Lotus the inquisitive frog will lead you through Meadow's most confusing cave system.
The Cavern Map
This is the rough diagram we'll be referring to, with the names that I gave the places I explored.
Spiral Cavern Guided Tour
The Spiral cave system has three entrances, two of which are in the mountains and share the same network of tunnels. We'll start at the topmost entrance - at the quiet highland lake at the foot of the tallest mountain in the Meadow.
It opens into what I call the Mushroom tunnel. This is the only part of the cave with the right climate for these golden mushrooms to grow in such abundance. If you've gotten lost in the tunnels and see these mushrooms - you know you're on the way out.
The tunnel leads to a fork with a warm water basin to our left, if we're facing down the tunnel. From here we can keep going forward to arrive at another fork with a big stone pillar, and go straight to get to the main cavern (you can hear the waterfalls through the wall there); or turn right into a sharply curving corridor that leads to the Forechamber.
The Forechamber is an echoing domed chamber with a warm pool of water that takes up most of its floor. Fabled flowers grow on the rocks here, as well as in the pool itself.
Down from here is the Brook tunnel, wet and slippery with water oozing from the Forechamber's pool. No other tunnel has so much water in it.
Now we find ourselves in the Throne Room - a chamber with a great pillar in the middle, which has a mossy ledge next to it that looks like a pedestal or throne. A fabled flower or mushroom may occasionally be found sitting proudly on this ledge.
Three tunnels lead to this chamber, including the Brook tunnel. The right downward tunnel will get us to the same pillar fork, but from the other side; from there you turn right to get to the main chamber, or left to eventually find the Mushroom tunnel. The steep left path leads to the roomy and luxurious Lounge.
The Lounge has a pedestal in the middle, flat mossy ledges near the walls to sleep on, and even some bubble baths - great place for a home! Unfortunately for me, the basins are not big enough for a good morning swim - which is why I took up residence in the Forechamber instead.
The single path downwards from here leads to another pillar fork. Keep going onwards, and you emerge from the middle entrance to the tunnels - at the highland lake above a bigger icy lake, linked together by a system of waterfalls.
The left turn of the fork will bring us to the middle entrance to the inner sanctum of the cavern, its main chamber.
...Oh, you want me to say something. But what can I really say about this place - this monument to Nature's everlasting beauty and wisdom, the heart of the mountains?
Except that there are three entrances to this chamber, and each has a corresponding exit to the surface, which is quite convenient. The lower entrance, which is where we're heading, is all the way downstairs. Wait, what are you doing, it's a long way do...! Alright. As you wish. But you'll have to wait for me now: I prefer my head in one piece, thank you very much.
Here we are. This tunnel is the Green tunnel - the warmest one in the lower system, and thus the one with the least ice. Once you've spotted it going up from the lower entrance, you know which way the main chamber is.
This fork allows us to take a detour to the Icy tunnel and the Ice Dome chamber with its glistening ceiling. These parts of the cave are even colder than the outside area, if my estimations are right - brrr! And yet there's always a place for a bubble basin or two. The other tunnel has no special features to it, aside from a flat column halfway down...
And from this spot with its peculiar ice formation, the only way left is down and out the lower entrance of the tunnels, overlooking the majestic waterfalls and ice floes of the winter lake, lined with the ever-orange oak trees.
And with that, fellow spelunker, I bid you farewell, and hope you have enjoyed this little guided tour through the most mind-bending cave system in the Meadow. I certainly have! And don't forget - observation and good memory can turn even a mundane trek from your nest to the nearest roseberry bush into an exciting and memorable adventure.