In a Tight Spot

I'm blessed to have folks who take us all on a week-long family vacation every summer. Odd-numbered years we visit the ocean. Even-numbered years we trek deep into the wilds of Appalachia. The Bluegrass State is the setting for this next story...

Carter Caves State Park is a great spot off the beaten path in eastern Kentucky, not far from the West Virginia border. And as the name would suggest, spelunking is the main attraction.

Several days into the getaway, after venturing deep into the numerous caves within the borders of the park, we attended a campground contest held underneath a rickety old picnic structure.

The name of the competition was simply entitled "The Squeeze Box."

A device vaguely resembling a Middle Ages torture chamber was waiting in the center of the concrete slab. And, as the park ranger calmly explained, it was designed to test out how tight of a spot you could squeeze through. It is often employed in caving training, used to gauge just how thin of a passage you can reasonably expect to pass through once you actually are in action.

Waiting for the competition to begin.

Dos was chomping at the bit to have her shot.

My kids' reactions ranged from excitement to reservation. But they all agreed to take a shot at winning that year's Squeeze Box title.

The contest worked this way: Each child would make an attempt to navigate the 8-foot long passageway at a specific height. Those who succeeded would proceed to the next round, when the height would be lowered again slightly and everyone would go through again.

Think: limbo for the non-claustrophobic!

Uno attempts to pass Round 1.

Dos works the small space in an effort to pass Round 2.

Success for Dos in Round 2!
The first rounds came and went, the only drama provided by Tres becoming horribly stuck in Round 2 and having to evacuated from the chamber by un-cranking it and freeing him.

Tres had to be evacuated from the chamber in Round 2.

As each round came and went, the number of contestants shrank until only a handful remained. Uno and Dos were among the finalists. At the 6" mark, Uno had to bow out along with several others. She received a round of applause, and sat down satisfied that she had made her best effort.

Dos and one other adventurous (and thin!) girl were the only ones left standing for the 5 1/2" inch round. 

The buzz around the picnic area was palpable as the finalists prepared to enter the Squeeze Box at a seemingly impossible height. The park ranger announced that this dimension would be the lowest ever recorded at the park. It was hard to imagine how a human skull could even pass through a spot that tight. And, that was indeed the case for the first of the two finalists. She gracefully retired from the competition after only a few seconds.

When the moment of truth arrived, Dos passed from one end of the chamber to the other like a greased pig. The outcome was never in doubt, and as she triumphantly emerged with a huge grin on her face, she was presented with a prize shirt, congratulations from the park staff and a rousing applause from all the observers!

Dos was the Squeeze Box champion! Here she is wearing the trophy shirt prize to prove it.

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