mason find friendship and new opportunities to delve deeper into caving. He said the Grotto is great for beginners because they have classes, offer beginner caving trips and provide new cavers with all of the gear they need.

“York Grotto is a great way [to get involved] if you’re interested in caving because caves are very delicate environments. . .[and] it’s a good way to cave safely,” Mason said.

The York Grotto meets at John’s Diner in New Cumberland on the last Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m.

“They’ll get you underground,” Mason said.

  • tricolor bat
    tricolor bat

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